Dear Mr. Dad, My 14-year-old daughter is obsessed with the idea that she needs to start dating. She says “all of her friends” are doing it, and feels left out. Fourteen just seems too young. I don’t think anyone—boy or girl—should start ‘til at least 16. I want to tell her “over my dead body” but I also don’t want to be that dad. What can I do?
A: As the father of three daughters—two of whom made it through their teen years without getting pregnant (the third is only 10 and I’m confident she’ll do the same)—I feel your pain. The very idea of your little girl, alone with a … boy, can bring up all sorts of emotions, headlined by anger (“Boys that age have only one thing on their mind”) and worry (How can I possibly protect her?”).
Let’s start with the “only-one-thing-on-their-mind” idea. Do you really believe that? TV, movies, and the Internet put a lot of pressure on teens to have as much sex as they can as often as they can, with as many different people as possible. But the reality is that the majority of boys your daughter’s age are petrified of girls, and what’s most likely on their mind is, “I’m hungry.”
As far as the “how-can-I-protect-her” idea, you have two things going for you. First, your daughter herself doesn’t sound like she’s all that into it and just wants to date because everyone else is. By telling you that, she’s almost begging you to say No. Second, even if dating were her idea, you’re right: 14 is too young for serious one-on-one dating.
That said, you can’t just play the tough guy and expect her to be happy about it. In fact, the more forcefully you forbid dating, the more you’ll push her towards it. Here’s what to do instead.
- Really Talk to Her. You have a wonderful opportunity here. Your daughter actually came to you with a problem. That says a huge amount (in a good way) about your relationship. Ask her to tell you more about the dating her friends are doing, the pressure she feels, and what she actually means by “dating” (you might be thinking, “dinner, movie, make out in the back seat of the car”; she might be thinking “hold hands and share an ice cream cone”). Listen carefully and don’t be judgmental. When you sense an opportunity, talk to her about the dangers of dating, including violence (which, by the way is just as likely to be initiated by girls as by boys). Talk about relationships, sex, and the finances involved. You’re not going to wrap this up in one conversation, so take it a step at a time.
- Establish some dating rules. Number one is that group dates are okay, one-on-one dates are not. End of story. Group dates let her be with the boy who makes her blush, but in a setting where inappropriate behavior is a lot less likely.
- Tag along. In my view, groups of young teens shouldn’t be out and about without an adult nearby—there’s too much opportunity for things to go wrong. And if you want your daughter to see how serious you are, be the chaperone. Don’t be right in the middle of the group or try to be everyone’s buddy—that would only embarrass your daughter. Instead, walk half a block behind and sit a few rows away in the movie. But be there. Watch carefully, and let her enjoy herself.
Just as our rambunctious toddlers and kids grow into self-sufficient teens, the self sufficiency and health of our parents start to decline. Dads of the sandwich generation are caught between directing a misguided, angsty teenager and helping a parent with diminishing independence. You’ve inescapably fallen into the role of caretaker for your own mom or dad.
Defining the Sandwich Generation
One in eight Americans care for aging parents while tending to their own families, according to the Pew Research Center. An estimated 66 million Americans take care of a loved one, while a third are also raising children, reports the National Alliance for Caregiving.
It’s a stressful responsibility that also evokes strong feelings of resentment, guilt and anger. You’re making sacrifices and engaging in 100 percent selflessness that can create serious health problems, self-neglect and exhaustion. The following pointers can help members of the sandwich generation healthily navigate their roles without the detrimental “caregiver syndrome.”
Aging seniors with decaying health can fall into depression and moodiness. A sick parent resents their own increased dependency on others. The growing resentment is a two-way street, and your once vibrant parent may resent needing your help just as much as you resent your parent’s reliance on you. During high-stress moments when your emotions are about to implode, try to remember this isn’t ideal for your parent either. Embrace empathy and compassion — inner strength and calmness will follow.
