Care and Feeding

My Child’s Hobby Has Become an Obsession

A teen girl looks annoyed at her phone
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by ottokalman/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My daughter started a YouTube channel three years ago, when she was 13. At the time, she had a viewership of maybe 10 people (mostly family members), and my husband and I encouraged her in this pursuit, as it taught her about video editing, marketing, and other skills we thought could be useful. She begged us for years and we finally relented, thinking it was a good idea.

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Well … fast forward to now. She has over 10,000 subscribers and has made actual money from her channel. On paper, everything is going well. She seems like a happy, well-adjusted kid who’s still in school, pursuing hobbies, and hasn’t changed much of her life in light of her newfound fame. But privately, things are a mess. My daughter is obsessed with her viewer count, her sponsorships, and trying to come up with content all the time. It causes tremendous anxiety because any unstructured time she has is all devoted to coming up with new content. She also receives a lot of negative comments and messages which are damaging to her self-esteem.

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My husband and I are now at a place of seriously wanting her to reconsider this endeavor. We hate that her life is pretty much lived online now, completely at the whim of mysterious internet strangers who don’t really have her best interests at heart. There have been so many times she’s said no to trying a new activity or spending time with friends/family because she needs to film.

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What’s the best way to handle this? We don’t want to have a situation where we say no and our daughter rebels by leaning in even harder, but we also want to make it clear we are concerned about her well-being and emotional health. Any advice?

—Parent of a Producer

Dear Parent of a Producer,

Your daughter has grown an entrepreneurial endeavor from 10 followers to 10,000 at the age of 13. That’s really impressive. It may also be a case of too much, too soon. Too much pressure. Too much online exposure. Too much vulnerability to criticism. It’s great that you’ve been encouraging up to this point, and it’s also right for you to be concerned right now.

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Because it sounds like this is primarily your daughter’s project, with limited intervention or oversight from you and your husband, it makes sense, as you broach the subject of suggesting that she reconsider continuing to run her business (and that’s what it is, at this point), to make sure she has a very high stake in the decision-making process here.

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Let her know that you’re concerned about her social and emotional well-being. Ask her to work with you and your husband on writing up a pros-and-cons list. What do each of you think is still beneficial about her channel? What’s potentially damaging about continuing to run it? What will she have more time for if she gives it up? What will she miss about it? Make sure that she understands each of the points you raise in the con column, and ask her if she’s also noticed these not-so-great aspects of running her channel.

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One compromise worth considering is a hiatus. Suggesting that she take a break from producing new content is different than urging her to shut the whole enterprise down. If she worries about losing followers, find strong examples of other content creators who’ve taken breaks and returned successfully and use those as illustrations. Let her know that, regardless of our level of ambition, hard work is commendable, but vacations and mental health breaks are also quite necessary. I hope you’re all able to reach an agreement that works for everyone, especially your daughter.

Dear Care and Feeding,

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My 22-year-old nephew is launching a recreational marijuana dispensary and brand in a state where the business is legal. He and his partners are very motivated with many retail spaces open or being built out for opening soon. His organization has a network of partners that are expanding the business into neighboring states as dispensaries become legal—they would want one in the state where my family resides once it’s legal. I have a background in developing snack foods and beverages. Working on side projects for my nephew seems to be a no-brainer.

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Enter my 8-year-old daughter’s absolute condemnation of working with “drugs.” Any time I’m doing background work (think researching ingredients and what label laws look like without any marijuana on hand), she’s totally flipping out. I truly have no idea where she’s getting it from, as we don’t condemn responsible use of any legal substances in our home. My entire family including older generations have had nothing but support for my nephew’s business. Even my 80-year-old mom is wearing the chain’s branded hoodie out and about. My daughter was a virtual student last year so she didn’t have DARE drug lectures. I don’t get it.

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What I’d like to do is work through this so that she has some comfort level in my side hustle as well as the possibility of me working with the newfound family business in a dispensary when recreational marijuana becomes a thing in this state. How do I do this?

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—To Pot or Not

Dear To Pot or Not,

I don’t want to minimize your 8-year-old’s feelings. I’m glad she feels free enough to share them; it means that you’ve cultivated an environment at home where she feels like her opinions matter and should be expressed and taken seriously. That’s great.

While I think it might be helpful to find a few examples to share of how and why marijuana is used, both medicinally and recreationally, there’s still a possibility that she may continue to disapprove of your involvement in this endeavor. Once you’ve tried to reassure her that marijuana is safest to consume when purchased through a dispensary where its quality can be controlled and regulated, she still may find herself ill at ease about the fact that weed is a “drug.”

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If so, it will be good practice for you both in learning how to disagree agreeably. You won’t always approve of each other’s choices, but as an adult, you’re currently the only one who can make a final call without the other’s say-so. Remind your daughter of that, if it comes down to it. Let her know that you’re sorry she doesn’t think you, your nephew, and the rest of your family are making a wise choice here in supporting recreational marijuana use, but the business your nephew is operating is a legal one. Neither he nor you are at any legal risk in working in this field, and in states where marijuana use is legal, like the one where your nephew’s dispensary is located, many, many people are exercising personal freedom in purchasing and consuming marijuana.

