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Talking with Your Teen -- David Elkind, PhD



These friendships are quite common. It's also likely they will find other friends and break off and then come back. I wouldn't worry. It's quite common at this stage.

Member question: Our 12-year-old has developed the most awful language possible. No one has a working concrete answer.

Elkind: Sometimes young people learn this from peers and it becomes a sign of status. The best way is to simply say, "I can't control how you talk with your friends, but in this house you can't use that language. I don't like it, it makes me uncomfortable, and I don't want to hear it." I'd be direct.

Member question: My daughter is 15 years old; she has a boyfriend who is 17 years old. I feel she is obsessed with her boyfriend. She wants to see him and be with him 24/7. Is this behavior normal at her age? She's been talking about marriage and other serious topics. Please help.

Elkind: This is a little overdone. Certainly girls get crushes, but this sounds a little over the top, especially talking about marriage. I might have a talk with this young man, in her presence, to see what is going on and involve his parents as well, perhaps, and begin to get a sense of what his idea of what is going on. Then tell the two of them that this is really inappropriate for a girl this age. They may be having sexual relations. Something has to be done. She has her education and other things to focus in, and it may simply need to be broken off. This may be risky, but this is not a healthy development.

Member question: How do we overcome the media message that young girls have to be sexual beings? It's difficult at a time when bodies are changing so rapidly and the MTV videos show so much sex, along with ads for clothes and makeup (I can't believe the Victoria's Secret TV ads).

Elkind: That's a real problem. Sexuality in the media is overwhelming. There is this need to appear sexy and so on. It is part of culture now. It's a delicate kind of edge to tread. At this age, girls want, and in some ways need, to be wearing and doing what their friends are wearing. If you are not, you are different and strange. So there are some concessions you have to make for peer acceptance. That only goes so far. If it becomes too lewd it has to have limits.

That said, it's much more copying what adults are doing. Many girls at 13 are not terribly interested in boys; it's a lot of imitation of models and so on. So one has to be thoughtful about not coming down too hard. It's a balancing act between allowing her to do what she needs to do to be accepted and setting limits on what goes beyond acceptable behavior.

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