The Healthy Family Connections Podcast
Episode 174 · Duration: 00:17:39
My 14 Year Old Daughter Is Giving Up
What do you do when your 13 year-old emotionally sensitive daughter is miserable, screams and blames you, and is cutting? We’ll talk about this and a whole lot more on this week’s podcast, I Hate You, Get Out, Don’t Touch Me.
Today we’re hearing from Pricilla from Phoenix AZ and Pricilla writes:
Our 13 year-old daughter has always been emotional. We moved from the neighborhood she lived in for the first 10 years of her life to a much better neighborhood. She has not made friends here and blames us. The only thing we hear out of her is "I hate you," "get out (even in the living room)," "Don't touch me," etc.
Tonight, it was because she needs to pick her freshman year electives. She hates them all, says we and the school lied to her by saying there would be choices of classes and cried and screamed. We try to reason with her but she won't even listen, she screams over the top of us and won't hear a thing we say, when we are just trying to help her. She also has bouts of cutting herself. This is obviously very disturbing.
We spent months trying to get her into a counselor. Finally, we were able to make an appointment. The counselor wanted to meet with me and my husband first. The conclusion of the counselor was that this is the age of Aquarius and kids are more in tune with negativity and we should get some salt lamps, crystals and aroma therapy. We were looking for something more practical and less mystical. It took months to get into see this counselor.
We don't know what to do anymore. We are frustrated and afraid for what the future holds for our daughter who is so smart she could do whatever she wants. We fear that at this rate, she will not use her vast intelligence for good because of her emotional instability. We fear that she will not be able to be successful at life because of her emotional extremes.
Now to Answer Priscilla’s question:
Yes, emotionally sensitive 13 year olds can be quite challenging for parents. Yet this situation with your daughter is over the top. Yes, if this isn’t dealt with in a healthy way your daughter may not develop her potential; right now her emotionality is overwhelming her functionality, and her parents, and she is “at risk”. In other words this is not something that you can hope will pass without action. Your daughter needs immediate help so that her self-destructive behavior doesn’t continue and worsen. It’s likely that she has suicidal thoughts at this point.
As for salt lamps, crystals and aroma therapy, I suppose that’s fine. But you didn’t go asking for spiritual guidance, and if all kids are more in touch with negativity because this is the age of Aquarius, then why aren’t they all raging and cutting. Not addressing your daughter’s immediate risk factors in, as you put it, a practical way, is to say the least, dangerous.
So let’s look at what a practical way might look like. For starters, don’t worry about her future, just focus on the now, her immediate situation. If we find a healthy way to support her through this and get her back on a healthy path forward, her future will be as bright as can be. She’s only 13 and as I said to Sylvia in last week’s podcast, being a young adolescent girl can be a really tough time of life. So let’s have faith.
She is screaming out that she is unhappy and her parents keep trying to help her see things from a more reasonable perspective. Hence we have a gigantic Control BattleClick To Tweet where she’s upset with you and her life to a level of unreasonableness and now high risk, and you keep trying to convince her to be less upset, accept life, and be more reasonable. The more you promote reasonableness, the more unreasonable and now destructive, she becomes. Hence, promoting reasonableness, at this point is well, not reasonable. And you’re thinking, “Neil if reasonable isn’t reasonable, then what the hell is?” Pricilla, that deserves an answer.
And by the way, parents moving their home to, what they see as an improved situation, and kids being upset about it, is an event I’ve seen many times. For kids who struggle with change and transitions, moving is a big one and they can require some support for managing it. But when a Control Battle is in place, kids can reject the support in favor of using the move and their unhappiness with it, as ammunition.
We’ll now let’s get on to the practical advice you want, need and deserve. Let’s lower your daughter’s risk factors and get a professional involved who can assess the situation and get you and her appropriate support. Where? For starters, I reached out to my professional community in California for resources in your area and happily, Merrill Powers, a clinical social worker in Auburn, California knew of some appropriate professionals for your situation, emailed me back and I sent you those names.
Now if they have a waiting list, or are otherwise not available to you, call your daughter’s pediatrician, your insurance company, county mental health, your daughter’s school, the behavioral health unit of your local hospital and don’t quit until you get quality professional support. This is too much to go it alone.