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Perhaps your daughter’s opinion on this will change when she’s older. At 8, though, I’m not sure any justification you may present will make much difference. Good luck trying!

Catch Up on Care and Feeding

• If you missed Sunday’s column, read it here.
• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

I have a 14-month-old son that is just starting day care. We were in a position that I have been the primary caretaker up until now, with his father working from home as well. I am starting a new job this week, so I have been trying to transition him into day care. In the last two weeks, we moved from Germany back to the USA (we are both Americans) into a new rental house, and he has started day care. I know this is a lot of change for anyone, let alone a baby. Our kid has never had another caretaker other than a parent due to COVID, and will start crying if we leave the room (even for a minute). We have done half days for the last week to give him time to acclimate, and he has barely stopped crying while there and refuses to eat and drink anything there. The day care provider is lovely and warm, and there are only four other kids in the home day care (fully accredited). I thought that the small number of kids and home setting might be easier for him to adjust to, but so far it’s been horrible for all parties. We have to have him cared for by someone other than us and he needs to be fed there, but I’m at a loss of what to do to help the situation. Do we need to try different day cares? Is it something he will adjust to? Should we talk to his pediatrician or is it too soon for that?

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—Back-to-Work Mama

Dear Back-to-Work Mama,

I’m so sorry your family is having such a difficult time making these necessary transitions. It’s never too soon to consult a pediatrician with any concern your child faces, so feel free to reach out to yours.

Separation anxiety is difficult at any age, but for a 14-month-old who’s never been away from his primary caregivers, it can be especially challenging. How much have you and the child care provider communicated about what goes on during your son’s time in their home? What do they do to entertain or educate the child? Do they spend time outside or are they primarily indoors? Do nap times coincide with your son’s established nap schedule?

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It may be useful to try troubleshooting which, if any, activities or practices at day care are consistent with the ones your son is accustomed to at home. Are there any family rituals—singing or playing music, bouncing or rocking him a certain way, using a blankie or comfort toy—that can be used at the day care? Exhaust those options before moving to another day care, as it sounds like your family has already undergone a great deal of transition in a short time.

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It’s also important to give this new situation a bit more time. You mentioned that you relocated from Germany two weeks ago and have only had your son in day care for the past week. It often takes longer than a week to acclimate to such a big change. New faces, new sights, sounds, and scents, and new routines take time for babies and toddlers to adjust to. Though it’s hard to see your son struggle to adapt, try to be patient with the process. I wish you all the best!

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Want Advice From Care and Feeding?

Submit your questions about parenting and family life here. It’s anonymous! (Questions may be edited for publication.)

Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I have two adult daughters. Both will likely begin having children within the next few years. We would like to be involved grandparents (assisting with child care, etc.) but there’s one issue: We just bought our dream home that’s located about an hour outside of the nearest major city. It has all the land we could ever hope for, but is quite a trek from anywhere our children and their families would reasonably want to live. Our neighborhood is nearly 100 percent retirees (plus one family who home-schools their children because the nearest public school is a 45-minute bus ride away).

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My daughter has started conversations around expectations regarding our involvement in child care and our grandchildren’s daily life. It’s becoming exceedingly apparent that the location of our new home will be a deal-breaker of sorts. My daughter said she and her kids will probably visit us once a month or so, as an hour of driving is really tough on them. I offered to drive into the city and stay with my daughter overnight but she wasn’t pleased with that idea—she said she didn’t want to be a hostess.

I think an hour is not a big deal and she’s punishing us for moving further away by withholding the opportunity to see our grandchildren. My husband says I’m taking this way too personally and that if my daughter doesn’t want to drive and visit us, that’s fine, we just won’t be providing free child care—and as soon as she realizes how inconvenient that is for her, she’ll reconsider her no-driving stance. Essentially he wants to call her bluff. Meanwhile, I’m worried our grandchildren will pick up on this tension and potentially turn against us. Who’s in the right here? What’s the best way to have conversations about frequency of visits with grandchildren?

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—Grandma-to-Be in Georgia

Dear Grandma-to-Be,

At this point, these are all hypothetical scenarios, as neither of your daughters is expecting children yet. When they have children, they’ll realize that many of their best-laid plans will require readjusting—including their position on not “hosting” you overnight, when it would mean being able to get a good night’s sleep themselves or to get a few hours’ reprieve from the demands of infant care. Your husband may be right; an hour’s drive could sound a lot less daunting if the alternative is having no child care at all.

The more immediate issue seems to be your daughter’s unwillingness to consider your feelings now. You and your husband have found a home in a location that suits your current needs as a couple. You should not have been expected to forgo buying this dream home for grandchildren who don’t yet exist. Instead, the parents of those eventual children should take your location into account when they consider their needs and wishes for grandparent involvement, and they should adjust accordingly.

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In the event that that proves prohibitive, you’ve offered a suitable compromise—traveling to them and staying over—and they’ve declined. I’m not sure what else you should be expected to offer—especially now, when the future (and the children who may or may not be in it) are unknowable.

—Stacia

For More Parenting Coverage, Listen to Mom and Dad Are Fighting

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