Monday, October 25, 2010

I am worried about my 15 yr old daughter

Questioner: Lisa


I am concerned that my 15 yr old daughter is emotionally unavailable and has walled herself off from her emotions. She has a few friends, but doesn't spend much time, if any, with them out of school. She has a boyfriend that she says she doesn't care about and just wanted to try having a relationship to "see what it was like". They have no physical relationship (they haven't even held hands and she says she wants to keep it that way). They spend no time together out of school because of his religion (his parents have no idea he as a girlfriend and would forbid it if they did). He is very socially underdeveloped and rather fragile, so she says she is just waiting for him to break up with her so she doesn't hurt him.

She experienced a great loss 5 yrs ago when her Grandma passed away unexpectedly.
She was closer to her Grandma then to anyone else before or since. I recently asked her about the loss, and she stated that it didn't hurt her and was "no big deal because she wasn't her parent or anything". About 2 yrs ago she had no social life at all, so I thought she was getting better.

Now I wonder if she will ever be the normal happy girl she was before her Grandma passed away. Should I be getting her into therapy or will she gradually become better given more time?

Dear Lisa,

While you are right to be concerned. Do listen to her.

You did not say whether or not she had an grief counseling after her grandmother died. For a child to be that close to someone and not have any emotional help in dealing with the death is traumatic in and of itself. Did she react at the time? Did she get any support? If so, then that was 5 years ago. She may have moved into acceptance by now.

Although it has been 5 years there is the possibility that she has a complicated grief reaction. Sometimes as parents though we can put too much pressure on our teens to respond the way we think they should respond.

As for her boyfriend and her "lack" of a social life. Sometimes our children are not as social as we think they need to be. Her need for socializing may not be as great as your need for her to be.

I would suggest spending some time with her doing some of her favorite activities and then listening more than you analyze her. Most often teens will open up and reveal their souls just like adults if they have the emotional time and space to do so. However, listening involves lots of attentive, focused quiet. It isn't full of questions and advising. Listen, listen and listen some more.

If you are still feeling concerned about her then by all means a trip for both of you to a family counselor may reassure you.

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller


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