Dear Dr. G.,
I have just started college and have been here for two weeks so far. I've met an awesome new group of friends that are genuinely nice and not horrible or persuasive in any way (I know that sounds naive, but you can usually tell within a couple of days). They invited me to come over to one of theirs on Saturday to hang out from 6 to 10 p.m. This is a normal thing and they do it frequently. They basically all go and talk and have fun. There is alcohol but not much (I don't want to drink anyway) and lots of food (yay). I asked my mom if I could go and she immediately says no, without question. When I try and talk to her about anything like this she just shouts at me. She thinks I'm going to get persuaded into drugs and alcohol or that I'm the typical girl teen and am obsessed with boys. I'm not, I'm really not. I'd rather wait until I'm 18 to drink alcohol (I'm 16) and drugs don't interest me one bit, or my friends for that matter. Boys are a pain in the neck. I feel like I'm missing out on so much. My friends have so many stories that I can't contribute to. I get why she's doing it because of her job etc., but I feel like I'm either going to get really down about this or when I turn 18 I'll go wild because of not being able to experience what everyone my age is doing. I feel trapped and bored. I live in the middle of nowhere to top it all off. If I say anything my mother will just rant on about what bad goes on that literally wouldn't even apply to me in the setting that I want to go to.
A Frustrated College Student
Dear College Student,
First, I would like to congratulate you for moving forward with your education and attending college. Second, I am delighted that you reached out to me to get support to be able to develop a healthy social life in college. It is clear that you are aware that the social aspect of college is extremely important. It sounds to me as if you are living at home while attending college since you have to request your mom's permission to see your friends on the weekend. You mention that your mom's job influences her concerns. I am not sure what sort of job she has but my guess is that it somehow increases her worry that harm will befall you. That is a shame. Most mothers do worry but it seems that your mother's worries are excessive.
You believe that your friends are good people and you describe no desire to become involved in substance abuse or reckless sexual behavior. That is evidence that you have good judgment. I am wondering if your mother has always been unusually anxious and/or controlling. Perhaps it would be helpful to have an open and honest conversation or series of conversations with your mother with another adult present to provide emotional support to you and your mom as you grapple with your issues. I am not sure if your father or an older sibling might be able to help reassure your mother that you will be using good judgment as you make new friends and socialize more frequently. This is a healthy and necessary part of your life.
If your mother continues to be resistant to your attempts to socialize perhaps you can negotiate with her and ask her if you can see your friends for an hour or two. When she sees that you repeatedly come home on time and in good shape she may begin to build up trust. Additionally, perhaps it would be helpful for your mother to meet your friends. Maybe you can invite them to your home. When your mother becomes familiar with them she may be able to relax more and become more comfortable allowing you to spend time with them.
I am very concerned about the possibility that your mother may continue to get in the way of you and your social life. If this continues over a prolonged period of time perhaps you can consider living at college or with another relative rather than at home with your mother. I am, presuming, of course, that you are living at home. This, too, may be difficult as your mother may not approve of this plan. There are times in our lives, however, when our mothers interfere with healthy development and we have to find creative ways around this.
I wish you the best of luck in this very tricky situation. Please get back to me after more time has passed.
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