Pricilla, a Control Battle ending strategy you can put into practice right now, will be a critical part of getting her back on track so I’ll offer one now. Instead of trying to reason with your daughter, you need to do four things:
- Acknowledge her feelings as valid, and the situations she’s upset about as upsetting, period. No, “but you need to do this”, or “you can do that” or “it will improve”. Nothing but acknowledgement of her feelings and validation of them and the situation related to them. Such as, “oh man. I see there are no elective choices in freshman year. That really sucks.”
- Secondly, take responsibility for not having validated her feelings previously and instead tried to get her to see things differently and feel differently and you realize now that that was disrespectful and unhelpful.
- Thirdly, let her know that self-destructive behavior such as self-cutting is not an acceptable way to manage her feelings. Also, raging and getting out of control emotionally, might have been the only way she knew of to let you know how badly she was feeling, but it is unhealthy behavior and you’re going to need her to find healthier ways to tell you about her feelings.
- Finally, you need to tell her that you all are going to get help. That you are going to need to learn the right ways to support her, and she is going to need to learn how to deal with the fact of her being emotionally sensitive while still investing in and developing her many amazing strengths and talents.
Now what are we doing in these four elements? We’re ending the Control Battle, helping your daughter feel understood, validated and supported, and taking strong yet benevolent parental authority; re-establishing yourselves as empowered parents.Click To Tweet I get the sense that you’ve been positive parents, and that’s been confusing to you since you’re trying to stay positive and help her only to have her punish you for it. By making these adjustments, you’ll be positive in a more effective way as well as more empowered to set limits and get appropriate mental health resources.
All this being said, Control Battles have momentum, so one change in communication isn’t going to fix everything. In fact, it might feel like it doesn’t fix anything, she likely won’t hang around to listen. But if you continually respond to your daughter in one or more of these four ways, you’ll be starving the Beast (as I like to call ending the Control Battle) and when you don’t feed the beast, the Beast eventually starves to death.
So for instance, she says, “you and the school lied to me, because you said there would be choices and all the choices are horrible.” You can respond with, “Oh my goodness, that’s terrible! How disappointing!”
Let’s say she screams, “Get out!” when you’re in the living room together. You can respond with, “I get that you’re really upset and angry, and that’s fine. Screaming at us is not acceptable, and screaming for us to get out of the living room, is a little ridiculous, don’t you think?”
She says, “I’m not going to counseling, you’re the ones with the problem.” You can respond with, “I know you’re really angry with us, and we’ve not listened to your feelings well and yes, we do need help. If that’s what you feel, then that’s what you can tell the counselor.”
Now you might be thinking, “Neil, you don’t know our daughter. If she doesn’t want to go to counseling, she’s not going to go, period.”
First of all, you might be surprised. If you don’t fight about it and simply let her know when the appointment is, and remind her on the day, and then when it’s time to go or get on Zoom, you simply tell her. She might simply go. On the other hand, if she doesn’t, you go ahead and expect that she’ll come to the next one. You can give her a choice of going alone or all together, as long as that’s okay with the therapist.
At some point, there may likely be the need for some accountability as in lost privileges. She most likely is using her phone, tablet, or computer for entertainment and that may need to be interrupted. If however, you threaten to take it away, then it will be part of the Control Battle so there are two non-threatening ways to address this issue.
1) When she doesn’t go to the appointment, then you simply remove her device or turn off the service without explanation. She’ll no doubt be upset about it and you can let her know that you’re happy for her to have her privileges, yet she does need to cooperate for you to be in a position to give her privileges.
2) You can let her know that if she chooses not to go to the appointment, that certain privileges will be lost since privileges are always contingent on cooperation. Then once again, apologize for not having been clear about this standard earlier.
Pricilla, along with counseling, my Ending The Parent-Teen Control Battle course will be a powerful resource for helping you help your daughter.
So listener, When a child or teenager’s behavior presents a risk to themselves or others, don’t delay. Get professional help immediately. Click To Tweet Don’t go on a months long waiting list to be offered salt lamps, crystals and aroma therapy. But just because the young person is at risk, and there needs to be immediate focus on that, don’t forget that family dynamics, the underlying Control Battle, needs to be addressed.
In the meantime, I hope 2021 finds you safe and vaccinated. And in the meantime, let’s all mask up, socially distance and reduce all the risks we can and do me and your loved ones all a favor: take care of yourself. You need it, you deserve it, and you’re worth it. Bye for now.
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