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Counseling/Problem with teenage daughter


Hello! I'm a married woman with two teenage children: a son 19 yrs. old and a daughter 17 yrs. old. My son and I are very much alike and get along great, however, my daughter has been "changing" in her personality and attitude since she turned 15 yrs. old. Although she doesn't think so. We were always close and got along just fine, but here of late things between us have gotten so much worse! When I try to talk to her about what's going on she just yells at me and says such hurtful things to me such as not wanting to have a relationship or a connection with me at all, that she hates me and she won't even talk to me at all now. I'm always there for her doing everything I can for her such as driving her to high school so she doesn't have to ride the bus which she doesn't like doing, taking her shopping, out to movies, out to eat, taking her and her girlfriends different places, etc. etc. It's not like I'm a parent who never shows love and appreciation for her children or who lies around the house smoking, drinking or doing drugs. I'm nothing like that! But no matter how nice and loving I am towards her, she just keeps rejecting me over and over again and I don't know why and she refuses to tell me! She gets along fine with her father and is much closer to him now than to me and this hurts me so much! I'm close to my mother and I always thought my own daughter would be close to me, but things are changing for the worse and I don't know what to do. My husband has spoken to her about this situation, but he really doesn't even take up for me or "put her in her place" when she's being disrespectful towards me. He has no problem correcting his son, but never towards his daughter. If you have any advice on what to do to get my daughter and my relationship back on track I would greatly appreciate it!

Hi Susan - I can understand your hurt and frustration. My guess is you have at least two problems: (1) your daughter's reticence and rejection, and (2# the lack of empathy, priority, and support from your husband. I propose the second of these is the most important. You have a number of options about the latter:

Review your rights as a dignified woman, wife, and mother:

Get clear on what you need from your husband [e.g. respect, empathy, and priority]

Assert your needs with him firmly and respectfully:

Problem-solve any issues that come up, as teammates:

I propose that key issues with your daughter are [1] whether you respect yourself relative to your reaction to her rejection, and [2] whether she's lost respect for - and/or trust in - you for some reason/s. The former depends in part on your setting and enforcing appropriate boundaries with her disrespect, and not choosing to be a victim:

Can your son or other relative or family friend offer any insight into your daughter's change in behavior?

Finally, gain perspective from this summary article:

Overall, Susan, I suggest you mates consider family [vs. individual or marital] therapy. The problem is with all of you, not just you or your daughter.

If the above raises new questions, please ask!

Respectfully, Pete


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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.


I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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