My 14 Year Old Daughter Is Giving Up

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast

Episode 173 · Duration: 00:16:03

My 14 Year Old Daughter Is Giving Up

What do you do when your 14 year old daughter has given up on school, her friends, and her health. We’ll talk about this and a whole lot more on this week’s podcast, My 14 Year Old Daughter Is Giving Up.

Today we’re hearing from Sylvia from Aptos, CA and Sylvia writes:

I’m very worried about my depressed 14-year-old daughter. She admitted she is feeling sad, lacks motivation and feels confused. The only thing she wants to do is watch movies or shows. 

She says that school is hard and she has given up on trying. Last year she had tutoring which helped her stay on track. She even asked for help but my struggle is getting her to accept the help when I find it. She refuses to speak to a therapist or a doctor.

She has no interest in the activities that brought her joy and confidence in the past anymore. Some of those were swimming, surfing, and being very social with friends. Of course because of the pandemic she had limited in person contact but now she has no interest in having any relationships with friends and has isolated herself from everyone. She lacks self esteem related to body image.

I’ve encouraged her to exercise, eat healthier and participate in family activities. Some days are better than others. 

I’m a single mom who has 60% custody and am working full time from home. Her father is present and agrees that she needs help but we are at a loss on how to get her to accept the help we are offering. As of right now she is failing the 8th grade. 

I’m really worried about her and there are days where she just wants to sleep. It’s been a real struggle for us.  Any advice would be helpful. 

Now to Sylvia’s question:

Thanks for your question Sylvia, and it’s really an important one because the challenges for young teenage girls are enormous and your daughter is experiencing many of them.  Let’s think about this.  You’re saying as a child, your daughter enthusiastically participated in several positive activities including swimming, surfing and enjoying her friends. I’m guessing she never did great in school but was able to do the work and get by.  Now all this positive experience has come to a screeching halt and she’s depressed, can’t manage school, has body image issues, she’s isolating and isn’t accepting help.

Sylvia, that’s how profound entry into adolescence can be, particularly for girls.  As children, kids show up wherever they’re assigned, a class, an activity, and bingo, there they are and the kids there with them are their friends.  Some kids of course are challenged socially very early, but apparently,

your daughter did fine. Then adolescence happens and several things are dramatically different.  One major one is that boys and girls start to select into specific social groups and the selection process can be cruel and painful. A kid can be shunned by a previous friend in order to solidify their position in a new social group. This can be devastating and I’ve talked with adults who reflect back on these kinds of experiences as painful and traumatic. Sexual and physical transformation takes place and some kids are gifted with socially desirable looks, and are considered more attractive than others. School shifts from having one teacher who knows you and cares about you to several teachers who have several different classes of kids and kids don’t get the same nurturance and support they previously did.  Hormonal and neurological changes all add to the social, emotional, academic challenges these kids face.

Sylvia, right now your 14 year old daughter hasn’t found her adolescent footing.  Her previous social group for whatever reason doesn’t seem available to her, she has body issues and she struggles academically.  Related to all that, she’s depressed and has given up on her healthy activities.

The good news here is that she isn’t involved with a negative peer group and isn’t seeking out drugs or alcohol.  It’s also good news that she’s asking for help even though she’s not accepting the professional help you’re offering.  So the help she may be asking for and will need to get, is from you.

When a young teen is struggling with entering their adolescence successfully, a bit more parental structure is indicated. As much as kids push against their parents, they also need and benefit from close parental contact. Click To Tweet

You referenced that your daughter was able to stay on track with tutoring. It’s very likely that she has learning disabilities or ADHD or both which makes learning and staying organized difficult.  A youth can be smart, but have differences with how they learn and how they express what they know.  Kids with ADHD often have difficulty with organization. So let’s get some testing for these conditions on the list of things to do.  The school district will provide that if you request it in writing.

Now your big question is how do you get her to accept help.  Silvia, what’s important here is that both you and her father hold two beliefs very strongly; that your daughter is a fabulous, talented, likeable and loveable young person.  And that you believe in her and are going to hold her to a high standard of behavior.

That high standard of behavior includes

1) cooperating with her parents, and accepting help and testing from tutors, counselors, teachers or any other helping professional;

2) that high standard includes giving things she’s involved with, her best effort.  That includes school, swimming and surfing and anything else she does.  So those are the two things she accountable for; cooperation and effort.

You say your daughter is using movies and shows to distract herself, and that’s understandable but access to those things only come with cooperation and effort.

Here’s an example of a talk you and her father can have with her and I’ll call her Marie.

Marie, it’s obvious you’re having a hard time right now and that’s understandable.  It’s not easy being a 14 year old girl in a pandemic and right now you don’t have a solid friend group and you’re struggling in school.  That’s really hard for you and it would be for anyone.  We get it and we care.

But you know something, you’re going to get through this and do great.  We know that because you’re a great person.  You’re smart, talented, and very likeable. You’ve always had lots of friends and this is a tough stage and the friend thing has shifted around. But it doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to have friends and it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.

We know you struggle in school and everyone isn’t smart in the same ways.  We need to get some testing to find out how you learn; what your learning style is.  With tutoring you did fine and we know that during adolescence if you keep applying yourself, your brain will develop the ability to manage things it couldn’t manage before.  In other words, you can get smarter and train your brain to learn better.  But it will take effort.
We know from watching you surf and swim all those years that when you want to, you can really challenge yourself and do great.

So school is one thing, but doing fun things and remembering your talents is another.  You need to get back into your passions and that’s another expectation.  You need to apply yourself to active fun, not just work. You can have some new fun activities if you like too.  Art, playing a musical instrument, dance, there are a million things; it just needs to be something that you put some effort and investment into.

And then there’s doing things with us.  I’d like you to help me prepare some dinners.  I know you’re struggling with your body image so let’s look up some healthy eating ideas and let’s prepare them together.  Healthy eating and exercise are two of the most important elements for physical health and mental health.  We can all benefit from doing better with those things and for now, we can do them together.

Right now all this can sound overwhelming because you have depression, that’s why we are getting professional help.  We’ll be seeing your doctor and a therapist who knows how to help us.  As long as you’re cooperating and doing your best, movies and video watching are fine.  If not, those things will have to go away until your cooperation and effort return.


Sylvia, this is your starting point, this doesn’t fix everything, it’s where you start.  Remember, your daughter asked for help and refused it from the professionals, so the help she needs is from her parents and this is the start of the help you are giving her,

an empowered Mom who will create an empowered daughter.Click To Tweet  Setting tutoring, counseling and a medical appointment up will be non-negotiable items and devices to watch movies and shows are contingent on that.  Be sure that the counselor is experienced with young teenage girls and until your daughter is ready to see the therapist by herself, you see her together and perhaps you and Dad and she all participate until she’s ready to open up and get the help she needs.

Sylvia, what I think will happen is if you stay on track being positive and clear, don’t get into fights, don’t insist that she see things your way, is that she will come along fairly soon and quite well.

Thanks for tuning in today everyone I really enjoyed talking with you and special thanks to you Sylvia and our very best to you and your daughter.

If you’d like to get this podcast delivered to your inbox every week, come on over to and if you’d like to consider my Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle course, with the workbook and the videos, it’s all there.

In the mean time, I hope 2021 finds you safe and vaccinated.  And in the mean time, 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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