Ask Natalie

DEAR NATALIE: My daughter and I have always had a good relationship until recently. She is 15 now, and I feel as if we can't relate, I can't say anything without setting her off, and she just doesn't want me around (unless she needs something, of course). Her mother and I divorced when she was small, and I worry that her mother brainwashes her into thinking I am some awful father. I have always been there for her, always given her everything she has needed, but I just want to have a better relationship together where we don't end up screaming at each other. Not my idea of a fun weekend. Any suggestions on how to navigate the world of a teenage girl? -- Sad Dad

DEAR SAD DAD: Wait it out. During these teenage years, sometimes no matter what you say, it is going to be the wrong thing. While you may feel frustrated about her relationship with her mother and what she may be saying when you aren't around, you can't control it. In fact, when you are together, just show her who you are as a person. Encourage her to open up to you by keeping the door to communication open, but try not to pry too much into her life. Sometimes people say things that they don't mean, but it hurts nonetheless. 

The next time she starts going at you, take a deep breath and tell her that you love her, but you are taking a timeout. This isn't how you speak to each other, and until she can calmly tell you what she needs, you won't engage her in conversation. On the topic of money, it may be better to start an allowance system where she helps you with chores or earns points for "good behavior." There are lots of behavioral charts online that can help you get started. This way she isn't just expecting money, she is earning it, which can teach her some responsibility along the way. And fear not! Your relationship will improve as she gets older, but for now just remind yourself that this is a temporary place, and you will make it through. 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

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