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Cathy Yeulet

The question

My husband is overprotective of our teen daughter. I worry about her as well but he is downright irrational. How can I get him to relax and give her independence?

The answer

The reality is that there are some worries about a teenage daughter that are different than the concerns that come along with parenting a teenage boy – concerns about safety and risk. Fathers often tend to be more protective of girls, and will often cite "knowing what teen boys are like" as an explanation.

First, ask yourself whether the issues you are having with your husband truly have to do with his overprotective stance toward your daughter, or whether other difficulties the two of you are having are influencing your feelings. I mention this as it is not uncommon for couples to have other underlying marital issues that manifest as parenting-related differences. If there are other relationship issues, you may want to focus on what those are and try to identify ways to talk about and address the non-parenting related challenges.

If the issues are primarily stemming from differences in parenting approach, address this issue directly. Start by having a calm conversation with your husband.

Time the conversation for when you are getting along with each other, and not in the midst of a disagreement. Have the conversation privately, without your daughter present. Parents should always present a united front when speaking to their children about rules, responsibilities and expectations.

Ask your husband what his concerns are. Be open to at least understanding (not necessarily agreeing with) where he is coming from. When parents are being overly strict or setting rigid rules, this is often coming from a place of fear and concern about their child's well-being and welfare.

Try to take a problem-solving approach. Understand what steps can be taken to alleviate the concerns he has. For example, his concerns about her safety when out at night may translate into a black and white approach where he says she simply can't go out at night. Instead, you may try to come up with some less rigid options that satisfy both of you.

Gradually provide your daughter more and more responsibility in a way that your husband's concerns about her are put at ease. You may decide to establish a curfew that is much earlier than what you think is reasonable or age-appropriate, but then discuss how to gradually modify this over time as your daughter builds up her trust and your husband builds up his comfort.

You may ask her to provide a text update every hour on the hour when she is out, and then gradually reduce the frequency or expectation of contact over time.

Decisions about what age-appropriate activities are for your daughter (e.g., when dating is appropriate, what curfew is appropriate) are very personal and family-specific decisions and there are no easy answers to these issues. You will both need to compromise and may need to agree to disagree on some points about what rules are appropriate for your daughter.

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