DR. WALLACE: I'm 16 years old and live with my parents. I'm an only child, and my parents watch over me as if I were 12. My mom smells my breath whenever I come home to check that I have not been smoking or drinking booze. When I'm at school, my mom checks my bedroom for bad stuff. She always warns me not to drink alcohol, smoke marijuana or vape.
I'm upset with my parents' behavior. I don't smoke, drink, take drugs, swear or steal. I go to church every Sunday, I do my chores on time and I actually get above average grades even though I am not an A student.
I don't dislike my parents, but I don't feel close to them, and I would never confide in them the way things are now. I find this pretty depressing. I live in a nice house and we all have plenty of food to eat. I guess that should be enough to make me feel secure and happy, but there are times I feel like a prisoner in my own home. My mom "makes the rounds" to make sure I have no contraband in my "cell."
I know you probably can't help me with this situation, but maybe my parents will read this, give me a bit of trust and cut me a bit of slack. — Not Trustworthy, via email
TRUSTWORTHY: Rule No. 1 is: Parents should trust their teens unless the trust is broken. The consequences of their lack of trust are all too apparent in your heartfelt letter. By their relentless snooping and lack of respect for your privacy, they've currently lost the chance to get information from you voluntarily.
I do have a suggestion for you. Ask your parents for just one day a week (it can be random so you won't know when) when they don't smell your breath, check your room, etc. Sit down with your parents, look them in the eyes and tell them that you are not misbehaving and that you have no plans to do so. Tell them that you understand they love you and want the best for you, but that their overbearing searches are counterproductive. You may also mention that you have written to this column for advice.
If there is a breakthrough on the one day off per week, perhaps it can grow over time to two days, three days and so forth. It's quite important that parents trust their teens unless or until that trust is broken. Based solely on your letter, I believe you have earned their trust thus far and they should respect you enough to give you the trust you've earned. You might also note that I addressed you as "Trustworthy" and I left off the word "not." From today forward, act in a trustworthy manner at all times. When Mom checks your breath next time, say in advance with a slight smile, "Mom, you already know I'm trustworthy!" Go ahead and let her do her thing, but tell her that her checks are unnecessary. And most of all, have your actions continue to be worthy of that trust!
SHOULD DAUGHTER BE ENCOURAGED TO LOSE WEIGHT?
DR. WALLACE: I'm aware that you rarely answer letters from parents, but I hope you will make an exception for me. My concern is for my 16-year-old daughter. She's mature, dependable and has a wonderful personality. But I'm concerned because she is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds. I feel she needs to lose weight, but she thinks as long as she feels well and is happy, I shouldn't worry. She is overweight because she overeats and eats a lot of junk food in between our family meals.
I've offered to help her if she wanted to diet, but she replied, "If I choose to diet, I can do it by myself." She has a part-time job and keeps her room stocked with candy and other packaged snacks. She is rarely ill, works hard, gets good grades and has a great deal of determination. But she doesn't have many friends, at least not that I have seen visit our house.
Should I insist that she lose weight, or should I wait until she makes up her own mind to slim down? Everyone else in our family is of a medium to slender weight and build. We all aim to eat healthy diets and keep active. — Concerned Mom, Minnesota
MOM IN MINNESOTA: It is great that your daughter is hardworking, determined and a good student, but she also has a weight problem that you, as her mother, need to help her address. This is not an issue for her to make up her own mind about. You must see that she begins taking care of herself. Her health is at stake.
Your goal should be for her to begin eating well-balanced, nutritious meals, with fat-laden junk food kept to a minimum. I urge you to do everything in your power to make this happen. You should request, and then insist, that she begin eating well. If she remains defiant or uncooperative, enlist the aid of your family doctor or another health care professional.
Her lack of friends may be connected to her overeating — a potential sign of low self-esteem. Encourage your daughter to get involved in activities, either at school or elsewhere, and start socializing. Packaged snacks are a poor substitute for friends!
In short, this looks to me like a time for parental intervention. Don't wait for your daughter to come around on her own timetable.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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