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Originally published Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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How to deal with daughter's Facebook revelation

The Parent 'Hood: Your child's posting online about a "relationship" takes you by surprise. What do you do?

Chicago Tribune

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Your daughter's Facebook profile says she's "in a relationship." You've heard of no such thing. Should you ask her what's up?

Parent advice (from our panel of staff contributors):

Abso-freakin-lutley. Facebook status postings are public knowledge and fair game for inquiry. I'd keep the questioning casual: "So, I see you're in a relationship now; anybody I know?" And try to get a little dialogue going. For all you know, this is your daughter's way of getting the conversational ball rolling.

— Phil Vettel

If the normal lines of communication are open, I wouldn't have to ask directly about the "relationship." But if I had no clue that she considers herself in a relationship — or was even interested in someone — then I would work around the edges first ("Anyone special in your life these days, honey") and hope that the floodgates would open. But if that approach hit a wall, then an ever-so-casual mention of the Facebook evidence would be in order.

— Denise Joyce

Expert advice:

No harm in bringing it up casually (provided your daughter knows you have access to her Facebook page).

Lots of harm in bringing it up as an invitation to harangue her or steer her into a conversation about safe sex or something else tangential.

"A parent should feel secure enough not to take it personally or to feel left out that she didn't know about the relationship," says family psychotherapist Arden Greenspan-Goldberg, author of "What Do You Expect? She's a Teenager! A Hope and Happiness Guide for Moms with Daughters Ages 11-19" (Sourcebooks). "It might be a new connection. It doesn't mean she's up to no good."

The status update also may be her chosen method of making the relationship public. In other words, you're not the only one to find out via Facebook.

"She might just be putting it out there for the first time in a no-big-deal, non-direct way," says Greenspan-Goldberg, who blogs at askarden.com. "That's what a lot of kids do these days"

In which case, she's probably perfectly happy to chat with you about it. To a point.

"Keep it casual and comfortable," Greenspan-Goldberg says. "'Oh, hey, honey, I saw your Facebook status has changed. Are you going out with someone?"

Then follow her cues. If she wants to talk, talk. If she clams up, give her some space. "In a relationship," after all, might mean she's hung out with a boy a few times in a row.

"As a parent, you've got to be patient," Greenspan-Goldberg says. "Unless you see signs that something's seriously wrong — the person she lists is six years older than her — you can wait a day or two before you bring it up casually again."

And this is not the time to pepper her with questions about sex.

"Hopefully that's a conversation you've been having all along as you've been teaching your daughter about taking care of her body, and how you don't let anyone touch you if it feels uncomfortable and how to look out for her own safety and welfare," Greenspan-Goldberg says. "She doesn't have to be in a relationship for you to have teaching moments. Those are the kinds of talks you should be having all along."

Try to view her update as happy news. (Again, absent any major red flags.)

"Embrace it," Greenspan-Goldberg says. "It's a rite of passage. Enjoy it until the drama starts. And there will always be drama."

Have a solution? Your child loves to adopt a cause (green living, veganism, etc.). But she lectures folks around her to the point of exhaustion. Should you tell her to ease up? Email us at parenthood@tribune.com.

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