Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Prom Dresses And The Cleavage/Crotch Watch

Last week, there was a  new big news story of national important. It seems that a middle school in Readington, New Jersey decreed that no strapless dresses would be allowed at the school's 8th grade prom. Not only did the kids think it was stupid, but so did many of the parents. The rationale for this dress code was that it would be way to distracting/sexual for boys to be with girls with no straps on their dresses.

Now if you ask me, strapless dresses are almost virginal looking these days as opposed to dresses that are skin tight and whose hems barely cover those cute girl's tushies! Perhaps your daughter has a prom coming up and the shopping isn't going well for the two of you. You yank, and tuck all in the name of keeping your daughter's privates private, while she whines and berates you with the "this is what everyone else is wearing, and their moms aren't acting like such a prude!"

As a parent, you are allowed to have some say, and if you are the holder of the credit card...alot of say. Unlike the administrators in New Jersey, I have no issues with a strapless dress, unless it can't pass the 'half breast" test. It is all subjective, but kids in middle school are still play-acting the "sexy" thing. They are mimicking what they see on TV and are living out the first prom fantasy. Many of the girls don't even have much breast to speak of yet, but want to buy a dress that screams "I'm hot" Whatever happened to just wanting to look cute or pretty. So yesterday! Hot beats out cute every time.

Whatever you decide about the dress issue, keep those "I get it" statements coming. Saying things like: "that dress makes you look like a slut"is not helpful. First of all, that is probably the look they are going for, so you are reinforcing for them the hankering to buy that dress. Saying instead: " I think I get the look you are going for, I know it's fun to look sexy and I am happy you are so proud of your body, but this dress I think might send a message to a boy that could really put you in an awkward and potentially unsafe situation, and I am just not comfortable with that." I know we can find something that feels "sexy and hot" and that feels OK to me.

Good luck with the search, and if I am at the same store in the dressing room next door and hear a fight between you and your daughter, I promise to come out and agree with you!!!

Tomorrow-prom-proofing your teen and keeping them safe.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Shower The People You Love With Love

I was so moved by this and felt there was absolutely nothing I could say to match the meaning of this moment during the memorial service for the MIT policeman, Sean Collier who was killed trying to take down the Marathon bombers in Cambridge.

We are so often distracted by the minutiae of life, and forget what ultimately is the most important.



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Keeping Your Newly Licensed Teen Driver Safe

A parent wrote to me recently requesting some help. This weekend her 16 1/2 yr old daughter will be taking the road test for her coveted drivers license, and barring any 3 point turn mistake (my downfall on my first test) her daughter will be a member of our driving community. The mom's main concern is how to enforce the current law here in Massachusetts, and I'm sure in many other states, that bars newly licensed teens from carting around their friends for the first 6 months of driving from the date of licensing, and how to feel confident that her daughter will always wear her seatbelt and make sure that all passengers (including illegal friends) wear their seatbelts.

Obviously, when you send your teen off in your car you are giving them a leap, a giant leap of faith. You have lectured, and lectured and lectured some more about all the rules, and they have yes'd you to death that they will follow them. But really, who knows? I hope I can help a little with these very realistic fears.

Lets tackle the seatbelt issue first. Observation will be your best evaluator of seat belt usage. Whenever your teen gets in the car, do you have to remind him/her to put on their seatbelt? If so, this is a sign they are not ready to drive alone. The first requirement is to see that your teen, un-reminded and automatically puts on their seatbelt as soon as they get into the car, either as the driver or as a passenger. Let them know that this most basic rule is a pre-requisite for taking out the family car. This includes paying attention to not only their seatbelt, but also any other passengers in the car including you and or their siblings that may be going along for the ride. To test their awareness of their passengers, every now and then, leave your buckle or your passenger's buckles undone. Has your teen done a quick glance around to all passengers before they start the car to assure seatbelt compliance. This is good practice. Let your pre-driving teen know that there is zero tolerance on this issue. And that until you sense that it is now second nature for them to buckle up as well being on top of their passenger's seatbelts, there will be no taking out the family car alone. This is an easy one, because either you have to keep reminding them or you don't, and if you don't than they are good to go!

