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.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Hi Karen,
    I teach a course in personal mastery, and last week, after the course, several of us were hanging out and visiting.

    One woman told me some shocking news about what’s happening with the middle school set. She had heard that some middle school boys and girls are having group oral sex.

    Do you know anything about this phenomenon that she says is happening all over the United States?

    And, how do you recommend parents deal with this problem?

    Jan Matney

  2. I am aware of the rumors about this trend, and I am still researching it. I plan to posting something on the topic soon!

  3. Interesting rumor. My daughter is an adult now and I remember when she was just out of middle school, the heavy rumor was that the middle school and high school kids (in Dallas and surrounding towns) were engaging in ‘bed buddies’ where they had sex with friends but didn’t have sex with anyone they were romantically involved with. My daughter listened to me talk about my distress about this – my sense of her at the time was that she knew of people doing this, but that she was not doing it. But no parent ever knows for sure and the rumor was very distressing to me. I don’t know how this could be reliably ascertained as happening or not happening – good luck with your research!

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