FAQ # Seven
_My daughter is 24 years old, and her father and I have been divorced since she was a very little girl. Neither he nor his family made an effort to keep in contact or include her in activities as she was growing up. Now, they’ve found her on Facebook and contact her all the time. She seems stressed out and confused by the sudden attention from people she feels abandoned her long ago. It really makes me angry that they are messing with my daughter. What can I do or say to protect her? Should I step in and tell them to back off?
Response # Seven:
Jenny McNeely, MSW
_ Facebook/MySpace are very popular social networking sites with Facebook now having more than 800 million users http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics and MySpace having roughly 50 million users. (http://www.buzzom.com/2011/03/myspace-users-number-started-decling-from-last-month). Both sites have learned from experience thus have many privacy settings that can be adjusted for who sees what. As a start, offer to help your daughter decide whom she will “befriend” and whom she will not allow access to her Facebook page. Don’t do this for her but work to help her set limits in relationships to meet her needs. Do not tell her exactly what to do nor step in and tell your ex-husband and his family members to back off. She may be dealing with her family members right now but if you manage them for her (which she won’t really like), soon another similar of relationship issues will come along.
This is an adult learning task that goes way beyond using the internet. Your role is to practice being an active listener for her, something she really needs now. Active listeners spend a lot of time repeating back what they are hearing, both in terms of feelings and in terms of content. There will be an article on our website shortly that explains and demonstrates just this approach. The basics of what parents do for their off-spring does not change over time but the methods and contexts clearly change. What does change is that you no longer can control her life as you could when she was much younger. This giving up of control but working to influence is what is needed.
You can start a ongoing conversation with her as to who is important in her life and with whom she presently feels uncomfortable. You can share some life experiences of your own as long as you are not preaching to her, nor telling her what exactly to do. Your goal is to influence her, as a good Mother of an Emerging Adult will do, recognizing that you can no longer control her. This is not just true for your relationship with your daughter, it is what all Parents of EY/YA’s (18-40) have to learn and to adjust in their parenting style.
As far as her father and his family coming back into her life, this is neither good nor bad at this time but it is something with which she has to deal. She has every right to ask to get to know these relatives a little better. She can be helped how to explain to them that they should not expect her to just jump right back into a relationship with them because they are almost like strangers at this time in her life. She can share with them that there are better ways to communicate and get to know each other than just via Facebook for it to be more meaningful to both parties.
If you daughter has no desire to develop or encourage a relationship with these relatives, then she can politely ask them to not contact her and block their ability to see any posts on her Facebook This is also a boundary issue and sometimes it seems as if social networks have no boundaries. Therefore, learning all she can about the various privacy settings is essential in protecting herself and avoiding any situations that a potential employer could view as negative. A simple Google search will yield many reputable websites with tutorials on privacy settings for most all social networks.
As this step would be her taking control of this situation, something very important, have her ask them to communicate via the means she chooses. Remember, you goal is to help her learn how to move in and out of relationships, not to take control. You helped her learn when she was a little girl; now do it again as the parent of a 24 year old.