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Personal Hygiene

Question:

Hi, Dr. Schwartz,

We have two children, our oldest is a girl, she just turned 19. Our son is 16 yrs. old. Our daughter moved in with her boyfriend 3 months ago. We didn’t want her to move in with him because he has no job and no car. He has a house in a terrible neighborhood where there are violent crimes. Her boyfriend is 23. They have no heat and no hot water. Recently, one of his friends moved in.

Our daughter continues to go to college. She has a scholarship and pays for her books. She is a wonderful girl and we love her to death. She recently came by, we invited her, and she had cat hair all over her coat. We couldn’t tell what color her coat was, it was so bad. I tried to tell her how hairy her coat was. We have noticed her personal hygiene has changed tremendously since she has been involved with him. We got into a heated argument about her coat. I told her I could clean the hair off. I told her I was only trying to point out to her that she should take care of herself on the outside as well as the inside. I told her she is a beautiful girl and if she would like to clean up at our house before she left she was welcome. She cried and said they have no heat or hot water. She wears her coat in the house and that is how it gets so furry. She said she can’t stand cats.

I asked her if she would wear my robe in his house and that way she could take better care of her coat. She said she would wear the robe. Her shoes had no soles left because they came apart. She wears them hanging hanging by her  toes.

I have tried to buy her shoes but she said she didn’t want them. I snuck out and bought her two pairs of tennis shoes while I was picking our son up. When I got back, I showed her the shoes and told her I would save her old beat up shoes in her room. She only agreed after I begged her. I assured her I would keep them safe and not throw them away. I told her she was welcome home anytime. She never came home from a night out and moved in with him.

This guy has had two other girlfriends where similiar situation occured. I spoke to one of the girl’s parent. What should I do to get her to realize she needs to take care of her personal hygiene? How can we get her or us to get along with each other? I can’t keep my trap shut when I see her looking so used.

Please help. Thanks

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Answer:

Mom, all I can say to you, at the start is, “Wow!” The second thing I can say to you is “oh, well, join the club.”

Of course, the real issue for your daughter is not her hygiene. The real issue, it seems to me, is that she is living with someone who is totally unreliable and irresponsible. He does not work and lives in terrible neighborhood and has neither heat nor hot water.

Now, here is your daughter, just turned 19 years old and with a College Scholarship. Clearly she is very intelligent. What does she do? She hooks up with this type of guy.

You see, we went through something quite similar when our daughters (two of them) were older teenagers. If you look at my photo on this web site you will see that I am bald. This is why I lost my hair! Aggravation, fear and worry for my teenage daughters. So, I am with you, having been there myself. They are now adult and fully functional.

Mom, I am sad to say that there is nothing much you can do. There is research evidence, based on brain scans and fMRI studies that show that teenage brains are different and that is why they, or many of them, are “crazy.”

Right now, your daughter is “in love” with this guy. Remember the Jerry Orbach movie from years ago where he takes his family to the Catskill mountains for the annual summer vacation. His daughter falls in love with a similar guy, in this case, the dance instructor. Being Hollywood, every works out romantically. Watch the movie, whose name I cannot remember. Of course, there is the old novel, Majorie Morningstar, that tells a similar story of a beautiful teen in the Catskills who falls in love with a “bum,” an alcoholic athletic instructor and much older than herself.

What do all of these stories, plus your daughter, have in common? It’s that teenagers are guided by emotions without thought. That they have unrealistic and romantic ideas that make no sense to adults.

What can you do? Nothing other than what you are doing. In fact, I would worry less about the condition of her coat than about the danger she is in because of the neighborhood, that living without heat and hot water is dangerous for health, etc. But, do not argue. When it starts to get “emotionally heated,” just tell her you love her and she always has a home.

Hopefully, if you do not argue too much, if you do not blame or accuse her, if you maintain your patience, she will come to her senses and leave this guy and return home. At age 19 she is a free person and has the right to make her own mistakes. Unfortunately, this type of thing drives us parent absolutely crazy.

You might want to join our Online Support group here at Mental Help.Net. Many of our members have similar problems. Also, look for parenting support groups in your area. You need lots of emotional support.

Mom, hang in there. We survived and  hopefully, you and your daughter will as well. What was the old saying and cry: “The oughta be a law!!!”

Good Luck

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