A twelve year old with the wrong girlfriend

Grandma: “Our granddaughter, twelve years old and a seventh grader, has had a girlfriend of the same age for a few months now. This girl lives with her mother, her parents are divorced. Her mother cares little about her, is often absent at night. The girlfriend is out on the street late, has boyfriends who sleep with her. She skips school, acts cheeky, and does things that just can’t be done, like unplugging the fridge at school. Pippi Longstocking, but not nice.

“Our granddaughter was bullied in grades seven and eight. She says this girl is the only one who understands her. She wants to be there and sleep as much as possible. She does change because of the contact. She recently submitted an essay that she wanted to die. She also takes money from her parents.

“My son and daughter-in-law find it difficult to set boundaries, they are afraid that if they forbid the ‘friendship’ they will lose it and it will escalate. At home she sits in her room and she doesn’t say anything. I have also lost contact with her. She never emails back. What is the right thing to do now?”

Name is known to the editor. (This section is anonymous because difficulties in parenting are sensitive.)

Listen without preaching or judging

Tischa Neve: “Parents tend to talk children out of these kinds of friendships, but that is counterproductive. Then she secretly meets the girl, and parents have no idea about it at all. It is better for parents to listen with interest to why their child thinks this friendship is so important. Does she feel powerful at school by this girl’s side? Or does she not find a connection? Listen to this without preaching or judging.

“The parents can also invite the girlfriend home, so they can keep in touch with how bad it is exactly. Perhaps this twelve-year-old can show different sides of himself in this household.

“Obviously there are limits. At the age of twelve it is impossible to sleep somewhere without parental supervision. The parents can explain that: ‘We find a few things about this friendship a bit complicated, how can we deal with that?’ They can explain, “We’re here for your safety, so we can’t allow you to stay overnight, but she’s welcome here.”

“For you as a grandmother: don’t show that you don’t like the friendship, but listen to your grandchild with real interest.”

Prohibition doesn’t work

Bass Delivery: “Although it is not the job of grandmothers to interfere in the education of the grandchildren, we still whisper to her that for centuries parents have wanted to prevent their children from having the wrong friends. It has also been scientifically established that from puberty the influence of peers will be greater than that of the parents.

“Prohibition doesn’t work. Parents should try to keep in touch with the child. Their fear of losing contact is real. They can tell their daughter that they find it difficult to follow her in what she wants with her life, and make it clear that twelve years is just too young for certain things.

“It is obvious that the parents will contact the school. Do they worry about the girls there too? The signs are so serious that professional help with the family talk is advisable. The school may be able to mediate.

“The most important thing remains that the girl is listened to from real involvement and with real interest. In that regard, it is a pity that you have lost contact.”

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