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A Father's Heart Felt Letter to His 20 Something Daughter

By Stephen C. Schultz

Below is a letter written by the father of a college age daughter. I have taken the names out to protect identity. This is not a foreign theme to those of us that work to mend family relationships.

Dear Xxxxxxxxx,

I have been thinking about you and your welfare quite a bit lately. You mentioned to me in a previous conversation;

“Dad, you need to take a step back. You are too close to the situation and lack appropriate perspective.”
While this appears to be an independent and mature response to communicate to your father, it is actually a manipulative way to have me “defend” my position.  In my line of work, I have seen it hundreds of times with teenagers and young adults who struggle with their parents. Teens regularly see themselves as a “peer” of their parents, even though their parents have insight, wisdom and life experience far beyond that of their children. This is a thought process that is seen regularly with teens in Jr. High or High School.

Teens who find themselves in this situation tend to see themselves as the center of the universe. The parents are nothing but human ATM machines.  A pattern of entitlement, manipulation and self deception develops in the teen. The teens tend to surround themselves with friends who act and think in a similar manner. When they struggle with their parents, they discuss the situation with their peers, who see it the same way. It becomes a case of “group think”. The outside associations start to mean more to the teen than the relationship with the teen’s family. It becomes a vicious cycle of circular arguments. The teens generally engage in behaviors that go against the values and standards of the parents. The parents step in to intervene not because of control issues, but because they love the teens so much.

This brings up a question;
What does it mean if a young adult in her 20's finds herself in this situation?

So, while this may be a new situation to you, comfort can be gained through the fact that I have seen this situation play out literally hundreds of times. For me to stand back and say, “Oh, we’ll just let you live and learn through this situation” would be absolutely irresponsible of me as your father. I need to step in and share my thoughts and perspective. The consequences down this road for you are far too great and the insight on your part, around this situation, is currently far too clouded.

Now, do you still have agency? Absolutely! Will your mom and I always love you? Absolutely! Do we have certain family standards? Absolutely! Do we have to support you in a lifestyle that enables you to continue behaviors that we think, from our perspective, are dangerous physically and emotionally to you? Absolutely Not! Will we be disappointed and hurt if this behavior and thought process continues? Yes! Can you always call me or your mom when you have a problem? Yes! Will I always share my insight and experience to help you navigate situations in your life? Yes! Will I “Bail you out” financially and emotionally? No! Part of adulthood is being accountable for decisions you make, which means living through the “pain” of bad choices. It also allows you to own and appreciate the “joy” and “accomplishment” of good choices.

From the moment you were born, and I held you in my arms, with those big blue eyes staring up at me, I knew you. I loved you. From your infant fist in the air demonstrating “Baby Power” to you leaning on the couch doing “Leg Trick”, we had those family moments of joy.  From singing with “Barney” videos to “Jazz Hands” at dance performances to “Superior” grades at piano recitals, we were there with you. I will never forget, walking out of the gym after one of your volleyball matches when you said, “There’s nothing better than spiking that ball right into that girls face!”! You have always had a competitive edge. You have also always demonstrated courage, determination, faithfulness and kindness.
This life isn’t without its trials and adversity. For some reason, you do not see in yourself what your family and those close to you see. Only you can decide who you will trust…those you surround yourself with at school, or those who have known you literally since day one.

It is easy for parents to stand back and say,
“My son or daughter is just hanging with the wrong crowd.”

The problem is, as harsh as it sounds… if that is the crowd you choose to be with; you are the “wrong crowd”!

If you need to talk with someone else you can trust, talk with your uncle. He was there in the hospital the day after you were born. He has known you since day two! J
One more thing you need to consider. Your siblings love you and look up to you. You need to access that soft spot you have in your heart and open it to your sisters and brother. They are hurting for you.

I love you! Your mother loves you! Your siblings love you! Your grandparents love you! Your uncle's and aunt's love you! Your cousins love you!
The “boyfriend” thing needs to end! The hanging at “parties” thing needs to end. The “walk on the wild side trying to find myself” thing needs to end! People don’t “find themselves” they “make themselves”!

You have accomplished a lot with your academics, for this you should be proud! You have skills and insight unmatched by most. As you work with the little children in your chosen field, you know better than anyone the need for human development in a “holistic” manner; physical, emotional and spiritual. Have you made a personal commitment to do the same?
I know you are aware of how much your mother and I love you. I hope you read this with the spirit in which it was written.



Sally F said…
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