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Dear Mrs. Web,

My former friends at school were in a tough, trouble-making  group. We ran a bit wild.  I have gotten away from my old friends, but  sometimes I hear things and recently heard that the group is planning to vandalize a teacherís house. Who knows?  It might even become personal. 

I am not a part of it. I did not plan it. I did not approve it, or anything else. Should I tell the teacher involved? We have never really gotten along. Maybe he wonít believe me or hold me responsible. I don't want to see anything bad happen. But if it does, I don't want to get ANY of the blame for it. What should I do? 

Tell your parents. Then, sit down with your school principal tomorrow morning. With your parents if it is at all possible. You will need adult representation in the school system. If the teach is available, have him there too.  

Tell the principal exactly what you said in this letter. Heck, take the letter with you!  This is an adult matter and the principal is ultimately responsible for the staff and students.  Thatís why they get the most pay and the reserved parking spot.

You will also want to talk with them about making sure you are safe too.  People sometimes get upset if their plans are mucked up.  Take care now



Dear Mrs. Web,

My mother and I are really close. I am 13. There is only one problem. She doesnít know I go out with boys. She is always telling her friends that I am different and not interested in that sort of thing. I want to know if I should tell her. The one other time I lied to her she cried because I kept a secret from her. I need help.

I think you should be honest with your Mom. Think of how hurt she will be if she hears you are dating from someone else. I am sure it will hurt her to hear you have been untruthful, but it is even more important that you owe up to her and apologize. I am sure you wanted her to be proud and brag about you, and it is sad to disappoint her.

I would sit down privately with her, and tell her all. Remember to apologize. Ask for help in learning to be open and truthful, even when the truth is difficult. To be caught in a lie is one thing, but to owe up to a lie on your own and apologize is a way to build good strong character.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I am 15. My best friend has a mother who is always on her case about everything she does. She is the middle of five daughters. Her mom is always after her about boys calling, housecleaning, and other chores. Everyday I go over and help her with her chores because she is not permitted to go out. My friend makes it worse by yelling at her mother, forging her signature, and lie to her. How can I help them?

The only things you can do for this situation is encourage your friend make good choices. Donít support her bad choices, lie for her, or encourage her difficult behavior. It sounds like she is making poor choices (yelling, forging signatures and lying). 

If she were my daughter, I would keep her on a short leash too. One earns trust and privileges. Sometimes people have to make poor choices and bear the consequences in order to learn how to get along.

Sometimes mothers and daughters need to be with each other in a different way. I will spend the day with just one of my daughters and we will do things together that she enjoys. Even a breakfast out helps. I often encourage teens to take their parents out to breakfast as a way of connecting with them.



Dear Mrs. Web, 

My parents are divorced. My mother left my father about five years ago. I am married and a mother of two.

My mother is now involved with a man no one likes. This man is rude and crude. He treats my mother poorly. Recently he asked my mother whether he could sleep with my older married sister. I think he was joking. 

He is very nice to my 15-year-old sister (who lives with Mom). He waits on her and coddles her. This strikes me as odd. My little sister loves this guy and will actually go next door and call to talk to him when my mother and he have had a tiff. My father has tried to get custody but the courts allow my sister to choose, and Mom has no rules at her house.

Do you think this creep could possibly be sexually involved with my baby sister? Do you think my mother might know? What should I do?

The situation between this man and your baby sister is inappropriate. His behavior is invasive and her behavior is the normal way a fifteen-year-old acts when an older man is seducing her. In my opinion, your sister is not safe.

Would your mother allow this man to sexually seduce your baby sister? Women have been known to use their children to keep a man interested.

This man also asked your mother whether he could sleep with another daughter. Since your mother didnít show him the door after such an inappropriate statement, I think your baby sister is at risk for sexual abuse by this creep. 

She needs to be pried out of there. Talk to your father immediately. You will both need to use whatever legal means available. Talk to a lawyer and the local welfare offices. Make sure you get a restraining order protecting the girl from him. Judges do not look kindly on home situations that include boyfriends sniffing around underage children.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I am 13 years old. I have a wonderful step-dad who has taken care of me since I was born. He and I donít really ever talk except when I ask him to go somewhere or when I want something. Thatís the only time I ever hug him too. What should I do so I can be closer to him?

The best way to become closer is to spend time, talk to, and do things with him. Ask him how his day has been and offer to help when he is doing household chores. Talk about his interests and hobbies. Ask for help in an area that he has some expertise. Update him about your life and friends. Go for walks. Turn off the television.  Thank him for being your dad.

