Dear Miss Emily:

I am a divorced mother of 2 children. A girl 14 and a boy 8.  The Dad is
nowhere in the picture. The girl has started to be mouthy and not tell me where she will be when she goes out.  She comes in late smelling of alcohol and I feel I am unable to keep her safe. She is setting a bad example for her brother
and keeping me on edge. What can I do?  She is a tall, muscular girl and, frankly, I am afraid ofher.  She pushes her brother around when I am not there to supervise them. Since I am at my wits end, I would appreciate any help you can send my way.
Distressed
in California


--------- Miss Emily’s Advice -------------

Dear Distressed:

I assume you are a single mother who works full time, although that does not set you apart from most families where it takes two incomes to support a household.  A key ingredient to successful parenting is involvement in your children’s lives.  If you are not involved, this may be a reason for your daughter looking for acceptance from friends.  Nagging and disapproval is not the answer.  Fourteen is a difficult age for all concerned.  Remember when you were fourteen?  Sit down with her and say “I need your help in finding ways to be together.”  If she can’t come up with anything, you make suggestions.  A cooking class – movie, yoga class?  If she doubts your sincerity, tell her you think a nonjudgmental activity that the two of you can do would improve your relationship, and see if she’ll get on board.  If she agrees, stick to your commitment.  Her future depends on your being there for her, when it counts the most.  If you fail to follow through, she will have her excuse for seeking careless, and perhaps dangerous activities outside of the home.  If you have already tried this, and you are seriously afraid of her, you need to seek counseling.  Ask the school for some guidance, if you cannot afford private consultation.  Do not leave your son with your daughter.  He should not be the brunt of your daughter’s hostility, and she should not be a built-in babysitter for you.  Find a safe place where he can go when you cannot be there.  Remember, children are an investment – not just in money, but with your time.