Now, the real challenge, how to enforce the no-passenger rule. As your teen will tell you: "that's a stupid rule and nobody pays attention to it. Everybody drives with their friends in the car." Unfortunately they are right, not that the rule is stupid, but that all the kids do it. This is a powerful disincentive for your teen to follow the law. If a teen gets caught driving by the police, usually it's when they get a speeding ticket or have rolled through a stop sign or are out driving past your town's curfew, and have other kids illegally in their car, then they lose their license until they are 18. Unfortunately not enough teens get caught, and so most kids think the whole law thing is a joke.

First, do not give a mixed message on this by agreeing that it is a stupid law, even if you think it is. It is a law, and teens are into black and white thinking. Either you think it is fair and right or you think it is stupid too. So if you, in any way, give voice to your own ambivalence in front of your teen, you have lost this war. Their defense will ALWAYS be "well my parents said it was OK!" What you can do is use an 'I get it" moment. saying: " I get you think this rule is stupid, and that all your friends just ignore it. I get your friends will want rides when you have the car. You will want to give them rides and I get it will be hard for you to say no. We need to come up with a plan so that when this happens, which will probably be every time you have the car, you can have something to say that discourages everyone from wanting to ride with you. This will be something that you alone are responsible for, and we get it will be really hard, but new drivers are inexperienced, and vulnerable to distraction, and we want you to be safe. You also need to know that if you are caught by the police, or by us, or by one of our friends who we have alerted to let us know if they see you driving with friends in the car, you will lose your driving privilege until age 17 when you can carry passengers. So if you choose to allow kids in the car, you are risking your ability to drive at all. Now lets come up with a plan."

At this point, you can come up with some suggestions of things they might say to their friends when put in this position for giving rides." I can't my parents are like Nazi's and they are checking my mileage. All they do is figure out the mileage where I say I am going, and if the mileage doesn't match up they are not letting me drive. They are assholes, but I don't want to lose my license, sorry, I just can't." You don't really have to do this, but it gives your teen a very important face-saving out. Basically you want together to concoct a story they can give to their friends, that will make you the bad guys, and give them the script for getting out of the situation. The truth is they probably will still take kids from time to time, but maybe less than if they had a plan to help them get out of it. Remember, that just saying to them: "you better not take any passengers" is not helpful, you have to acknowledge how hard it can be, and help them with a strategy!.

Also you do not want them talking, dialing, or texting on their phone ever in the car. This is life saving. This means YOU SHOULD NOT BE CALLING THEM WHEN YOU KNOW THEY MAY BE DRIVING. Instead give them the responsibility of having to call or text you before or after they start to drive. If they do not take this on as a serious responsibility of taking your car, it is very simple, they do not take the car...period! Let them know that you will be checking the texting times when they are in the car, let them know you have access to these online, and will make sure that they are not texting and driving. Be very very clear about this. This texting and driving should scare the SHIT out of you. You need to scare the SHIT out of them.

Driving is a right of passage. It is the best thing that could ever happen to a teen. I know it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but life with cellphones, and Itunes, and texting and tweeting makes the new driving teens a much more complicated activity. Take it one drive at a time! And by the way, don't forget to ask them to pick up milk on the way home!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Remember When Your Teen Was Two?


I just feel a need for a little lightness. Watching this video makes me smile. There is just not that much difference between your teen and his/her two year old self. Remember your fiercely independent, demanding, and self-involved toddler!

Adolescence is truly a reenactment of the terrible twos. The developmental issues are almost exactly the same. Two and three year olds have figured out that they are literally separate human beings,with the ability to think for themselves, and move around their world on their own, all brand new ideas. And with this realization comes a new found feeling of power and control. See just like your teen.

So when your teen's bossiness and narcissism grates on your nerves, just picture them in their car seat, being all cute and bossy, and remember that it is just a stage!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Giving Comfort In A Scary Time

The Marathon bombing has shaken us all to the core. I hope this entry I wrote a few years back can help. 

Have you ever been in the midst of a really stressful situation that you know has no easy solution, and you call your best friend/mother/father/husband/wife knowing that just hearing their voice will make you feel better. Turns out that in fact a calming voice actually effects your body's hormonal stress responses in a positive way. In a recent study of teens, scientists wanted to see which form of communication with moms (sorry dads you were left out of this study) would help their teen feel better. After having exposed teens to a stressful situation, each teen was exposed to a different form of communication support from their moms; interaction in person, interaction over the phone, interaction over the computer/texts, or no interaction at all. Girls who experienced in person, or over the phone communication, in other words, an actual human voice showed a marked reduction in stress hormones. Those whose moms e-mailed, or sent texts showed stress hormone levels that were just as high as if the teens had had no interaction at all.

