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Beyond adolescence

  • My sister's daughter went off to college at 18 and immediately went a little crazy. She had always been a good kid, but when she was on her own, she drank like a fish, was sexually promiscuous, and failed three of her classes.

Question: My sister's daughter went off to college at 18 and immediately went a little crazy. She had always been a good kid, but when she was on her own, she drank like a fish, was sexually promiscuous, and failed three of her classes. My daughter is only 12, but I don't want her to make the same mistakes when she is beyond our grasp. How can I get her ready to handle freedom and independence?

Answer: Well, you may already be 12 years late in beginning to prepare your daughter for that moment of release. The key is to transfer freedom and responsibility to her little by little from early childhood so she won't need your supervision when she is beyond it. To move suddenly from tight control to utter liberty is an invitation to disaster.

I learned this principle from my own mother, who made a calculated effort to teach me independence and responsibility. After laying a foundation during the younger years, she gave me a "final examination" when I was 17 years old. Mom and Dad went on a two-week trip and left me at home with the family car and permission to have my buddies stay at the house. Wow! 14 slumber parties in a row! I couldn't believe it. We could have torn the place apart – but we didn't. We behaved rather responsibly.

I always wondered why my mother took such a risk, and after I was grown, I asked her about it. She just smiled and said, "I knew in one year you would be leaving for college, where you would have complete freedom with no one watching over you. I wanted to expose you to that independence while you were still under my influence."

I suggest that you let your daughter test the waters of freedom occasionally as she's growing up, rather than tossing her into the big wide ocean all at once. It takes wisdom and tact to pull that off, but it can be done. If you do the job properly, the time of release in six or seven years will be a gentle transition rather than a cataclysmic event.

Question: My 16-year-old daughter is driving me crazy. She is rude, noisy and selfish. Her room looks a mess, and she won't work any harder in school than absolutely necessary to get by. Everything I taught her, from manners to beliefs, seems to have sailed through her ears. What in the world do my husband and I do now?

Answer: I'm going to offer you some patented advice that may not make sense or seem responsive to the problem you have described. But stay with me. The most important thing you can do for your daughter is to "just get her through it". The concept is a bit obscure, so let me make an effort to explain it.

Imagine your daughter riding in a small boat called "Puberty" on the Adolescent River. She soon comes to a turbulent stretch of white water that rocks her little boat violently. There is a very real danger that she will capsize and drown. Even if she survives today's rapids, she will certainly be caught in swirling currents downstream and plunge over the falls. That is the apprehension harbored by millions of parents with kids bouncing along on the wild river. It's the falls that worry them most.

Actually, the typical journey down the river is much safer than believed. Instead of the water becoming more violent downstream, it eventually transitions from frightening rapids to tranquility once more. What I'm saying is that I believe your daughter is going to be OK even though she is now splashing and thrashing and gasping for air. Her little boat is more buoyant than you might think.

Yes, a few individuals do go over the falls, usually because of drug abuse or other addictive behavior. Most will regain their equilibrium in a few years. In fact, the greatest danger of sinking a boat could come from …parents.

This article was written by Focus on the Family Malaysia and the Questions and Answers are extracted from "Complete Family and Marriage Home Reference Guide" with permission. For more information, please contact:

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Focus on the Family Malaysia celebrates 20 years of helping families thrive in 2017. Find out more at family.org.my/20years.

 

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