Dear Patricia Marie,

My 17 year old daughter and I have always been close. Recently, her father offered to pay for her gym membership so she could lose weight - and I agreed it was a good idea. Now she's so upset she wants nothing to do with us. She has changed so much in the last few months since her close friend died in a car accident, which she refuses to talk about, has stopped socialising, and spends most of the time in her bedroom eating sweets.

She seems to gain pleasure from giving me as much stress as possible and is causing such an atmosphere in what has always a happy household. The main issue is, that five years ago, I put £10,000 in premium bonds in her name, which will become hers when she's 18. Not only is she being difficult, but I think she'd spend the money, instead of using it for university as I intended. I'm happy to give it to her when she's older and wiser, but am I breaking both a legal and emotional law by withholding it from her?

Patricia Marie says,

If the bonds are in her name, you would be acting illegally if you spent the money yourself and you are being unethical if you promised them to her when she turned 18. I feel the more important issue here is the problem between you, your husband and your daughter. If you love someone, you do so unconditionally, not only if they are slim or fit or otherwise.

It sounds as if she found her father's offer a sign of criticism and rejection, especially at a time when she is grieving for the loss of her friend. Your daughter is clearly overwhelmed with emotion, hence the comfort eating, and in much need of some tender loving care. What you should have done is asked her if she had any concerns about herself and if there was anything you could do to help.

You need to separate the issue of the money from the issue of her hurt and embarrassment. Tell her that, as promised, on her 18th birthday she will get the money, however, remind her it was intended as a support for university and that you would be happy if it was used in that way. Also, tell her your sorry if you said the wrong thing and that your wanting to get your relationship back on track.

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