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Grandparents need to decide if teen's choices are call for help, or just independence

Grandparents wonder about teenage girl's boyish tastes

Q: My husband and I are concerned about our 15-year-old granddaughter. She is not the slightest bit interested in makeup or the stylish clothes most teens like. She prefers basketball shorts and a T-shirt over her bra, then one or two more logo T-shirts or a football jersey over that. We are also concerned that she acts more like a 10-year-old, watching SpongeBob, playing with Legos at the Lego store, wanting to eat from the Teletubby plate I have for a 2-year-old!

The parents seem oblivious. Her mom has made comments that she can't get her to pick out cute clothes, but still, they are the ones who buy her the boy clothes. They even bought her men's moccasins recently. Our 6-year-old grandson commented that she had on shoes like his dad. What do you make of this?

Concerned Grandparents

A: The most benign interpretation of your facts says your granddaughter has boyish tastes — and you need a stern lesson in not judging people.

The most alarming (or maybe alarmist?) interpretation is that your granddaughter is resisting maturity, her sexual maturity in particular, possibly in response to trauma — and that you need a stern lesson in recognizing pain instead of tripping over the football jersey chosen to conceal it. If it's the latter, that's a matter for professional guidance.

But both extremes (and everything in between) have the same implications for you: This girl needs grandparents who love, accept and embrace her for who she is, vs. worry she's some kind of freak.

She doesn't wear pink. Get over it, please, and position yourself to be her advocate no matter what her T-shirts say. Whether she's a healthy kid with upstream tastes or she's an unhappy kid screaming for help is something she'll eventually reveal to the people she trusts. Your responses to her choices will go a long way toward determining whether you're part of that group, or not.

Friend makes misstep in her offer of help

Q: I live in Oregon, and have a friend in Colorado. Over the past year I've heard he is heavily into drugs. "John" hasn't ever been on anything when we were together, or at least not that I could discern.

I sent John a card to say that if what I'm hearing is true, I hope he can get any and every kind of help. I wrote other sincere concerns as well, but prefaced each with "If it's true."

John sent me a string of outraged e-mails, and is mostly upset with me for even bringing this to his attention. It looks like, for now at least, I am one friend less. Should I have said nothing?

J.

A: To express such grave concern, a card was the modern-day equivalent of a 10-foot pole. A call would have made more sense: "I've heard rumors. If they're not true, then you should know they're out there, and if they are true, then I want to offer my help." He might still have freaked out, especially if he's using — but that would be about him, not you.

Call him now, and apologize for the fumble. Then, call periodically, just because. You don't want to force the issue, but do make it clear that you care.

Grandparents need to decide if teen's choices are call for help, or just independence 08/21/10 [Last modified: Saturday, August 21, 2010 5:33am]

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