Question: I am preparing to move in to UC Berkeley as a new freshman.
My parents are having a very difficult time coping with this change. Normally, I’d help them along, but they seem to resent me because I am not struggling with letting go like they are.
At times, we get engaged in a power struggle, with my parents reinforcing their “adultness” by talking down to me and taking charge in certain social situations where ordinarily I am just as capable of commanding an adult’s respect.
It is almost as if they want my life to stay on freeze-frame; their mantra seems to be that nothing needs to change, whether that is their relationship with me or my relationships with others. If my parents continue to try to take charge of me without showing me any respect when I am at college, what should I do?
Answer: You probably don’t know this, but sometimes parents will unintentionally upset a child going away to college as a way of helping with the separation. The more they annoy you, the more they love you. Clearly, you’re VERY loved. Your parents probably have no idea that their actions are being interpreted as resentment or a lack of confidence in your abilities.
Instead of approaching your parents with anger and hurt feelings, try patience and compassion.
When they exert their will, ignore it or remind them how much you love them. Then explain what makes you uncomfortable about their actions. But to have this conversation, you have to give them permission to be worried, loving and unaware that they’re unintentionally upsetting you.
Question: While I think the substance of your advice to the teen with a pregnant girlfriend was sound, I find the tone of your response to be highly objectionable. Calling him the “enemy” really was uncalled for, given the possibility that the girl in question was the initiator of at least some of the sex that resulted in her pregnancy. Your apparent exoneration of her behavior toward him smacks of jumping the gun at best, and downright misandry at worst.
Answer: Simon says, “I did not exonerate his pregnant girlfriend or bash men.” I simply stated that a lot of dads and moms look at the man who gets their teenage daughter pregnant as the enemy — despite the expectant father’s noble intentions.
The reality is that a teenage girl who gets pregnant tends to carry the brunt of the emotional and physical burden.
Her parents often share this burden. This is why he needs to win over her parents. This isn’t sexist — it’s the reality of an uncomfortable situation. And please, if parents of teens want to chime in, I welcome the conversation.
Write Harlan at harlanAhelpmeharlan.com or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com.