Ask your parents to play a board game in the evening after dinner, pop some corn, pour out sodas, and enjoy. Read books aloud. Card games are fun too. If he is an athletic sort, perhaps all of you could take up a sport together.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I am 15. My best friend has a mother who is always on her case about everything she does. She is the middle of five daughters. Her mom is always after her about boys calling, housecleaning, and other chores. Everyday I go over and help her with her chores because she is not permitted to go out. My friend makes it worse by yelling at her mother, forging her signature, and lie to her. How can I help them?

The only things you can do for this situation is encourage your friend make good choices. Donít support her bad choices, lie for her, or encourage her difficult behavior. It sounds like she is making poor choices (yelling, forging signatures and lying). 

If she were my daughter, I would keep her on a short leash too. One earns trust and privileges. Sometimes people have to make poor choices and bear the consequences in order to learn how to get along.

Sometimes mothers and daughters need to be with each other in a different way. I will spend the day with just one of my daughters and we will do things together that she enjoys. Even a breakfast out helps. I often encourage teens to take their parents out to breakfast as a way of connecting with them.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My best friend has gone off the deep end over a boy she met. She is fourteen and he is fifteen and they are really, really involved. They are planning a great weekend away at his parentís camp. He is going to steal the key and she is getting a girlfriend to lie and say she is spending the weekend at her house. They found a big kid who drives to take them there and pick them up. It is all she talks about. They will be drinking; this guy drinks a lot. All our friends think is sooo romantic. I am worried. Ever since she met this guy, she isnít any fun anymore. We used to talk about books and music and have fun but now she seems so shallow. I think her mother should know but I donít want to do it. She would never talk to me again.

Lying, stealing, breaking in, illegal drinking, and the possibility of disease or pregnancy are serious issues. Your friend is not thinking clearly. Her mother needs to be notified. Some things are bigger than friendship. Talk to her mother.  Sometimes being a true friend involves saving someone's neck even when they put the noose on themselves.


Dear Mrs. Web,

I have a ten-year-old daughter who is beginning to follow rock and roll music groups and singers. I listened to one of the CDs recently and was not happy with the tunes or the lyrics. I canít take the music away from her; all her friends listen to them too. What should I do to minimize this kind of thing in our home?

Well, it is your home and you can make the rules you think your family needs. You can also keep out as much or as little of the current culture as you wish. You can permit or refuse your daughter anything the popular culture gives out, friends or no friends. 

However, what you need to remember is to replace what you take away with something else. If you take away her peer group music, replace with different, more acceptable music, or interesting acceptable films. Always explain and help your child evaluate with your familyís values and beliefs. 

When these issues come up one should evaluate whether the peer group your daughter is involved with is one that is acceptable to you. Or just the easiest.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I had a call the other day from a man asking for my daughter. My daughter is fourteen. He was asking her out on a date. She agreed to meet him for coffee the next day. When she hung up I found out it was a man from the photography classes she is taking. I asked her who he was and his age. She told me his first name and that she thought he was "in his twenties". I told her I thought twenty was too old and that she would have to cancel the date. She said she could not because she did not know how to reach him. So I told her I would go with her. She exploded. Yesterday I went to work and she met him. They had coffee and went to a matinee. I donít think this is right. What can I do?

You have a problem. You do not have your daughterís respect. The kind of respect that causes her to honor your decisions even though she does not like them. You are going to need help. If you cannot keep her home at fourteen, she will be totally unmanageable at sixteen. You will need to act quickly and decisively. If her father is anywhere in the picture, pull him in, a young girl needs guidance from a caring father.

In most states, statutory rape laws are still in the books. Make sure the photographer knows you will use them. Get yourself into family counseling with someone who can help you regain and maintain your authority. The ToughLove programs have also been very successful.



Dear Mrs. Web

My father kicked me out of the car yesterday and told me to walk home. He said I was talking out of line. It took me all afternoon to get home. It was almost twelve miles. Now he wonít talk to me and the rest of the family is mad at me too.

Iíd say the man is still upset. It is your move. You owe him an apology. He is your father. Begin with a humble "I am sorry," and admit your error.  Tell him you want to improve your relationship. Then close your mouth and listen to his answer.  Solutions are best worked out when people stop talking or thinking about what they are going to say next, and instead listen carefully.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My sons ages nine and twelve were discussing health issues with me the other day and my youngest asked me whether I had had sex with other men besides their father. Although my older son was not directly engaged in the conversation I could tell from his posture he was intently listening. I ignored the question but I know it is going to come up again. The truth is that I had several sex partners before my husband. What should I do when this question comes back up?

