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Ask Rosalind 2008

September 2008 Q. My son, a high school freshman, is struggling with math for the first time ever. He says the teacher is terrible. How long should I wait before contacting the school?

A. Your son needs to explain exactly what he means by "terrible" and describe specifically what's so problematic about the class. Then he should set up a meeting with the teacher where he can respectfully express his frustrations. If the problems continue, that's when you should talk with the teacher. Only after both of those meetings have occurred are you within your rights to go over the instructor's head and contact an administrator. I really mean that. Contacting the school should be the last thing you do -- not the first.

Q. What can I do to help my 13-year-old? She suddenly stopped talking to her best friend and won't say why.

A. This is one of those times when you can earn your child's trust by backing off. Tell her, "Look, I'm not going to lie. I'd really like to know what happened. But I realize you're getting older and I need to give you space. If you want to talk to me about it, I'm always available." Then walk away or switch the topic so you leave her with the feeling that it's up to her to make the first move. In my experience, when you recognize a teen's need for privacy, she becomes much more willing to share.

Q. My daughter wants to take a small group of her friends to a pricey concert for her 16th birthday. But she's worried the kids she can't invite will feel bad. How do you recommend we handle this?

A. By not buying the tickets in the first place. Even if you could afford to take all of her friends, you shouldn't be giving away things she can use to increase her social status or hang over other people's heads. Maybe you can't imagine your child ever playing up this event for those reasons, but I have seen the nicest kids become tyrants at the drop of an invitation. And don't think you have to go through with it because you promised. You, as the parent, have the prerogative to change your mind when you see you've made a mistake, no matter how much your child complains. Just don't do it all the time or you'll lose credibility with her.

Q. Is it normal for my 17-year-old son to have a different girlfriend every few months?

A. Sure it's normal, but that doesn't mean you should ignore it. The world needs more boys who believe that real men are never careless about others' feelings and dignity. Obviously parents are the ones most likely to make that happen. So be involved to the extent that both you and his father are beyond clear that you expect him to be respectful (in person, online, or while texting) toward anyone he dates. He must also insist on being treated the same way. Most important is for him to see how his parents interact. If you aren't showing him how people should respect each other in intimate relationships, it's hard to ask the same of him.

Rosalind Recommends

Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty has a great Web site for moms, teachers, and mentors who are helping girls deal with body image. I like it because there are tons of free resources like videos, training guides, and interactive media to help generate a dialogue with young women about the way our culture teaches us to scrutinize our bodies. Check it out at

Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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