Dear Straight Talk: I have full custody of a talented, intelligent, 15-year-old daughter. She just started freshman year and is moving fast toward having a senior, poor student, drug-using boyfriend. Obviously, I'm not thrilled with her choice. We've never had issues and talk openly, even about sexual topics. I'm afraid, depending on how I handle this, that I will lose our communication and trust. How can I discourage this without causing a rebellion? — Single dad, Toledo, Ohio
Editor's Note: Parents who enjoy an open, stress-free, non-head-butting communication with their teen have particular trouble "laying down the law" when times of head butting arrive. Kids really do want parents to be able to call forth a fair, loving and reasonable sternness in a power struggle — not freeze, wimp-out, or throw a fit themselves. They're still kids and they still want a parent. (Face palms may be applied privately.) Teens younger than 18, especially, want/need something solid and fair to butt against.
The parent with the formerly lovely, easy communication, really needs to see the game has changed. Something new is being called from him/her. Split families have a special challenge because not only is there trauma from the divorce, parents are often competing for biggest slacker or have different philosophies on acceptable teenage behavior.
Parents: if you recognize yourself in any of this, get help from friends, family, coaches, counselors, etc., who are good at being fair/kind/stern simultaneously. Have them help you face your teen. Two or more united backbones have always been better than one. —Lauren
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