Why does this matter, because there is no substitution for human interaction. Texting, and e-mailing are good for sharing information, but when it comes to really impacting someone's life, you actually have to say something. Often times parents will tell me that most of their communication is coming in the form of texting to their kids, even when they are in the same house! Fearful of simple conversations turning into arguments, parents are resorting to  R U OK sent as a text.

As your teen starts back to school and feels stressed by all the new situations and expectations both socially and academically you can safely assume your teen will need to hear your voice. They don't need you to solve their problems, they just need you to know that they have them. If they seem a little sad, lost, and anxious rather than asking "what's wrong?", maybe just a hug and a "you seem a little overwhelmed, sad, just want to say I love you." That calm and loving voice can go a long way to make them feel just a little better. The science says so!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Day To Ponder

Today I am sad, and mostly silent. So incomprehensible that a beautiful, perfect marathon Monday would turn into such a nightmare of loss, pain and fear. Being a Bostonian for my whole life, I have yearly memories of Marathon Monday picnics at Heartbreak Hill, and walks to Wellesley Center to cheer on the runners at Wellesley College

Last week my husband fell off a ladder, sustained serious injury and was hospitalized for 5 days. He is home now and doing great. Between his fall and the marathon bombing I am reminded of how life can change in an instant, with no time for "shoulda, couldas." Pay attention to the present, don't live in the past, or put all your hopes in the future will by my new mantra.

Be in the present for yourself and with your kids.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Key To Your Teen's Brain

Zits Cartoon for Apr/08/2013

Let's just face it, teens and adults speak a different language, and live in another country. In the adult country, sending a picture of someone's a** would be seen as a cry for help. Psychiatric hospital, open your doors. But in the land of the teenagers, any and all body parts, gross and sexual language, and sarcastic repartee is expected, welcomed, and reinforced!

A butt doesn't seem so bad to me, but a breast, that's another thing. Maybe your next talk with your teen is about acceptable body parts for photo sharing. Remember that your teen lives in the "awesome" part of the brain, which needs constant awesome experiences to keep it nourished and active. This is where the "rude and stupid" comes in. Your job is just to make sure that rude and stupid doesn't turn into mean or dangerous.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Need For Cellphone Rehab

Imagine me as the ghost of your teen's college future. I have been teaching college students for almost 25 years, so I have a good longitudinal look at how college students have changed over this period, especially as it relates to technology. And I have seen enormous change. Students from years prior to cellphones and laptops were engaged, conversant, and curious. Now, many more students are passive and hard to engage.

I have students who come in to class with their laptops, explaining that note taking is more effective for them using their computer, I get that. So typing away they go. Often I see them laughing, when I am not saying anything funny. That's usually a good clue that something other than note taking is taking place. Hello facebook and twitter

Cellphone use is rampant, no matter how much I remind them as soon as they get into class to put their phones away. Sometimes it is blatant use right on their desktop. Other times I see surreptitious tapping on their lap. When I see it, I call them out on it. Last week, a group of my students were presenting data from a research study. No dry statistics here, but entertaining quotes from interviews undertaken for a project on early adulthood. My attention had been focused on the group of students, but I did a turn around to try to engage the class in a follow-up question, and saw almost the entire remaining seating students tapping away on their phones. I am not a person who goes to the angry place, but to the angry place I went. I was furious that they could be so rude to their own classmates, and told them how sad it made me feel that they lost out on hearing information that was interesting, and would be helpful to them in making sense of the the material we had been covering.

And finally, on Monday night, I went to a lecture at the college being given by a young man, Damian Eccles, who along with 2 other boys had been wrongly convicted of murder, and had lived on death row for the last 20 years. A year and half ago, these now 40 year old men had been released from prison when new evidence came out that made it abundantly clear they were innocent. This story has been well chronicled with a documentary on HBO, and other films as well.

It was a coup for the college to bring him to speak to the students. The auditorium was packed, and the spill-over crowd had to follow a live-stream in another location. That is where I was. Initially I was thrilled that so many students were in attendance. (it turns out many students were mandated by professors to attend) Anyway, a colleague and I were sitting in the back of the room that seated 50-60 of us. At one point, we looked at each other in disgust as we saw a sea of downed heads, peering into their cellphones rather than listening to this unbelievably compelling speaker. I was sad!