I think you and your husbandís past sex life is your business, and not your childrenís business. Unless the poor dears are tripping over your discarded lovers at every turn, your past belongs to you and needs no explanation. 

A bland statement such as "Daddy was the only man for me", or "Daddy was the first man I ever loved!" will suffice. Anything questions beyond that is "getting into our sex life, which is our personal, private business".



Dear Mrs. Web,

My mom wonít let me wear a bikini or a thong. How can I convince her that there is nothing wrong with them?

I donít think you can. Mothers know that tiny bathing suits are worn to garner attention and advertise a young womanís physical assets. Most mothers are not willing to let their fifteen-year-old daughters attract that kind of attention. Most mothers also know that modesty has its own charms. Settle on a more modest two piece suit.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I was planning to begin researching colleges and universities this fall as a junior. Any ideas?

I have had a lot of luck recommending Choosing the Right College: The Whole Truth About Americaís 100 Top Schools by Intercollegiate Studies Institute and William Bennett. Most people have really found it helpful. I found it informative and broad in scope. I hope a book two evaluating the second hundred schools comes along soon.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My sisterís boyfriend told me that she is pregnant. When I asked my sister, she told me if I told she would kill me. They are afraid to tell my parents. Should I?

You did not mention anyoneís age; I am going to assume we are dealing with a high school or junior high aged girl. If your sister wonít tell them, you would want to. The baby comes first. Your sister, her boyfriend, his parents, and your parents have a lot to talk about. They have decisions to make about their upcoming child and grandchild. This is a difficult and sad time for your family. I am sorry.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My daughter wants to pierce her navel and needs my permission. She is fourteen and I am not crazy about the idea.

A navel ring would make a funny bump in the modest, one piece, skirted, bathing suit you are insisting that she wear to the beach this yearÖ No, no, no, different letterÖsorry!  

My opinion is that children should not be given permission to mutilate their bodies with piercing and tattoos. What is desirable at fourteen may not be wanted or appropriate at twenty-four. Donít do it. Everybody eighteen and under or dependent on their parents for support is still a child as far as Dear Mrs. Web is concerned.



Dear Mrs. Web.

I work and so does my wife. We have one son who is fourteen. We don't like leaving him alone but he can't go to daycare and is too old for a sitter. He refuses to go to day camp, says he's tired of it. He has three weeks of away camp in the Rockies coming up but my wife and I have are having a hard time coming up with what to do with him until school starts.

Have you thought of taking a couple of weeks off and spending some time with him? Fourteen year olds need lots of time with their parents. If time off is not possible what about unpaid internships at your offices? Or with an adult you trust who shares an interest with your son? Teenagers need adult attention and contact and a sense of purpose.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband has Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler magazines in our house. I recently found our twelve-year-old son with one in his room. I took it away from him. But I am not sure about how to handle this. I really don't think they are good for him. My husband thinks I am overreacting.

Not wanting your son to play "inspector" with the detailed pictures of naked women sounds pretty normal to me. Your husband is already an "inspector", though. Sounds like a clash of values to me. Since the porn is already in the house the both of you will need to decide at what age it is appropriate material for your son. By the way, I have never met anyone whose personality or character was improved by porn.



Dear Mrs. Web,

Do you think my mother has the right to go through my private and personal stuff in my drawers?

The Right?!! Let's get away from that word. This is not a constitutional issue.

Your mom has a responsibility to make sure you are safe and healthy. If she is concerned about you she has the responsibility to find out truth and monitor you in any way she can. Your stuff is yours only in the sense that she has made it possible for you to have it by paying the freight on everything else, the mortgage, the utilities, the insurance, and so on.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My brother is taking a lot of drugs. He moved out about a year ago but stops back to wash his clothes and hang around a couple of times a month. He works in a kitchen at a restaurant. After the last time he visited I found I was missing a lot of money (about $200) towards my new competition bicycle. I know he took it but I can't prove it. When I told my parents they seemed upset, but didn't really say anything to him. I am fifteen and I haven't said anything either. What should I do?

The money is missing and you are right, your brother probably took it. I would tell him the money is missing and that you suspect him and are disappointed. Ask for the money back. But don't expect it back.

You have paid a high price to learn that illegal drugs turn family members into strangers. Open a bank account and lock you possessions up. Tell your parents about ToughLove, an organization that can help them.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I am the mother of two grown sons both in college. I have been widowed for more than 12 years. My husband, John died in a terrible industrial accident. When he died I told the boys that Dad was hit on the head and died. My sister says I should sit them down and tell them all the details. She thinks I am awful not to have told them the truth. She says if I donít tell them they wonít trust me and if I do tell them it will bring us closer.. I donít want to do it, but I will if you think it is best for them.

