Subject: 16 Year Old Daughter
Question: Hi, my wife and I have been together for 25 years and have 2 kids, a daughter 16, and a son 15 both of which are home schooled (my daughter graduated early). About 4 years ago we bought our daughter a horse that she keeps at a farm and works there in trade for boarding her horse. Over the last 2 years she's been spending more and more time there to the point where she's there literally 24/7.
Lately she's gotten closer and closer to the family who owns the farm and prefers their company to her own family. She comes home on weekend nights, and occasionally during the week, but not without resenting me for telling her she needs to come home (we're her family). Her best friend lives within eye shot of the farm and she sleeps there as well. My wife goes back and forth to the farm (sometimes 4 times a day) to bring her meals to her and to help her out around the farm.
My wife lives vicariously through my daughter. She caters to my daughters every whim and spends a lot of time there with my daughter on the weekends which causes a lot of friction between my wife and I. We have little time together as it is because we work offsetting shifts. The problem is she'd would rather be my daughters best friend rather than her mother, and since I'm the disciplinarian, I'm always the bad guy, which serves to push my daughter further away.
I feel I have no control as a parent because my wife never backs me up when issues arise. She says she doesn't like the fact that my daughter stays over there all the time, but I never hear her tell her that around me. I told my wife, parents need to stick together. She doesn't seem to understand that she's only adding fuel to the fire by giving her everything she wants in order to stay on her good side. What can I do? Thanks
Answer: Dear John:
I think you may not care much for my answer. However, it is my job to be honest with you. The problem is not with the 15 & 16 year old. It is in the relationship between parents. I strongly suggest some marriage counseling as there is too much going on between you and your wife.
As for the teens. Teens have two developmental tasks they are working through at this age. The first is to separate from their families and become individuals and the second it so practice their socialization skills (first they practice by making same sex friend and then they practice on the opposite sex). Sounds like your daughter is right on task.
Does this mean they should never be home? Absolutely not! It is important to realize their resistance to coming home and family time is part of the developmental task. The really are no longer just children they are inbetweens as I refer to teens...almost, practically adults. They are practicing adults.
As for the lack of control you are feeling it is appropriate. Reality says you don't really have control over any teenager. The only control you have is what they really allow you to have and if you don't believe me ask any parent who child has run away from home.
All is not lost, John. I STRONGLY suggest you spend sometime with your daughter with her and her horses. Show an interest and then tell her what is really going on with you. Tell her how you miss her, how she grew up so fast and you want your family to spend more time together. Then make a decision is it more important to see eye to eye with your wife on everything or to be right than it is to build the relationship with your daughters.
NOW I am not saying your wife is right in taking meals to your daughter. I am saying she maybe responding to her grief as she too realizes your daughter is separating so soon. None of us as parents is ever truly ready to let them go. They will fly the nest whether we are prepared or not. The best we can do is to FOCUS on the relationship we have with them and then to deal with our own feelings about the change in this relationship.
Your daughter is not lost, your relationship with her needs to become more adult like. Having said all this......
she is still underage and has responsibilities to her family and being a part of the family. However, this is why I suggested the marriage counseling because unless your wife and you are on the same page and not so dramatically opposite in your views this isn't going to play out well.
I suspect the "friction," between your wife and you maybe the culprit for your daughter not spending more time at home. Children do not ever (I DON'T care how OLD they are enjoy choosing between parents), in addition not matter how old they are or mature WILL always choose the path of least resistance....hence their relationship with mom.
By the way your daughter could be doing way worse than spending time with the horses. I deal with parents whose children are doing drugs, running away and prostituting themselves and possibly getting some counseling and a good perspective will bring you and your family back together again if you want it to. Remember you are their dad and not matter what moms and dads are the most important people in any child or adult child's life. It takes them years to not focus their heart around what you think of them. Value this information.
Thank you for writing me. I know you can have a wonderful outcome to this situation.
Feel free to call me if you would like further support.
M Kay Keller