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Withdrawn Teenage Daughter

by Ramona
(RoseBud, Arkansas, U.S.)

I have Five children, the oldest being 14 and youngest being 7. My problem is with the oldest, she is always in her room reading, some days we never see her. When she finally does come out shes so mean to the other kids, making them scream and fights with them over nothing.

I've sat down with her and talked to her many many times, just about the books she reads or what she would like to do for that day and even tried one on one time with her. I ask her questions and the only response I get is, I don't know or I don't want to talk about it.

She walks through the house saying that she hates this house and her family, and that she wishes she was somewhere else. I don't know what else to try with her. I really don't know where she gets this from as we are a really loving family.

Any suggestions on what else to try?

Comments for Withdrawn Teenage Daughter

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Connecting With A Teenager
by: Annie Desantis

Dear Ramona,
It is always hard when we see our children withdraw from the family and be mean and hurtful to their younger brothers and sisters.

To some extent, at her age she will naturally be pulling away. Teenagers are starting to look more to their peers, and can be a bit challenging to live with! My daughter at 14 was on the difficult side at times!

The most important thing is to keep the lines of communication open and try to have as much positive time with her as possible. Being the oldest, she has more than likely been sidelined to some extent each time a new sibling has come into the family, and we tend to expect a lot from our eldest child. So she may well have some resentment, despite your family being a loving one. Having special Mom-daughter times are really important, and if you can find some things to do together away from the rest of the family it will help to keep those doors open. When we criticize our teens and point out all the things they do wrong, they tend to withdraw more, and feel more resentful, so it doesn't help.

Sibling Conflict Can Be A Good Thing!

However, having said that, you have a right to expect her to participate in the family, to contribute and to be kind most of the time to other family members. Being the eldest she more than likely has been "blamed" a lot of the time when there are disruptions, and we expect the older children to be more mature and less reactionary. However more often than not, there is a two way street when there is family disharmony. Little brothers and sisters can be pretty good at stirring things up, and can be pretty pesty to an elder sister. There maybe more to the dynamic than just her attitude. If she is withdrawing because there is always disharmony, and she gets the blame, then it ends up being a nasty cycle that creates more bad feeling.

Next time there is a conflict, call a halt and ask each family member what they need in the situation. Sometimes little brothers and sisters want to play or get attention from a big sister, and they may be going about it in a negative way (much like kids play up to get our attention). However, she might feel they are annoying and intrusive or invading her privacy, or interrupting her when she is watching a favorite program or something.

Sibling conflict is actually a really good thing, that is how we learn to deal with conflict, to negotiate, to get our needs met. However, more often than not, parents tend to just end it by punishing, or sending children to their rooms, and the opportunity for learning skills to sort things out is lost.

The more we help our kids to find better ways to get what they need, the more successful their relationships will be as adults. If we set up patterns for our kids that they withdraw and sulk, or get angry and throw things, then we are not helping them to learn new skills.

Part Two Follows . . .

Connecting With A Teenager - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

A fourteen year old can be moody, up and down like a yo yo, and a lot of that is the huge hormone changes that are happening in her body. So emotions can be all over the place and lots of confusing things happen. You can read more about the physical changes in adolescence and how it will be affecting her, on our site.

Help her to express her feelings, but from the point of how she feels, rather than being nasty to the others. She will need lots of time out, this is normal, but she also needs to participate in the family and if you can help her to negotiate what she needs then you are giving her more skills in life.

Negotiate Rather Than Dictate

When we come on heavy handed with our teens, they have to rebel and push back. As the eldest you are cutting your teeth with her! She is the testing ground for handling teenagers, and although they are all different, you will notice it more with her as she is the first one to reach each developmental stage!

As the eldest, she should have some privileges that the others don't have. Later bedtimes, more say in how her life runs. If you come up with guidelines and ground-rules together, then she will be much more likely to comply. When we impose rules on our teens then they don't take ownership of them and are much more likely to break them. Teens do need boundaries and they need to feel family is a safe place to retreat to, not somewhere they are always in trouble.

Clearly you are a loving family and want to help your daughter, and keeping on what you are doing in the way of talking to her and spending one on one time with her is really important, even if she is not responding all that favorably. Try more leading open ended questions rather than direct questions that she can say yes or no too, or I don't know. Such as "What do you like best about . . . .?" or "what do you think about . . .?"

Part Three Follows . . .

Connecting With A Teenager - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

You did not say anything about her friends or school - is she mixing with other kids, is she coping OK at school? Sometimes there are other issues going on at school that our kids might be struggling with, and they take it out on the family when they get home. Her social times and friendships are really important at this age, even more important than schooling! Learning to relate well and get on with people is actually more important than the endless testing that often happens in school. Of course we want our kids to succeed in their education, and have more choices, but at this point in their development, and from now on, relationships and socialization is the critical developmental learning.

You can also read more about Adolescent psychology and what makes our teens tick here.

I used to be the neighborhood taxi driver for all my daughter's friends, and I learned heaps about her by talking and listening to them. Having a teen in the car is a really good time to talk, as they can 't walk away! But make sure you do a lot more listening than you do talking, we can easily get into a trap of giving our teenagers lots of advice or lectures or pep talks, and what they need more than anything is for us to listen. We often don't even need to offer any ideas or solutions, we just need to listen so they can talk things out, and process their day.

Part Four Follows . . .

Connecting With A Teenager - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

Look For Opportunities For
Mini-Time Together

Take mini times with her, like a detour on the way home for an ice-cream, or a walk on the beach. With five children, it is hard to get much time for one on one times, but it is really important that each child have some time each day if you can manage it. You can even set it up in the family where in the evenings everyone gets 10 or 15 minutes uninterrupted time with you or their Dad. If anyone interrupts, they loose that amount of time off their own special time. So each child learns to respect each others special time.

A teenage daughter will be wanting to test out make up and skin care, and that can be a good thing to do together. Make an appointment at a department store - you don't have to pay or buy anything, but can have fun testing and trying things out and getting advice. Another idea is have a nail painting time, try out some decals, weird nail polish.

Go to a gallery or book launch together, find things that are special just with the two of you. Even is she shows resistance at first, the odds are if you just quietly and lovingly set up things with her, then she will actually enjoy it, and it is time you can bond and talk and chat. Even if she is not sharing anything deep and meaningful, it is still really important as it is time together building trust, sharing positive experiences and having fun. Then when the going does get tough she will feel she can come to you and you will listen.

Hang in there Ramona, she will move through this stage as she matures and feels more secure in herself. Just keep listening and being with her and helping her get what she needs without being destructive.

Feel free to comment back via the comments link below,

Annie D :)

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