Mother and caregiver Mary Novaria wrote on The Huffington Post that she had a romanticized vision of her family’s three generations of women coming together. She fantasized about her and her mother and daughter sipping tea while dishing on “Grey’s Anatomy” and reminiscing in front of the fireplace. Likewise, you may have picture hitting golf balls with your father while teaching your teenager about the rules of the game. Letting go of an idyllic picture of how you imagined your relationship to be with your parent can help alleviate disappointment, resentment and irritation. Your parent is still your parent, and love is unconditional.
Claim Good Days
Parenthood can make a man want to pull a Christopher McCandless and abandon society to live in isolation with nature. Although McCandless met an unfortunate fate in the novel “Into The Wild,” his escape can be a fantasy for a parent. Parenthood is tough, and you have to savor the beautiful moments. A warm hug from a little one before bed can make up for an entire day of temper tantrums, and the same goes for caregiving. Cherish the good days. Avoid feelings of inadequacy with affirmations that you can’t do it all. It’s a balancing act. Use special moments shared with your parent as a reminder that your mom or dad suffering from Parkinson’s, for example, isn’t a burden, but a loved one.
Move Mom or Dad
Moving a parent out of their home can be devastating decision to make. Conversations with a parent about moving into your home or an assisted living community is commonly met with resistance. An aging parent may be even more reluctant to move from their home if they’re moving across country to be near your family for support. So focus on the bright side of things and drive home that a sunny transfer to assisted living community in Mesa, Arizona or elsewhere, could offer a healthy change of scenery..
Have an open conversation as soon as necessary and share honest concerns about your parent’s well-being. Explain that you’re their advocate. Continue to approach the subject in a way that makes your parent feel like they made the choice, rather than being forced into abandoning their home. Ensure your parent that your family is a caregiving team who your mom or dad can count on no matter what.
Chess has been around for hundreds of years, and it’s always been associated with intelligence, strategy, and memory. But over the past decade—partly due to the increase in video and smartphone games—the Game of Kings, has lost some of its allure and its audience. This week we take a look at two great chess-like games […]
Confessions of an Unexpected Stay-at-Home Dad + Dad’s Search for the Meaning of Life + Nutrition Deficit Disorder
[amazon asin=0451413334&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Adrian Kulp, author of Dad or Alive.
Topic: Confessions of a stay-at-home dad.
Issues: One man’s hilarious journey from bringing home the bacon to frying it–along with assembling the crib, learning how to “accessorize” his daughter, flying with an infant for the first time, booze-free baby showers, and navigating a farmer’s market with a baby–and a loaded diaper–strapped to his chest.
[amazon asin=1602396493&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Joe Kita, author of The Father’s Guide to the Meaning of Life.
Topic: What being a dad teaches about hope, love, patience, pride, and everyday wonder.
Issues: The life lessons parents learn—that would remain secrets if they didn’t have children; essential reading for fathers; the importance of play (and not just for the kids); what our children teach us about ourselves and how they make us better people.
[amazon asin=0316043443&template=thumbleft&chan=default]William Sears, author of The NDD Book.
Topic: Nutritional Deficit Disorder.
Issues: Identifying NDD; understanding how NDD affects children’s learning, behavior, and health—and what we can do about it; overcoming NDD without drugs; how to fit a healthy, fresh-food diet into today’s busy lifestyle.
Dear Mr. Dad: I’m seeing news stories all the time about how stay-at-home dads are becoming more common, and how fathers of all kinds are taking on a greater share of the parenting workload. While that sounds like it should be a good thing, I’m worried about how the kids will do. I have nothing against fathers, but after all, mothers are naturally better parents than fathers, aren’t they? So doesn’t it follow that they’d do better in life if they were raised primarily by their mothers?
A: In a word. “No.” In two words, “Hell, No.” I’ve been doing research and writing about fathers for nearly 20 years and I can assure you that there’s no scientific evidence to support the claim that women are naturally better at parenting than men No question, they’re better at being pregnant, giving birth, and breastfeeding, but when it comes to actually caring for children, the most important factor is not the sex of the parent, but the amount of time the parent spends with the child.