This morning’s question from a Washington Post blog On Parenting by Stacy Garfinkle was:

“How do you keep a 12- and 13-year-old girl away from junk food, cosmetics, alcohol, drugs and sex while under the influence of school, peers and TV?”

There are a couple of talking points here.

First, these are important topics to think about and talk about with your child before they are 12 or 13 years old. For example, junk food is something that even young children should learn is a rare treat, rather than part of a regular diet. Imparting your values to your children is something that needs to happen long before she starts to enter adolescence. Adolescents are in a place where they need to evaluate parental choices and values, and will do that by testing outside of your values. You just have to accept that testing as your children reaching outside of the family unit and defining their identity.

Second, choose your battles. It may be that you should just let go of the junk food, in exchange for putting all of your influence on a more important topic, like drug use or sexuality.

Third, remember that your relationship is more important than anything else. If you do not have a good relationship with your teenager, you will have absolutely no influence. So, except in truly extreme cases, don’t let go of your relationship, even if you are really hurting over what your teenager is doing. Let them know you’re hurting, but don’t let your hurt come between you.