Question: A parent uses her adolescent daughter as a confidante for personal matters, such as her marriage, job, hopes for the future. How should this be viewed? What are the potential risks of this situation to the teenager?
Answer: It's very valuable for teenagers and parents to have conversations about personal matters, such as job aspirations, relationships. But there needs to be privacy for the teenager and for the adult. Now, when the parent uses the daughter as a confidante, it puts the teenager at risk for a number of things.
First of all, the teenager is not prepared to answer questions that a parent might have, because she feels inadequate, she hasn't had the life experience. What if she gave the wrong answer? Oh my God, it would be terrible for her!
Second of all, teenagers need the time and space to deal with their own issues. They're dealing with who they are, they're dealing with who they should go out with and what they should be when they grow up. And they're making all kinds of choices.
If the parent's issues take priority, then the teenager may feel that she's going to be a burden if she asks the mother for advice, and she may feel guilty about asking the mother for advice. So that's a risk.
Another risk, is what if she gave the wrong advice? Oh my God, that would put her in a terrible situation, and she feels alone and isolated with the burden of her parent on her shoulders.
So, I think it's very important to talk openly with your teenagers about general issues about jobs and relationships, but burdening them with your own personal matters is not a good idea, and you should seek counsel from friends, from your religious community, from your relatives or from a professional, for that matter, if you need some guidance. And give your teenager some space to deal with her own personal issues that she's struggling with.