Something troubling you? Share it with your new BFs, Jo Davison and Nik Brear
I’m very concerned about my daughter.
She’s 14 years old and has always been a grade A student. She is also a very talented musician and loves horse-riding - or did.
However, this year she has stopped doing all the things she always loved. She just wants to sit in her room on the computer or hang about with her friends.
The bright, enthusiastic, outdoorsy girl she was has completely disappeared. She is now surly, introverted and seems to hate me. We were always so close; it really hurts me when she refuses to talk to me.
Her appearance has totally changed, too. She has started to dress almost entirely in black. She tell me that she’s now a Goth. She listens to terrible music, too. She used to be a massive One Direction fan but now can’t bear them and says they’re “for kids”. But she still is one to me! It’s like she’s had a personality transplant.
Her friends all seem nice enough, but when they are together they seem to spend all their time talking about death, monsters and the devil.
When I talk to my daughter about how I feel about how much she’s changed, and ask why, she gets very angry and will then arrange to spend more time at her friend’s house.
It seems that we spend all our time together arguing and she just won’t see sense and think about her future. It seems that I’ve become her worst enemy, and everything I say and do is criticised or argued with. In fact I think that she actually hates me.
I’ve talked to my husband and he thinks that this is just normal teenage behaviour and that I should back off; that we should just give her some space.
This is fine for him, as they still have a good relationship. I find that I’m worrying about my daughter all the time. Whenever she is out I really fret. I’ve tried to do everything to get her away from her new friends, who are clearly a bad influence on her, but with no success. Do you think she might have a mental health problem or be on drugs?
Your little girl is desperately trying to find herself a grown up new image.
Pony-riding A-grader to rebellious goth? She’s going to such extreme lengths because she thinks she needs to move as far away from her “childish” self as possible. Hence you’re now living with a daughter you no longer recognise!
In itself, this is a clear signal of how young and niaeve she still is. So take heart! You might well find that, as she matures, she realise she doesn’t need to be quite so dramatically different and go back to some of her former hobbies and start throwing herself into her school work again.
In the meantime, it IS going to be tough for you. I well remember my son’s teenage years; everything I said was the wrong thing and everything I did embarrassed him. But virtually every parent in the land experiences something very similar.
Kids need to change the nature of the relationship with their parents; it’s normal. It’s because they need you to start parenting them in a way which acknowledges they are moving towards adulthood and need to make their own decisions.
Remember that your daughter’s goth friends are probably going through exactly the same thing as her and that underneath that scary exterior, they are young, sweet and struggling to find out who they are.
My best advice is to make your home open house. Make them feel welcome at any time and talk to them about their lives. You will get to like them and they you. Your daughter will see that - and realise you are actually a pretty cool mum.
Okay, take a breath and relax.
I know it must seem scary that the little girl you know and love seems to have been replaced by a gothic monster whose only interests are in listening to awful music and hanging out with kids you don’t understand. But I’m sorry to tell you that doesn’t make her a freak - it makes her a teenager.
We all go through a strange period of adjustment and rebelling in our lives - whether it’s at 14 or 24 - when we want to try on different things and different styles or, even, different people for size. It’s an important part of growing up and figuring out who we are. The worse thing you can do, as long as your daughter isn’t actually doing anything wrong, is make her feel that she is.
Give her some room to breathe and I think you’ll find your relationship improves. You said your husband is having an easier time of it than you, as he still has a good relationship with her. Why do you think this is? Is he reacting less to the changes he sees in your daughter? My guess would be so.
Between 14 and 16, my own mum and I got along terribly. It was normal mother/daughter stuff and usually boiled down to the fact I couldn’t imagine my mum had any clue what my life was like. At a time in our lives when we could use the guidance of a woman who has been where we are and has dealt with all the same confusing complications of growing up that we are going through, most mums’ instincts are to act as if they’ve always known better.
I know it can be upsetting but I now consider my mum one of my best friends - hang in there, it will pass.
Jacqueline Lynch, consultant clinical psychologist and Director of Chrysalis Associates advises:
Adolescence is hard for both parents and teenagers, and it’s normal for parents to worry and even to imagine that drugs or mental illness causes the change. But this is the time when they start to develop their own identity, becoming closer to friends and less reliant on mum and dad. The hardest job is to accept that your little girl is growing into a young woman. You need to try parenting by negotiating. Your daughter is experimenting with her identity and associating with a group of young people that are the opposite of the child she used to be. Try to chat with her about things she is interested in. Don’t focus on the things that separate you, Invite her friends round and get to know them. And show that you respect her choices as a growing young lady,
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