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Dad Deployed, Daughter Out of Control

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I am in the whirlwind of my life with my 13-year-old daughter. My husband (her father) left three months ago for his fourth deployment to Afghanistan.

I have to admit that each deployment has been increasingly tougher. It hasn’t become any easier to see him leave on a bus and head to the airport, going thousands of miles away.

It has been hard on my children too.

The truth is our 13-year-old had been getting more difficult even before her father deployed. Now she is angry because her dad is gone again.

Since he deployed, my daughter always has a reason to be hostile and rude about anything I say. I can’t even ask her to clean her room or help with any chores because she will refuse.

She only wants to hang out with friends at their house, go to sleepovers, and hang out at school after school hours are over. Last week, she came home with a hickey on her neck! A big, purple hickey! She tried to deny it, but I know exactly what it is.

I heard her on her cell phone laughing with one of her friends telling her about our confrontation. I don’t think it’s very funny because I don’t know who the boy is or what in the world is going on.

Where or how do I start trying to reel her back in before something terrible happens? Do you think this hickey means my daughter is having sex? Ms. Vicki, what in the world can I do because I think my daughter is out of control?

Sincerely,
Confused Mother

Dear Mother,

Now is not the time to be confused. I know that multiple deployments may leave you feeling depleted. But you need to put on armor like a gladiator because you are in for a fight.

I hate to startle you, but I have to keep it real. The hickey means your daughter is at least sexually interested. I don’t know exactly what she is doing, but in my practice, I often see young teens who are sexually active.

Let me give you some information: Teens are reporting that they have sex at school because there are many closets, stairwells, and other nooks and crannies available.

Teens also say they like to stay late and hang out at school as the school becomes more isolated. Reports show that babies are conceived during the hours of 3 to 5:30 p.m. I’m thinking it’s because those are hours when they are leaving school and parents aren’t home from work yet.

What you have told me about your daughter’s behavior has thrown up some red flags for me. Moreover, she is becoming more rude and ill-mannered toward you. It sounds as if you have given her too much freedom and you don’t want to make her angry because you think she is dealing with too many stressors, such as her father’s absence.

Deployments are tough on children too, but you can’t let your daughter “act out” because her father is deployed. You are the mom.Your daughter is 13 years old. There is no reason you can’t put the lockdown on your daughter and monitor her behavior more. Here are some places where you can start to take back control:

  • Keep her father involved in this matter and encourage plenty of communication between the two of them.
  • Be more visible at her school so you can find out who her friends are and who this hickey boy is. 
  • Take her to school and pick her up after school. 
  • Do not let her go to any of her friends' houses unless you know the parents and you know the parents are home. 
  • Take the cell phone from her after 5 p.m. because she doesn’t need to be talking or texting anyone. 
  • Speak to her school counselor and the school principal too.
  • Solicit the help of family members such as grandparents, uncles and aunts who can have a positive influence and even visit your family while your husband is deployed. Their presence will be very helpful.
  • Consider spiritual support such as the help of a youth pastor or allow her to attend youth programs offered at church. This can be very beneficial.
  • Remember, your daughter needs to earn her freedom and her privileges by proving that she is trustworthy.
  • Prepare for pushback from your daughter and stay firm.

I’m sorry I unloaded like a ton of bricks on you, but this is a very serious issue to me. Your daughter could be acting out because of peer pressure or for many reasons. You have to move quickly so that she will channel her emotions in the right direction.

Sincerely,
Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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