Dear Dharma is an advice columnist who strives to be fair, firm and funny all while dispensing sound advice to your everyday problems. Questions regarding family, friends and spouses, problems on the job, etiquette dilemmas – if you can think of it, it’s probably been asked!
We have prepared 2 of the best questions from Dear Dharma:
There’s a group of 4 women who have been friends since high school. We were extremely close and shared secrets with each other that were shared with no one else. There were always open non-judgmental discussions. The kind of friends you call to help bury a body in the backyard. Even though we have all moved to different cities the bonds were strong and we would get together a few times a year and have at least one official weekend together.
At one point, one of the women decided that the relationship wasn’t meeting her needs. Over the course of about a year she withdrew from the group – a process of reducing communications and then declining to attend gatherings without explanation.
The remaining 3 continued the relationship over the next few years, getting together and sharing our struggles and joys in life. Stories told, drinks drank, tears cried and many laughs. Each of us has had very occasional individual, awkward contact with the fourth.
Now the fourth has suddenly decided she would like to return to the group. No explanation has been offered for her absence – it feels like too much time has passed to welcome her back!
How should we respond to this?
The Shunned 3
It seems that by the very nature of how you describe this friendship, the option of welcoming her back to the den has to at least be entertained, right?
Obviously when 25% of such a close knit group goes MIA, there are going to be hurt feelings and a huge sense of abandonment – and without the courtesy of an explanation! That would make me crazy and the possibility of a cult would most certainly be discussed.
In the end, though, you can only do that for so long. Maybe it’s time for a return to those “open non-judgmental discussions” you’ve prided yourselves on.
Since a three-on-one is only good in exactly the right situation, I would recommend you assign a spokesperson to speak on behalf of the group – and then just be honest.
Explain the confusion and the hurt that was created by her actions. She needs to understand your reservations about being brought back into the fold, and I really think she needs to come to the table with some kind of reasoning for her absence. She has to give you something to chew on to see if the 3 of you can swallow this down without choking on it for the rest of your lives.
Simply put, you need to decide what will ultimately work best for you in the long run – closing the door and standing on a principle of black and white, or letting in a few shades of grey, allowing the wounds to heal with time and then getting back to drinking those drinks.
After all, if you could bury a body together, maybe you could bury the hatchet, too?
I need to find a way to talk to my teenage daughter. When she was younger, we were fairly strict with her, but she was such a good kid. Super smart and easy to discipline, even though she always had a sharp witted attitude… When she was younger, it didn’t seem to matter that much, she was very bright, and it was more amusing than worrying.
Now she is a teenager and has hit the ground running. She’s running off with her friends to all hours, even on school nights and doesn’t take us very seriously. I think I have fallen into the trap of wanting to be her “friend” and that might be backfiring.
The latest thing (and what sent me to you) is that I have found out that my daughter might be doing drugs. I am heartsick over the train wreck I can see coming.
How do I address this potential teenage disaster?
Just Say No!
The main ray of hope I can see in your letter is that you recognize that trying to be your daughter’s “friend” isn’t working.
I’ve had many conversations with parents and non-parents about this recent shift in parenting where being “liked” and being “friends” takes the place of “parenting”. Wikipedia says that “Parenting or child rearing is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, financial, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood.”
That sounds like a fancy way of saying “give guidance, set boundaries. Teach your children right from wrong – otherwise how will they know?”
Generations before us didn’t care about being liked. Did your grandparents give a flying flick if your parents thought they were cool or not? Climb that family tree as high as you like, you’ll find that to be a common theme, guaranteed. They taught and demanded things like respect and manners. They taught the value of hard work. They set boundaries and enforced them. They demanded performance – just like the real world before them was going to. That was their job. To teach kids how to live successfully in the real world.
And it’s the job of kids to push those boundaries, so they can find out what they are, how much they can get away with before the parent steps in and says “nope, no way, kiddo.” Even though said kid doesn’t much care for this, it definitely creates that “aha” moment as they learn what is acceptable and not.
So the good news is that kids are still doing their jobs.
Some parents? Not so much. That’s the whole “please be my friend” thing coming into play. The thing is, kids will have lots of friends in their lifetime, but they will only ever have two parents (well, maybe more, as families are fused together, but…) – and they need the guidance parents are supposed to provide as much as anything else! It’s such a disservice to your kids when you decide to abandon that post in trade for being cool.
Your question – how to address your daughter and the possibility that she is doing drugs…
First off, I’m hoping you and your spouse are on the same page on whatever actions you decide to take. It will be so much harder if you’re not. Assuming you are, you both need to go back to being parents and establish structure. Being out at all hours needs to be curtailed. Expectations need to be set – we all do better when we know what people want from us.
Obviously the drug issue needs to be addressed – although you said she “might” be doing drugs… Of this you want to be sure, non? Read through this website – Parenting Teens. And yes, take the quiz. It might help you see some things more clearly.
The worst thing you could do here is nothing. Don’t get caught up in feeling like the bad guy because in the long run it doesn’t matter. The wellbeing of your daughter is the priority and establishing successful communication is key. There’s no shame in seeing a counsellor to get some assistance with that if you think it would help your family navigate these tricky teenage waters.
To find out more about Dharma and to read some of the great advice she’s given, check out her website at www.deardharma.ca