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Real Relationships: Letting kids grow up

Q: I have a 16-year-old daughter who just got her driver’s license. She is a pretty good kid (as far as I know), but I am scared to death. My first instinct is to impose all kinds of rules on her like a curfew and who can and cannot ride in her car (once she can drive with other kids) and where she can and cannot go. Then I remember my parents doing that to me and how I rebelled. I don’t want her to rebel like I did, but if I don’t give her boundaries, she might run wild. What do I do to keep her close but let her grow up?
 

A: This is a pretty scary time for you, for sure. I can only assume this is either your only child or your oldest child, based on your reaction to her growing up. Although, in full disclosure, I have not yet had to deal with this situation personally, I will dispense to you some advice that my parents used that kept my brother and me close. Instead of forcing her to earn your trust, give her your trust until she proves she doesn’t deserve it.

I know that probably goes against everything you were taught growing up and everything she has learned from her teachers in school, but change is good. By showing her that you trust her (since she has yet to do anything wrong), she will feel respected and grown up. But furthermore, she won’t want to let you down. Just by extending that trust to her, you will build up her confidence as a driver, her confidence as your daughter and her confidence as a responsible adult.

Now, that said, it is OK to set some guild lines, but don’t "lay down the law." Simply tell her what your wishes are, why you want her to follow them, and ask her to tell you if she feels the rules are unreasonable. Also, if she needs to bend the rules in any given situation to let you know ahead of time.

As with most things, transparent communication is the key. It is OK for her to know you are nervous about this next step in life, but don’t let that fear paralyze your relationship. Use it to build a stronger bond between the two of you.

Have a relationship question? Send it to [email protected]. Questions will be featured every Monday in Real Relationships.

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