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Problems Understanding My 19 Year Old Daughter

by Edward

I am a father who last seen my daughter when she was 5 she is 19 now. In May she moved back into my life from Germany.

I never had a chance to help form my daughter or bond with her while she was young and now it seems all I do is try to control her. I yell at her which is just wrong from me. I am getting 2 forms of help at the moment my doctor for my depression and a counseler from work. I wish to have any help I can get to be a good father to understand her needs.

She is also a mother and I believe too young to be one. All I know is I love her but now she has moved out on her own. I so want her back in my life. She is so new to this country and needs help raising her son.

I am sure she is at the moment with my neice which is a good thing as I guess she is safe and gets a lot of help there that I could not do
because of all the hours I work.

I find it hard because I am so scared I will make mistakes and the last thing I want is to lose her after I just got her back into my life.

Her mother was abusive to her all her life and now she seems to think family is no good and I am just like her Mom. But I am trying to fix my faults via a consellor and medication but I still need help in how to talk to her. Do I set boundries for her? I listen to your tapes as much as I can.

I hope it helps me out since she has been gone I am trying not to act like I'm the hurt one because in a way it's my fault. She is no angel by far but I also don't blame her for how she is I'm just so new to this. But the loss of her being in my life in my home with my grandson is just so painful.

Any help you can share with me?

TY, Edward

Comments for Problems Understanding My 19 Year Old Daughter

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Building Relationships With Adult Children - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Edward,
Your pain, fear of loss and anxiety about doing it right comes through loud and clear. Your situation is a bit different from parents who are raising a teenager. As you say you have not had a relationship with your daughter, and now she is a parent in her own right, so really she is an adult.

Clearly you love her and are desperate to have her in your life. But I would say your need to make up for the lost time and trying to be a parent to her is probably not helping.

She is not a child, even though she may be young to be a Mom, and will have many issues of her own, you have to build a relationship with her as an adult. You can't come in as the heavy parent bossing her around and trying to call the shots. Of course if she comes back and lives in your house she needs to respect some boundaries or have some kind of agreements. Like paying board,
contribution to running the house, sharing chores etc.

You Can't Run Her Life

But you don't have the right to tell her how to run her life or when she has to be home or that kind of thing. I am not sure what the things are that you fight about, but you will have to expect that you both have a lot to learn - bonding and building a relationship takes time. Just because you are her father does not make any of this automatic!

She will be angry with you that you have not been in her life, she clearly has issues with her Mother, and may well have plenty of her own baggage to work through. It is great that you are getting help and support, it sounds like you have plenty to manage with your own mental well-being, so having a daughter and grandson in your life is pretty challenging.

Share Simple Times

Just take it slowly and simply. Bonds build when we share good times together, not what we pay for, not the discipline when a child is young, not the rules we make. It is the closeness and special times together that are the glue in any relationship. Her coming back into your life is a
wonderful thing, but you can't suddenly do all the parenting you wish you could have when she was young, it is simply too late for that.

But you can build a very special relationship now as she grows up more and takes responsibility for her choices in life. Having a child so young is not easy, and I am assuming she is also doing it as a single Mom.

Just aim for simple fun contact, go to the park together and play with your grandson. Find the things you have in common, share bits of your life with her and listen to her stories.

Key To Good Relationships
Is Listening

Listening is so SO important. Let her share her pain of not having you in her life, let her talk about how hard it is being a single Mom, let her talk about her challenges with her Mom. You can't fix things up for her, you can't mend the past, but you can build a loving supportive relationship with her now.

Part Two Follows . . .

Building Relationships With Adult Children - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

She may well be pretty messed up and she does have to respect your home and your lifestyle. But don't try to tell her what to do. If she wants your advice or opinion, wait until she asks you. She has to learn to trust that you are going to be in her life, that you are not going to reject her. She won't respect your opinions or advice until she does trust you.

She may also set up situations to get rejected. Kids that feel they have been abandoned (whatever the reasons that caused it) - often set up relationships that reinforce rejection or that are not healthy. Building a good relationship with you, will go a long way in helping her to have good relationships with any future partners.

The other thing to keep in mind, is she will be going through some big adjustments herself. Apart from all the issues of getting to know her Father, there are a lot of culture shock issues that she will be dealing with. Research shows that when first moving countries, we go through a honeymoon phase. Like being on holiday, everything is new and exciting, and much like a new relationship we have on rose tinted glasses. Then after about 6 months the reality of life kicks in, plus we start grieving for what was familiar, things like food, countryside, favorite places and of course friends.

So your daughter, even though she left Germany to make a new start, will still be missing some of her life that was familiar and the reality of life in USA will not be the perfect happy ever after she might have been dreaming about.

She needs time - both to build the relationship with you, but to also develop new friendships and networks, get some new favorite places, things to do, ways to replenish and strengthen herself. You may well be copping a lot of extra stress from her simply because she is struggling to make a new life in US.

Don't stress out about having to be the perfect Dad and make up for all the lost time. You simply can't. No Dad is perfect, and it is too late to parent her now, but as her Dad you can be someone very special for her. She is clearly going through a difficult time adjusting, as are you.

Drop the idea of having to control her, it is way too late for that, the most important thing is that you bond and build your relationship for the
future. She may well be doing things you don't approve of, or agree with, but she has to make her own choices and decisions and live with the
consequences. You can be available to listen and be supportive but you can't tell her how to live her life. Of course you can have conditions or
agreements if she ends up coming back to live with you, but that needs to be much like adults living together, not a parent laying down the rules.

Best of luck Edward, just take it gently, both with yourself and your expectations on being a good Dad, and also your expectations about her as your daughter. This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know her and your Grandson, just give it time.

All the best,
Annie Desantis

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