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Dear Dr. Yael,

I am enjoying listening to your lecture on Kol Haloshon and heard your last presentation in conjunction with Aneinu. As I listened to you discuss how to become a friend to a daughter, I realized that although I have a nice relationship with my adolescent daughter, I have violated her trust.

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Let me explain. I had a very intrusive mother who has never respected me or understood boundaries. I promised myself that I would be different. Yet, I have read my daughter’s diary, and she knows, and I have also picked up the phone to listen in on her conversations with her friends.

I know this is wrong and I feel terrible, but for some reason I can’t stop.

Then, because I feel guilty, I go shopping and buy her expensive clothes. She thanks me for the clothes, but I know in her heart she is probably upset. My daughter is very sweet, but she is also very private and secretive (which is probably why I feel I have to snoop, because she hardly ever shares anything with me).

Your words really hit home. I want to have a good relationship with my daughter. She is a great girl, and a good student. I just feel very left out of her life.

I know the way I am dealing with these frustrations is wrong, but am not sure how to correct it.

Frustrated Mother
Dear Frustrated Mother,

First, let’s focus on the possible reasons behind your actions. You mention that your mother did not know boundaries or how to respect you; it seems to me that you are repeating her behavior. This is called repetition compulsion and it happens even when we want to be different.

There are things you can do to repair your relationship with your daughter.

  1. Tell your daughter that you feel badly that you violated her trust.
  2. Tell your daughter that you will start to implement realistic ways that you can respect her privacy.

Admitting you were wrong and making a real commitment to change will hopefully reopen the lines of communication with your daughter.

What are some ways to respect her privacy? You can make sure to knock before entering her room and not read anything you know she wants to keep private. In addition, stop listening in on her calls.

Discuss these ground rules with her, explaining that if something comes up to worry you, you will speak with her about the concern.

The best way to monitor your child is by having trust, open communication, and staying connected.

Here are some good ways to do that:

When your daughter opens up to you, stop what you’re doing and actively listen to her. This will give her the message that you are interested in her life.

Try to have dinner with your children as often as possible. This will help keep those lines of communication open.

Try to be aware and cognizant of your daughter’s behavior and her normal routine. This will allow you to know if things are different and when you should possibly be alarmed.

Make sure you are on top of her general school progress.

Get to know your daughter’s friends and make sure they feel comfortable in your home. This will help you know what’s going on. Communicating with the parents of your daughter’s friends can also help you keep track.

Teenagers need to know that they are being monitored, but also that we trust them to make good decisions and behave responsibly. Hatzlocha with this situation and if you find that you are struggling with boundaries, it may be prudent to seek professional help (i.e., see a therapist) to assist you in working through your issues with your own mother, which may help you give your daughter the privacy she deserves and needs.

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.