Dear Dr. Wallace:
My parents are quite strict. My father is a preacher and my mother directs the church choir. I’m 16 and a pretty good daughter when it comes to getting good grades, doing chores and behaving myself.
I’m not permitted to go on a date in a car until I’m 17, but they do allow me to have a boyfriend. However, the only time we can be together is at my house when one of my parents is home. Of course, that means we can never spend a moment alone without a pair of eyes watching us. My boyfriend really cares for me and that’s why he continues to see me under this unreasonable and suffocating parental supervision.
I’ve lobbied with my parents to allow us to see a movie that they approve of. They could take us to and from the theater, but the answer is always the same: “Sorry, wait until you’re 17.”
I do have patience, but I won’t be 17th until September, so that means that my boyfriend and I will be limited to seeing each other at my house all summer. That’s disastrous!
I realize that my parents have their rules already set for me, but I would like to hear what you have to say about all this.
— Suffocated, via email
Dear Suffocated: Even strict parents eventually have to let go of their children, and letting go gradually is far more sensible than doing so all at once — when the child suddenly turns 18 and could forge out on their own.
In general, I believe that teens, depending on their individual level of maturity and dependability, should be allowed to date by age 16. Of course, they must be trustworthy and demonstrate the ability to make good decisions. If mom and dad have no reason to doubt your trustworthiness, I think they should allow you and your boyfriend to go out on real dates this summer. Indeed, your proposal, to be chauffeured to and from approved movies, sounds reasonable.
One of the most difficult jobs of parenting is learning to trust one’s children being out on their own. Wise parents let their children demonstrate how well they do with limited, gradually increasing freedoms. This way, trust builds slowly but solidly. If the trust is violated, of course, some of the freedoms must be withdrawn for a period of time — which, if this were to occur, provides learning opportunities for all parties to reset ground rules and actions in a new way that is designed to succeed and provide harmony. This “dating” period of life is delicate for both parents and teens, and is often a work in progress.
Dear Dr. Wallace: Why is anorexia nervosa (self-starvation) considered to be a female eating disorder? Why do the guys get away with not having this enormous problem?
Dear Crystal: Girls are about 10 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than boys. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anorexics can even sometimes die from this disorder. The huge discrepancy between males and females is often traced to social pressure, and this has been greatly exacerbated in this era of prevalent social media.
Eating healthy foods in a balanced and consistent way has long been the best solution to maintaining a desired or comfortable weight, but doing so is often easier said than done. If you or anyone in your social circles seems to be showing early signs of this disorder, please seek or recommend professional medical care immediately.
Contact Dr. Wallace at email@example.com.