Advice archives

DEAR CAROLYN: My phone plan allows me to see the texts of my kids, 19, 17 and 14. I monitor their chat occasionally. I don't let them know, nor do I plan on intervening unless something gets completely out of control.

Selfishly I like to see chats from the oldest, who is away at school, giving me some assurance he's alive!

Seeing

DEAR SEEING: Plenty of thoughts, but none as important as what your kids would think.

The eldest especially. Wow. The "selfishly" says you know you're crossing a line with him. Stop reading his texts immediately -- and those of your other children as they hit 18 -- unless and until you have evidence-based concerns.

Snooping on the youngers crosses a line, but I don't recommend dropping that habit completely.

While I believe strongly that kids need some private spaces, and that you need to front them a little trust to get them building it on their own, I also think Cyberia has different rules, because it's a mistake to foster an expectation of privacy online.

For that reason, I support the parental snoop -- but with one condition. Warn them you have access and aren't afraid to use it. Provide them with the following context:

You're not interested in checking often; you're not going to say anything about what you see or get involved unless necessary; and you're not in this to get anyone in trouble. You're doing it to get them used to the idea that "online privacy" is an oxymoron. They shouldn't send or post anything they don't want to go public, and so now they get to type/snap/snark with you in mind as their possible audience.

Fringe benefit: Watch them get off your plan as soon as they can produce the cash.

DEAR CAROLYN: The guy I'm seeing has requested that I lose weight. I have not gained weight since we started dating, but I would like to lose weight and could afford to lose 20 pounds.

This is strictly about attractiveness from his perspective, as far as I can tell. There was no verbiage about unhealthy habits or concern for well-being. I do work out regularly, though probably not enough, and I love my evening wine. So, there's room for improvement. I don't know what to do while I lose weight or even if I can. This has affected my self-confidence.

Weighty Question

DEAR WEIGHTY: I almost didn't answer you because this column has already popped its buttons on the weight issue.

But this isn't (just) a weight issue. You're dating someone who dents your self-confidence versus enhancing it. Buh-bye, right? Lose 180 pounds! What's the point of his companionship if he brings you down?

You can get thinner, sure. "Improve," sure. Who can't?

But: You got to your current shape not by being sick, self-destructive, depressed or ignorant of self-care; you got there by being your workout-dabbling, wine-enjoying self. Bypass years of anguish and hold out for someone who adores your natural state.

Carolyn Hax appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Send questions to tellme@washpost.com.