Here is my point. Your teens are addicted to their phones, their laptops, their IPADs, their Itouches. Are you????? If your goal for them is to get the best out of their lives, then it is up to you to set some limits on the amount time they are in contact with these devices. Because otherwise, when they get to those expensive colleges you will be sending them to, they will be too far gone in their addiction. Obviously the very motivated student is exempt from this criticism. But for the majority of students, class is not always their favorite place to be. I get that and work really hard to make my classes entertaining, fun, and good places to learn. But the allure of being in touch with their friends is hard to compete with,

So I implore you to talk about this addiction with your kids. Just like you wouldn't let them eat junk food all day, or play video games from sun up to sun down, you won't let them lose contact with living in the present. A two hour period of NO Phones should be part of every teens day. At least start there! Get them used to being separated from their beloved, all in the name of the sanity of their future college professors!!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Two more Social Networking sites You Should Know About

Thanks to the excellent tech savvy of some parents I work with, I am able to stay well-informed of the many social networking options out there for teens. I am just stymied trying to figure out how teens keep all these sites and apps straight. Which one do you use when, and which of your friends are on which sites? No wonder teens are distracted from actual conversations, they have way to much to do to keep up all their chats and pics. 

OK so here are the two new ones that I have heard about. First is ask.fm. This website lets anyone see the names, photographs and personal details of it's users. Then anyone who is on this site, can post anonymous comments or questions on users profile pages that range from insults to sexual advances and threats of violence. Sound like fun?? Well it must be for those people who are dying to say awful things to someone they don't like with absolutely no fear of being identified. As you can imagine this site contains sexualized, abusive and tons of bullying content. So here is how it works. I join ask.fm and set up a personal profile with pictures, and info about myself. Then let's say that you are a user on ask.fm, and your ex boyfriend is on there, you can write any awful thing you want about him, free from the worry that you could be identified or caught. This is alot of freedom for impulsive, emotional, and kids who get caught up in a crowd mentality and can bully till their hearts content. Your teen should not have this app on their phone.

The second app/site is called Kik. To use this site you need to know someone’s username to start an online chat.  Some Kik users use Instagram to publicize their Kik username in their profiles or by tagging their photos.  You’ll see some twitter users with “Kik me” and then their Kik username in their profile.  If your child or teen’s Instagram profile is public, and they use it to publicize their Kik username, then anyone who sees that on Instagram might “hit them up” on Kik.  So keep this in mind if you allow your child or teen to use Instagram. Again this is asking for trouble. One of your teen's friends puts up a picture on instagram, and your teen is tagged in that picture, then anyone who is friends with the original picture owner can contact your teen by saying kik me and giving their kik me user name. Again can be dangerous and put your teen in contact with people they don't know and who may be posers.

You must be constantly on alert and checking your teen's apps and sites they are visiting. If they can't download apps on their phones, ipads, itouches without your password, it at least gives you some semblance of control. These things can get out of hand. The reason I know about these sites is because parents have contacted me for help when they do get out of hand. There is no earthly reason why your teen needs to be on either of these sites. THEY ARE NOT SAFE. 

A conversation might go like this: " Hey honey I just heard about these two sites, ask.fm and kik. What do you think about them? " Find out what they know, and if they are using them. Then you can say: " I get your friends are using them, but they are unsafe, and they take up too much of your time between twitter, instagram, and facebook, and ichat, snap chat, it is all too much. Pick one!"

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Teens And The Stories They Tell

Does the concept defense mechanisms ring a bell for you? Thank you Dr. Freud for creating these terms that describe the "I don't really want to take responsibility for my actions" kind of techniques that teens (and adults by the way) use to lure us into their lair of "it wasn't my fault."

One way to play that game with them, is to remember all the excuses they come up with. Write them down, put them in a journal, keep them handy and read them back to your teen in moments when their usefulness might come into play. So for example, your teen is late for curfew or said they would be back from the mall, their friends or wherever at a particular time, and don't show. Their excuse, like Jeremy's is circuitous and circumspect and just plain silly. Write down their "short story" so that the next time they ask for permission, or let you know that they are going somewhere and will be back at such and such a time, you can remind them of your previous experience. Get out your little journal and literally read back to them what they "said" had happened. 

