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Emotionally Immature Teen

by Kevin
(Milton, WV)

My wife and I are raising her 14 year old daughter as an only child, (she has two half brothers no longer living at home).

She lives in near total seclusion, spending her free time in her room playing video games designed for younger children, and watching cartoons or preteen fare on television, drawing dragons, or making animal costumes.

I worry about her social development. We have a very nice home, she has her own room, with her own half bath, cable TV, and wireless internet. We have a pond and wooded area, she enjoys the outdoors, but she never has friends over. The only thing close to a close friend is a child 3 years younger, who she talks to on the phone.

We encouraged her to play softball, get involved in Church youth group and several other activities, but they all fizzle because she can not commit to any activity that interferes with the schedule of seeing her Dad twice a week and every other weekend. To her Dad and his family she is an only child, and it seems like they want to keep her as a child.

Comments for Emotionally Immature Teen

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Differences in Development in Teenagers - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Kevin,
Teenagers grow up at very different rates, one can be a child and another can be (or want to be!) an adult. Don't rush for her to be acting older than she is, she will get there in her own time. She may be needing to stay young for a bit longer just because of her circumstances.

I am not sure how long her Mom and Dad have been apart, but that will have had an influence on her, and it probably played a part in her social
development.

I agree with you, it is difficult when she can't make a commitment to sports or groups because of her visits with her Father, which of course are also important. It would be good if she could be involved in something with other kids, but it will have to be the kind of thing that she is interested in.

It sounds like she is really creative, perhaps she could be interested in an art class, or drama activity. Drama would be a great way of her gaining some confidence and stepping outside her comfort zone. But again, it needs to be something
she can relate to. She could be more interested in being part of the costume or set design.

She also seems to have an affinity with animals, and there are also lots of animal groups she could be involved in. Local dog shelters are always looking for volunteers to walk the dogs, or animal rescue groups always need helpers.

Finding something that she can get involved in would help her to relate to a wider range of people, it doesn't just have to be her own age group.

Does she have friends at school? Sometimes kids have a peer group at school that they enjoy being with, but they don't want to extend that outside of school.

It could also be a confidence thing, in that the child she does relate to is quite a bit younger, so I suspect she feels more in control and more confident with a younger child.

Part Two Follows . . .

Differences in Development in Teenagers - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

You can encourage her to join things, but she may quite likely be a child that is very self reliant and happy being on her own. What is important is that she relates to you and you spend time together as a family. Maybe you can also include other families in that, so she is getting some time socially with varied age ranges.

Having a room that has all the mod cons, means she can hide out in it, and the risk is of her getting too withdrawn.

If you are concerned she could be depressed or withdrawn, then you may need to think about getting some help for her. But if it is just a matter of her taking a bit longer to grow up, then I wouldn't worry. It is not something you can force, all you can do is encourage friendships, and get her involved in a variety of things until she finds people she clicks with. It may mean you both also being a part of those groups too, so it is a family thing as much as something she is doing on her own.

Most importantly, keep the communication open with her and find out what she wants - is she unhappy, does she want a close friend or two, or is she comfortable in who she is. Some people are extrovert and will always have wide group of friends, and some people are introvert and will only have one or two friends a time, and may hate being in groups. You really just have to give
her opportunities and then trust her to find her own way with them.

Growing up almost as an only child can mean she will tend to relate more to adults, but don't make that a bad thing.

You also can't control how her father treats her, even if you feel they are keeping her more child-like. It really doesn't matter. If her relationship with him is based on her still being his little girl, then she will continue with that until she gets to the point of wanting to push back and grow up. But they have to sort that
out for themselves. When she is with you, the relationship with you is what is important, and she will make sense of the differences and come to terms with it in her own way.

Fourteen can be a funny time, not quite a child, but not yet ready to jump into being a full on teenager. Sometimes kids do a sudden jump and almost overnight throw away their "baby" toys, change their music taste and want a whole new wardrobe! Don't be in too much of a rush to get her to the next stage, it will happen soon enough.

Just accept where she is and keep the communication open so she can talk to you about any concerns.

All the best,
Annie D

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