01/02/2010 14:48 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Ask Joanne - Teenager Won't Say Where She's Going

What's your biggest challenge in family life? Send your questions and dilemmas to experienced life coach Joanne Mallon via this confidential form. Your name can be changed on request

Harriet writes:

My 16-year-old daughter is making life hard. She doesn't seem to think she's done anything wrong. She went to a sleepover with a friend, then shopping, where she met up with a boy (on/off boyfriend). They had a massive argument. She wouldn't answer her phone then told us she was staying with 'friends' we didn't know, wouldn't tell us where she was. She turned off her phone and we lost contact. Next morning she continued to have her phone off and eventually made contact. She dismissed our requests to tell us where she was or to come home. By 10pm we phoned the police to report her missing.

She was eventually found, had been taking drugs and still refused to come home, ending up at my son's. He brought her back. In total she had been missing for 72 hours. She is not at all apologetic for what she did, what we as a whole family went through, all relationships seem to be broken now and she is adamant she's going to a party next week!

Please help, we are totally at a loss to know what to do now.

Here's our life coach's reply:

Dear Harriet

Oh dear, she's really putting you through the mill, isn't she?

Sixteen is a funny kind of inbetweeny age. In some ways society regards the sixteen year old as an adult, allowing them to leave school, get married, play the lottery, get a job, join the army or apply for a licence to deal in scrap metal (yes, really!).

But as you are experiencing, sixteen is also very young. Taking responsibility for your actions and feeling empathy towards others are not always top of the agenda. Is it any wonder teenagers feel mixed up and angry?

The question that springs to my mind is: who is funding her lifestyle – the phone and nights out etc? If she's got a job and is funding it herself, then I think you have less say in how she spends her time. But if you are still totally supporting her financially, then I think you have the right to establish certain ground rules.

Sit down calmly together to establish what these ground rules might be, for example, no turning the phone off. How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk is a good book that will give you practical strategies about how to approach this.

Look for ways for her to have more responsibility in her life, either around the house or via a paid job. Activities involving animals or younger children can be very good for drawing out a teenager's ability to think of others.

Good luck and best wishes


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