 At least now you can plan for their present excursion. As in Jeremy's tale of woe, address the problems one by one. First excuse: dead cell battery. Have them show you their phone and check their charge status. An uncharged phone means they can't leave the house until the phone is charged. Problem #1, anticipated and solved. Problem #2 Lost phone. Smartphones have a phone finder app you can download for lost phones. This app should be downloaded on all teens phones. How many phones has your teen lost? Problem #2 anticipated and solved. Problem #3 no reception. That one is just stupid!! Drive until you get to a place where there is service. Problem #3 solved.

I know this may sound silly, and it is meant to be a little silly, even though I really think its a good idea. Your teen counts on you forgetting previous excuses, and tries to recycle. Be smarter than they are. Keep track!! Teaching teens accountability is really hard. They get caught up in whatever moment they are in, get distracted, lose track of time, and .forget whatever it is they promised to do. Help them to make a plan, a plan they make and can take responsibility for.And make sure there are consequences built into this plan. Knowing that not calling and checking in or not being where they are supposed to be, or coming in late without permission carries consequences.  A little work before hand can make a big difference.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why Does My Teen Have To Lie

A parent wrote me recently with this question. I'm guessing it will be a familiar quandary.

Lying.  My daughter has been taking some expensive classes each weekend and my husband and I just discovered that she's skipped 2 of them. She said she really hates the classes but of course we're still dealing with the deceit and her whereabouts for the time she was supposed to be in class.  Since the classes were expensive we were thinking about having her pay for anything she wants for the rest of the year (Senior Prom dress, AP exams, dance competition fees, new track cleats, it really goes on and on) and/or moving the date she takes her driving test to the summer since she has betrayed our trust.  My husband wants to come down really hard here to illustrate how hurt we are by her lying and how unacceptable lying is to us.  Do you have any thoughts?

Kids are funny, aren't they? They are in constant request and promise mode. If you will buy me/pay for me to/take me... I promise I will do xyz, pleeeese!!! I dont' know what class exactly this daughter was taking, but I am sure the motivation came from another friend, or a fantasy she had about what class would be like. Unfortunately, teens base many of their decisions on fantasy and emotion. They imagine that if they join this team, take this modeling class or specialized training program all sorts of amazing things will happen for them. What they aren't imagining or anticipating is that there will be actual work involved and required seriousness by the instructor/coach. Maybe her best friend was doing it and she wanted to make sure that she wasn't missing out on something. Turns out, it wasn't fun, wasn't what she expected, got in the way of other opportunities, take your pick, and now what? She knows that if she tells her parents whe wants to quit, she will have to hear about "quitters" and money, and commitment and so on and so on. And her parents will be right, and that is the worst for any teen... a parent that is right. So what does any self-respecting teen do in this situation..LIE

Ah, if only they could get away with it. And this girl did for at least two of the classes. I know the parents are worried about what their daughter was doing instead, I'm guessing not much, hiding out at a friends' probably. So what to do, what to do. First I would want to know why the avoidance to talk to  parents beforehand. Lying is an avoidance technique, and if your teen is lying to avoid you than he/she is either worried about disappointing you or worried that you will just get mad and not listen. 

It is really important to understand what motivated the lying. Are you scary? Do you go right to the angry place? If so, your teen has little motivation to be honest. Unfortunately what they don't get is that lying makes everything that much worse; the disappointment, and the anger. In the above situation, I would actually calculate the amount of $$ of the missed classes and deduct that from future spending on non-essentials. That is an objective, non-emotional, right to the point, consequence. 

But as important is a calm conversation about what got in the way of her just coming to her parents and saying she didn't like the class. Parents this is an important time to share ownership of the lying. By literally saying, "what could we do differently to make it easier for you to come to us, so that you wouldn't feel you had to lie instead." Decision making is not a teens strong suit. They are impulsive, emotional and persuasive. It is really hard for a parent not to get drawn into their enthusiasm. I think one way to counter this unrealistic enthusism is to have your teen take shared ownership of a decision. For example, the next time this girl asks her parents to do something like this, with a possibility that down the line the teen might change her mind, is to have them share financial responsibility from the get go. If she doesn't have money saved, then an agreement to work it off doing projects of your choosing. This way if things go south, your teen has an investment in making it work. 

As for lying, I know how frustrating and disappointing this can be. But this doesn't change the essence of who your teen is. They care alot about what you think, and rather than feel your disappointment they will go to great lengths to avoid it. It doesn't make them bad, or ungrateful, just part of the normal trajectory of teen behavior. You won't like it, and you need to absolutely address it, but look at it as a problem to be solved rather than a characterization of who your teen is. 

