Q. My middle-school daughter told me she lost her leather jacket, but I suspect someone stole it. How can I get to the bottom of this?
A. Talk to her privately when you bring up your concern. Your goal isn't to get her to admit you were right. Instead, you want this experience to show her the benefit of coming to you with a problem—even if she's worried that you might get angry. Say something like, "I've been thinking about that jacket. I know you wouldn't just forget and leave it somewhere. If anything else happened to it, you can tell me. I'm not going to freak out." Don't expect an immediate confession. Wait for about one more minute and if she doesn't say anything or denies it, kiss her and walk away or change the subject. Whether you're right or wrong, your actions convey love. If she admits it was stolen, reassure her by saying, "Thanks for letting me know. That's awful. Should we talk about it now or tomorrow, so we can think about the best way to handle the problem? Maybe you know who stole it and prefer not to confront this kid, but if you don't, the person will think she can keep doing this to you." Work with your daughter on creating a plan of action she can feel good about, which may mean you get help from the school, the other kid's parent or another authority figure.