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Expert Q&A with

Kimberly Moffit

My 17-year-old daughter didn’t like my rules so she moved out of my house and went to live with her father

(we’ve been divorced for about five years). I don’t want her to think she can play the two of us and just live in whatever house has the most lax rules, but I also never want her to think she can’t come back home. How do I navigate this situation?

LATE ADOLESCENCE CAN BE SUCH A TOUGH TIME, as teens struggle to find more independence, become their own person, and navigate the relationship with their parents.

It’s not uncommon at all for teens to think that things are “too strict” in one parent’s home, that they don’t like the rules, and/or that they need a break from your relationship. A teen’s decision to move out to the other parent’s house can be very hard on the primary caregiver—especially if the other parent hasn’t been all that involved in raising the child.

The hard part is, most adolescents lack the maturity to appreciate the years of dedication you’ve put into parenting them from a young age, and they usually lack wisdom to know that rules are usually a good thing. As a result, they typically take the “grass is greener” approach in decision-making, seeing only the negatives in their current situation and only the positives in an alternative. This continues no matter what situation they are in, which results in flip-flopping back and forth in their decisions. For example: “Mom’s too strict, I’m going to live with Dad. Oh wait, Dad nags me about my homework, better go live with Mom instead.”

The most important (and loving) thing you can do for your daughter is to be open and honest about your feelings, while giving her options. Saying something like, “Making a move is a serious decision, and I know how important it is for you. I want you to know that if things don’t work out with Dad, I would be open to having you back here IF you can prove to me that you are serious about following my rules and that you’d put serious thought into the decision.” Letting her know that she’ll have to work for the opportunity to live under your roof again sets the tone for the relationship—you’re open, willing, and caring, but you’re not about to let her walk all over you. Good luck!

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