There are different kinds of lies. Lies of avoidance like this story and lies for getting away with doing something you will say no to, and lies of shame. Teens are extremely motivated to do what they want to do, and go where they want to go, without parental interference. Even the "good" kids. Providing motivation for truth-telling is your greatest weapon!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I Really Do Not Like My Daughter/Son's Boy/Girlfriend

A mom wrote me recently with this question:

My daughter has dated the same young man on and off again for about 2 years.  While he is not abusive and seems to genuinely care for my daughter, he is not exactly who I would choose. (low grades, not going to college, past history of drinking)  How do I know if I should  put my foot down and end the relationship?  I've had well intended mothers ask me why I don't.  Does forcing a relationship to end ensure that they stop seeing each other or does it force them into hiding?

If your teen has a boy/girlfriend, you must have figured out by now that it is the kiss of death to actually say what you really think about this person.  It is never the right thing.  Either you can't stand the kid because he/she is not nice enough, not smart enough, not polite enough, dresses in a way that makes you crazy, is a suspected drug/alcohol/sex fiend, likes to party too much, gets bad grades, and has a family right out of the sopranos, or he/she is so nice, so polite, so smart, motivated and responsible, and has a family right out of the Cosby Show. Either way, your opinion of this person and your sharing of it is likely to push your teen in the opposite direction of your actual desire to either break them up or commit them to each other for the the rest of high school so you don't have to go through this parade of boy/girlfriends for the next 4 years.

This boy/girlfriend dilemma is a complicated one for parents. When you see your teen with someone you feel can be a bad influence on them, pulling them into situations you think will be unsafe, emotionally unhealthy, and that potentially could have a detrimental affect on their future, your mama/papa bear claws come out. You share your "insights" about this person with your teen, expecting they will listen, learn, respect your opinion and do the right thing....break up with this bum!  However because your teen is now biologically and emotionally driven to think just the opposite of you, in a show of "well I'm not you", are now more motivated than ever to dig their own claws in to their new love as a show of independence. One of the major tasks of adolescence is what we call "separation". This is literally developing the ability to stand on their own two feet, in preparation for their future life as an adult. There are some things they are willing to admit you know more about, albeit reluctantly, like academic issues, but their friends are completely off-limits to you and your opinions.  This is an area of their life they feel is their birthright and expertise. Be damned with what my parents think?

Here is what you can't and should never do. Never, ever say to your teen;" I don't want you to, you are not allowed to go out with that person! Remember Romeo and Juliet, this is a set up for lying and sneaking behavior. The bottom line is you have no control over who they see. Unless you lock them in their room and home school them (only kidding, don't run out and buy a teaching manual), you no longer have control over their play dates. They see this person at school, after school and on weekends. Again unless you have a nanny cam attached to their person, there is no way of knowing when and if they are hanging around with this object of your disaffection. Also directly giving your assessment of this person to your teen can only serve to shut off communication rather than keep it open. If they know you already can't stand this person, why would they come to you if they actually need your advice or consolation. "I told you so's " do not contribute to open communication.

Here is what you can do: You can use "I Get It" starters. Rather than directly expressing opinion start with something like this: "Honey, I can see why you like Romeo, he's a cutie, and funny, and a little bit wild. I get it, he's a fun guy. Tell me what you like about him. " Give her the opportunity to tell you about some of the things about this person you may not know. Maybe his standoffishness is shyness for example. When you ask open ended questions, you are showing real interest in the people that interest her, and also trying to find out what this relationship really means to her. Try not to be judgemental or critical, this will not serve you well. After she has shared something about Romeo, you can say " I am happy that you are hanging with someone that is making you happy, but what do you think I am worried about in your relationship with him?" Your daughter/son knows what you are worried about, but if they say it rather than you saying it, they will be less likely to get defensive and evasive. After they say all the things you would have said, you can say:"Yes I do worry about those things, what do you think you can do to make me feel OK about them, so that we don't need to fight so much about this? I love you, and I just want you to be safe, and do what you need to do to get on with your life."

Ultimately your kids want your approval. However if you push them into the corner by trying to control their natural impulses to stand on their own two feet they will let you know in a clear and direct manner to "stay out of my life". So the work here is to help them articulate what relationships mean to them. Relationships in adolescence are a training ground for relationships in adulthood, and experience in all kinds of relationships will serve them well in the future. They need your counsel not your control.
PS if you have a question you would like me to answer here on the blog please send it to joani@joanigeltman.com