Dear Family Coach: My daughter is turning 13 in a few weeks. Instead of a party, she wants to attend a Green Day concert without me. She'd like to invite two other girls to join her. I don't feel she is old enough to go on her own with friends. What do you think? — Worrier
Dear Worrier: There are so many factors to consider when making this decision. Her age is just a number. Some 13-year-olds can't do much of anything independently. Others can cook, do laundry, care for elderly relatives and manage farm animals on their own. Her maturity level and abilities are much more important measures of whether or not she is ready. The venue is also a factor. Is this concert in a large hall in an unfamiliar big city, or it is closer to home at a smaller site that is easier to navigate?
Think about what you know about your daughter and her friends. Are they genuinely good kids who veer away from trouble? Or have they been suspended several times for various infractions?
After considering the various factors, it would certainly be reasonable to tell your daughter that you don't feel comfortable with her attending alone. She'll be angry, but she'll get over it. If she still wants to attend, she will have to do so with you tagging along. Alternatively, you might find that after thinking through the issues that they are ready for the concert on their own. Make sure to obtain permission from all of the kids' parents and create a safety plan for them. This would include a location to meet if they get separated or if their cellphones aren't working. Similarly, discuss a time and a place for them to meet you after the concert. When you drop them at the concert, make sure to stay nearby in case they have any issues. If you are nervous, ask your daughter to text you every few songs.
It is never easy letting our children try a task independently. There is always fear involved. But if you prepare her and make sure she is ready, you can cut down on the anxiety and increase the likelihood that she will have a good experience.
Dear Family Coach: A child in my son's second-grade class always seems to be picked on by this one kid. The other day, I witnessed it and said something to the bully. Was I out of line, and should I call the kid's parents to apologize? — Fed Up
Dear Fed Up: I don't think you were out of line to admonish the bully. If you saw the situation with your own eyes, it would be cruel not to step in. Can you imagine how the teased boy would feel if he noticed an adult listening to the bullying but not helping? What a horrible message to send to a little child.
Having said that, I do think it matters how you spoke to the bully. Yelling, mocking or harassing another child would be inappropriate and potentially harmful. However, speaking gently with the child to let him know in clear terms that the behavior you are witnessing is not acceptable would be the right action. Additionally, I would speak with the teacher and principal about what you witnessed. Ask them to handle the situation with the other parent.
I have to assume that if you witnessed the bullying, your son probably did, too. Make sure to talk to him about bullying. Role-play various situations and help him learn how to handle them. Tell him it would always be appropriate for him to ask for help or tell a grown-up about troubling behavior. Hopefully there isn't a recurrence, but it's good to prepare him just in case.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.