Question: Hi M. Kay Keller, I'm Dad, and my 14-year-old daughter is on an emotional roller coaster. One minute she wants to kill herself because her boyfriend broke up with her and the next minute she is high and happy about life. She is not taking any street drugs, alcohol, or smoke anything, or sexually active.
She lives equally in two homes since I divorced her Mom when she was 3 and everyone has adjusted fine. Her Mom and I get along fine and always in the interest of the kids, 24 / 7. I'm remarried for 8 years now so she has a step Mom.
Sometimes they get along and sometimes they don't.
Her birth Mom has a live in boyfriend for 9 years now, but dates others on the side. Not a good roll model. Her Mom took her to see a psychologist and my daughter has been on 100mg of Zoloft for about 6 months. Any ideas as to how I can give her some self worth? What can we do as parents to give her the attention she seems to be crying out for, without smothering her and pushing her away?
Answer: Dear Randy, I am impressed with how well you all have pulled together to support this young woman! I hope all of the adults realize what a good job they are doing in this situation. Adolescents do go through mood swings and even more so if there is a Mental Health issue. I was greatly impressed to see someone has addressed this issue.
As for assisting her with her self esteem another applause to you for being her father and seeking assistance in supporting her self esteem. There are several ways in which you can do this, the first being by affirming her for how well she makes decisions and how you have confidence in her ability to make decisions and manage her own life. Whenever you can find an opportunity to affirm her in what she is doing you will be supporting her self esteem.
While it is good to affirm how she looks, it is even more so important to affirm her intelligence, her character and her heart (compassion towards others). Studies show by the time children are only 4 years of age they interpret the word "good" to mean totally different things depending upon their gender.
Boys already interpret this to mean they are good at doing something(their skills, their abilities, their competence in what they can do), little girls on the other hand, interpret good to mean how good they are in relationships (being kind to someone, sharing, etc). So your daughter's emphasis on how important her relationships are is due mostly to how we in this society still affirm girls for taking most of the responsibility for the success or demise of relationships.
This is a window of opportunity for you as a father to affirm who she is from a holistic perspective. What she can do, how she performs in other areas of her life is of critical importance for her to notice and to recognize in herself and you are a very important figure in her life to affirm her in such a way as to make a difference now. Then relationships won't play such an important role in elevating or lowering her self esteem. Parenting is one of the toughest jobs there is and certainly you have done your daughter a wonderful thing by reaching out and asking questions.
Hopefully other fathers and daughters will benefit from reading this posting.
M Kay Keller