Your sister wants you to go through all the gruesome details of your husbandís death because she thinks it will edify your relationship with them? I donít think so! They donít need to know. Your sister has an agenda. This is none of her business. If they want to know the details they will ask. Let it rest.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I am concerned about my 16-year-old son. He has started hanging around with "the wrong crowd". He was a good student until the last quarter but his grades have been going down. I asked him if he is doing drugs but he says no. Last week, he even came home with is tongue pierced! That was the last straw! We had a big fight and now we donít even talk. He is a smart kid but I am afraid that if he keeps it up, he will get into some kind of trouble. How can I talk to him?

Something is up. Teenager boys who develop radical changes in their grades and behaviors need evaluation and help. Tell him you love him but heís changed and your are concerned. Counseling with a person with experience with adolescents would be a start. Call your MD and have your son tested for drugs and alcohol. At least youíll know whether he needs to become involved in a drug/alcohol rehabilitation.

Where is Dad? Get him involved. Contact the local ToughLove chapter in your area to get some help in setting boundaries for your son. This is the time to jump in with the big guns and have them be effective Ė not one, two or ten years into this behavior. Who knows, maybe the tongue ring will disappear.



Dear Mrs Web,

My children are now 11 and 14 and I am planning to go to school full time and finish my degree so I can go back to work and find a good job when college bills come in. The problem is that I still don't feel right leaving the children to themselves. They are not too thrilled either. But they certainly are old enough, aren't they?

Someone wise once described adolescents as "like two year olds, only needier." You are sensing that your children are needing you and your may be right. Developmental brain changes and school and social pressures may require you to put your plans on hold a bit. More than one mother I know started work when the youngest was in school but came home again when the oldest reached teen years to help them through this time.



Dear Mrs. Web,

There is a family in our town where the parents are friends of all the teenagers. These parents hang out with the teens and actually you can't easily tell them apart from the teens except he has gray hair. They are pierced and tattooed and cool. My children speak of this couple with great awe. Their own teens are leaders of the odder groups at school and lead cafeteria protests on occasion. Although I am not sure why, my wife and I are not thrilled about our kids going over there after school.

You probably are not happy about these people because they are not acting like adults. Let's face it, very few adults want to follow teenage fashions, trends and values because these things are immature and juvenile.

Adults who follow them may be showing an extraordinary lack of judgment. Dear Mr. Web and I never allow our children to go to the homes of people we don't know. When I say, "know" I mean have a good idea of their values. You will want to meet with these people a few times and get a sense whether you feel they would be positive influences in your children's lives.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My daughter is nearing puberty. I need to talk to them about the details. I cannot handle it. What should I do?

When my little girls started developing breastlings and hiplets I immediately began to start telling them of the "wonders of womanhood." Repeat it about every four months. They forget. I brought in the appropriate equipment and familiarized them with it. I also found a book about puberty that I could stomach. Most of them have a distinctively radical feminist, permissive, your-body-as-a-tool perspective that doesn't sit well with me. I have none to recommend but will consider all suggestions.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My mother and father won't let me go on dates with boys. They won't even let me group date. The fifth grade end- of- year dance is coming up and I am not allowed to go. All the other kids are there with their steady boyfriends. I have a steady boyfriend but itís a secret from my parents. He wants me to go to the dance. He will break up with me if I don't go. How can I convince my parents that I have to go?

Let me tell you something I hope will sink in and stay with you for the rest of your life. People who want you to go against your best interests to meet their desires should be avoided at all costs. In fifth grade honoring your parents rules is in your best interest. He won't get in trouble if you're caught, you will.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My teenage daughter, age 14, has a group of friends who have been her friends since kindergarten. Some of them are now smoking and doing drugs and having sex. Luckily she knows better and has a good moral sense (I guess I did something right!). She is having such a hard time dealing with her friends. She hates to see them smoking and using drugs. She tries to tell them how bad it is. She even got extremely upset at one of her friends because her friend was flirting. I am very proud of her for trying to help her friends but I see the toll it is taking on her. What can I do to help her?

Frankly, she needs new friends. She shouldn't be around these behaviors. If she were mine I would introduce her to new groups where the teenagers have similar values to hers. Church youth groups, different school activity groups, sports teams, and other groups with a focus, adult supervision and a good time all could work well for her. She may need to change schools too. Evaluate whether her continued relationship with these friends would be too painful for her. Some kids stop the pain by joining in.



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