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Ask Rosalind 2008

July 2008 Q. Many of my 13-year-old son's peers are dropped off at the local mall and allowed to walk around with friends unsupervised. We don't permit this. Are we being overprotective?

A. I think you can let go a little, especially because you (or another parent) will be providing transportation both ways. Just review with him commonsense safety issues like not becoming separated from the group or leaving the mall. In addition, be clear about unacceptable behavior (such as shoplifting, looking the other way when friends shoplift, trashing stores, and being rude to store owners). Remember, for most 13-year-olds, getting to hang out at the mall is just the kind of limited freedom they relish.

Q. How do I get my daughter to have better role models? She's 14 and totally obsessed with celebrities.

A. Put a block on celebrity TV, stop talking about the people she's focused on, and take a broader view. What you're fighting is the glorification of mindless consumerism and idolizing famous people who aren't necessarily contributing to society. Build her awareness of the big sell by watching movies and TV with her, and having her point out how many times a celebrity promotes a product. Then redirect her interests. If her passion is fashion, sign her up for classes in design or photography. If she loves magazines, get her involved in a local paper. That way she'll learn useful skills and meet good role models.

Q. My daughter's best friend sleeps over a lot and lately I've been wondering whether she's drunk or high. Both girls are 16. What should I do?

A. Whenever you have a gut feeling about a teen's behavior, trust it. Ask the girls if either one has been drinking or using drugs (yes, I'm including your daughter). Then tell them exactly why your "something isn't right here" alarm bells are going off. If you get a confession, thank them for being honest but state clearly that the behavior is against house rules. Your daughter will get the punishment you give her and the friend has to call her parents to say they must pick her up and why. Also, tell her she's welcome to return to your home provided that she's sober. If she denies using anything, explain that you still have to share your concerns with her parents. Just remember, your goal is to respond in an empathetic yet firm way.

Rosalind Recommends

I'm keeping It's a Boy: Understanding Your Son's Development from Birth to Age 18, by Michael Thompson, PhD, and Teresa H. Barker (Ballantine Books) beside my bed until my sons go to college! I love how the book celebrates boys but still holds them responsible for their actions.

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the July 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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