can i stop my 17 year old moving out?

Dear Suzie, I have read your book YOU JUST DON’T LISTEN…it is marvellous, I am single mother, living on my own in this country with a 17 year old daughter which we have had a really bad arguments, now she has a boyfriend and wants to stay at his (he lives on his own) and I dont know what to do??

Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you’ve got that book because that makes helping you to help yourself and your daughter is that much easier! It seems to me that what you need to do is work on that relationship with your daughter. Because to be honest, there is little you can do about whether she goes or stays, unless it is by her consent. At 17 she can legally decide to have a sexual relationship. While she is still in your care until she is 18, you would find it well nigh impossible to get any legal ruling that makes her stay with you – and when she turns 18, she can choose where she lives or stays and that’s that.

Have another read of my book. One of the things I say is that you shouldn’t take much of what happens between you and a teenager personally. I know that feels difficult, but it’s true. All teenagers rebel against their parents – it’s actually an essential and natural part of learning to stand on your own two feet. This often leads to arguments because it’s so important to them to disagree and make their own choices. It feels like a direct attack on you but really it isn’t – whoever their parents are and whatever they do, kids will still shout “You aren’t the boss of me”, “I hate you” and “You can’t tell me what to do.” So you do need to take a deep breath and see much of what is going on as something you need to back peddle and look at again.

You do say two things to me that seem to suggest some of the reasons the two of you could be having such a difficult time at the moment. You say you live on your own. Whatever has happened to your daughter’s Dad, not having him around will be painful to her, especially at this time in her life. Teenage girls without dads often look elsewhere for male approval and male attention and this could be one reason fuelling her need to be with her boyfriend. You also talk about being “in this country” which makes me wonder if you have come from another area and thus might have different expectations in your own culture of how teenagers behave and what they should be doing. Whenever you both came here, your daughter might have taken on the ideas and expectations of her peers more than you have, and this might particularly lead to a gap between you.

If you look again at the book, I suggest quite a few ways of communicating with young people – of listening as well as talking with (not AT!) them. Respecting what she may be feeling and why she may be doing the things she is doing are the first steps in helping her hear, understand and respect your fears and anxieties. You could point out for a start that while you may be feeling angry and afraid and not be too keen on what she is doing, you would like to understand why she is making this choice. And you need to tell her in no uncertain terms that while you may not be happy about her behaviour, you love and value her and always will. Hearing what she has to say – and I do give tips in ‘You Just Don’t Listen’ on doing that – will give her the space to listen to you in return. Good luck!

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