Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My daughter is 17, and is off to college in August. She has managed to alienate herself from her two closest childhood friends and has only one friend left. She is opinionated (e.g. tells people how to run their lives), selfish (e.g. doesn't go to see her friend's musical performances), critical and argumentative. She doesn't take any responsibility for her own actions and feels justified in what she has said or done. She's had therapy but refused to open up (the therapist said, "come back when you are ready"). She is taking medication for ADD but she doesn't like the way it makes her feel. She smokes pot to come down from it. How do we help her see life beyond her own feelings and needs? How can she develop empathy? I worry that she will be lonely and in pain forever.
DEAR WORRIED: Some of your daughter's behavior is fairly normal for a teen who has one foot out the door as she is headed into the next phase of her life.
It's not pleasant -- for anyone -- but it is somewhat age-appropriate.
If she is on medication and doesn't like the side effects, you should help her to explore alternatives. There might be another medication that would work better for her -- or no medication at all (meditation and/or exercise might help). Smoking pot is not the answer. She is self-medicating without knowledge of what she is medicating for.
In addition to the physical effects of pot on her brain function and attitude, it is illegal for someone her age. Where does she get it? How does she afford it? You cannot force your daughter to be a better friend -- or a "better" daughter. She is already seeing the consequences of her behavior (lost friends and lost approval from you). Instead of blaming and punishing her, you should encourage her to take more adult responsibility to get to the bottom of what is really going on with her. This journey should start at the doctor's office, with a review of her medication and a mental health screening.
DEAR AMY: What do you think about a formerly solid group of women -- who have known one another for many years, cared for one another's children and borne witness to life's ups and downs -- which has now become exclusionary? Understandably some people within the group have developed closer friendships with the people of their choice, but the idea was for us all to be there for one another and include one another in milestone events. Recently two women have systematically been excluded from some lifetime events -- twice by the same person. They are very hurt and some of us have discussed this with the excluder, but she doesn't seem to care. This has caused discord and discomfort among what were previously easygoing and enjoyable gatherings for us all. What suggestions would you offer for dealing with this situation?
DEAR UPSET: You are in charge of your own behavior and resultant relationships. You are not in any position to control someone else's choices -- but you should react to her choices honestly.
You cannot realistically expect a group of adults to toe the friendship line and behave as a monolithic friendship group -- all the way through life. And so you will have to adjust to this change.
DEAR AMY: I have news for "Enabling Dad." Until his 32-year-old daughter sees that her relationship to the beer loving, video game playing boyfriend is her problem, dad should follow your advice to butt out. I was once at this point and realized that my lazy loser ex was not the kind of man I needed or wanted our son to emulate. Unfortunately, what kids learn when they are young is what they become. I am now having a similar issue with my 20-year-old son. I feared he was headed down the same path. I finally had enough and told him his choices: job or out. He is at his new job as I write this.
DEAR MOM: You -- and your son -- deserve credit for getting your acts together.