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Baggage Check: Steering the conversation about texting

By Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior (that's BONN-yer!) is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and writer. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology focusing on individual and group psychotherapy for young adults and specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression.

Q: My wife texts and drives. All the time. With our kids in the car. She justifies it by saying she’s careful and it’s how she multitasks. And she gets defensive when I bring it up, pointing out all the things that I do that aren’t perfect. I’m tired of having this conversation.

You might have imperfections, but unless they involve regularly putting your children and hundreds of strangers in danger, they pale in comparison to this. Yes, texting is tempting, and, yes, it’s common. And it’s a slippery slope from “Let me just type ‘OK’ at a stoplight” to “Let me weigh in on Lady Gaga’s outfit as I roll toward a stop.”

But texting can kill.

Show her what you wrote to me, and tell her you’re serious about making a plan for her to stop. Then work with her. Will she choose a reward system? A scheduled weaning? A scorched-earth policy of deactivating her cellphone for two months to break the habit? If she’s not willing to change, then you treat this like you would a substance-abuse situation where a loved one is a danger to herself and others: You get help for yourself, and you decide what your role will be in an intervention.

Help for a friend

Q: My friend is heartbroken because her 21-year-old daughter is having sex with guys she meets at bars. They had a conversation about my friend’s concerns, but her daughter isn’t listening to her. My friend is very depressed and is losing sleep at night. It’s hard for me to see her so sad. Any advice?

A mother can control her daughter’s behavior only so much after letting her feelings be known. Of course, she should keep trying to have conversations about it, conveying her worries while listening as much as talking.

But at some point, it’s important to take charge of what she can control, which is her own health and well-being – not her daughter’s. It sounds as if she’s veering toward depression, and if that’s left unchecked, it will undermine her ability to cope and, for that matter, to play the mother role. Encourage her to try counseling. It can give her support by building up her identity outside of her daughter, helping her understand more about her daughter’s behavior and how she might healthily intervene, and teaching her coping strategies for the pain she’s feeling.

Andrea Bonior is a clinical psychologist and the author of “The Friendship Fix.”
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