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Question: My daughter is 13 years old. She has had trouble in the past with school because she is a hands-on visual learner and most schools we looked at are not heavy in that form of teaching. She also deals with short term memory lapses which is also challenging for her. We finally found a school for her that is very small (9 per class) and teaches the way she learns. Academically she has done wonderful. Socially it has been a disaster. This last year as she went through 7th grade she was exposed to things that most high schoolers aren't exposed to. Bad music, bad language, how to figure out computer blocking codes to bypass parental block, and a host of other things. We finished out her 7th grade year in hopes that time away over the summer will help. She is disrespectful to everyone in the family, moods run up and down and her language is horrible. We are saddened by this past year because we can not take away what she has already been exposed to. I know we can not undo what has been done and I worry that if I take everything away from her at once we will have major rebellion on our hands and she has threatened to do horrible things. Would you try to power through this and try to deal with things as they come up or should I just pull her out of school all together, remove her friends and get rid of any offensive music I can find? This seems a lot to do at once and I know it would be a struggle but she is not going in the direction I had hoped, not even close. Hopefully you have some wisdom to help me decide.
Answer:

Dear Mom,

It seems that the years of adult formation (teen years) are some of the most challenging that parents face. I think that if there are going to be challenges please let them come while the child is still very much attached to home due to situation and need. Many teens feel that they are ready to take on most any situation or circumstance that is presented but as parents we know that this is just not true. Having the child still very much dependent upon the parent makes it far easier to work through these challenges.

I suppose you would have to ask yourself, what you have gained in using this new school. Despite the pluses of education it seems that there has been some introduction of behaviors that are contrary to your desires for your daughter. As previously stated, if you believe that the only way to begin again with your daughter is to remove her from the negative influences then this time in her life is the time to do so. When she leaves home etc. you really do not have as much control.

Ask yourself what behaviors does she exhibit that are worrisome. Look at the behavior objectively and determine your feelings about the behavior. During the teen years it is important to pick your battles carefully. For example, my sons all wanted long hair when they were teens. We felt like this was going to be okay and it was minor in comparison to other areas that were worse. Today only one of my sons has long hair and the rest prefer short hair. I believe that friends are far more dangerous than music. Ask yourself about your daughter's friends. Begin by allowing that your house will be the house where everyone will gather. Get to know her friends and become familiar with their habits etc. This is prudent in that it gives you an opportunity to more fully understand what your daughter is seeking in their friendship.

Power plays rarely work as someone always comes away feeling like a victim. Seek to discover the deeper layer behind your daughter's rebellion. Does she feel inadequate with her peer group? Is she lacking confidence? Is she searching for her unique gifts? Talk with her about her pursuits etc. Does she have a hobby or favorite past time? Was she belittled in her new school?

The most valuable part of your day and time is spent is listening, listening, listening to your daughter. Quietly listen to all she has to say. Do not expect that there will be a dramatic change in her behavior, but stay close to her and keep the lines of communication open.

I admire your desire to work through this very real challenge. I feel that my answers are inadequate but I am praying for you and praying that the Holy Spirit will guide your thoughts. Please stay close to the Blessed Sacrament as you work through this issue. Take time to sit quietly before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration. Ask the dear Lord to empower you with the wisdom necessary to work peacefully and with great love and tenderness towards your daughter.

Let us pray today for all the teens that have run away from home. Lord, we ask that they will be brought back to their families and loved ones. Please put people in their paths that will move them to return to those who can help them. Amen.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

   
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