Parenting --Teens/18 year old daughter

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Question
Hi Kjirstin,

I am the mother of 2 daughters.  One is 23 and in her last year of college the other is 18 and a senior in high school.  The senior keeps disappointing us.  Her Freshman year she kept running away, having promiscuous behavior and using drugs.  At one point she was even claiming that we were abusing her.  After some help from Psychiatrists and some medication to treat depression we began to get the little girl we cherished back to some degree.  She was getting straight A's, had joined the Dance team and was planning on attending college.
   Now She is planning on only attending a community college .  She really wants to be a tattoo artist.  Recently she quit the dance team so that she did not lose her part time job at a dress shop and can move out sooner.  I am at my wits end.  What do I do.  I can not stand to see her throw her life and all of her talent away.

Answer
Dear Leslie-

Hmmmmm. I am hoping the psychiatrists gave her the correct diagnosis, as this behavior can sometimes indicate bipolar illness, which responds differently to antidepressant drugs. If the behaviors are worsening, I'd contact her psychiatrist to address that possibility. There are some excellent bipolar medications now available which can bring a person to 100% normalcy IF they can understand they need these drugs for LIFE. Problems can occur, as once they start feeling well, they think they can stop the medication, and the whole cycle begins again.  

Since she is eighteen, she is technically an adult, and doesn't have to listen to anything you suggest, including doctors and medication, so count yourself blessed if she continues.

When an older child, particularly of the same sex, is a model child, the second one sometimes realizes they will never be able to match up to the expectations set by the first. Instead, they go out of their way to find oppositional behaviors that will drive their parents loopy. It's a great way to get attention, even at the cost of a productive life. If you had seen it sooner, say, when she was thirteen, you may have been able to shower her with affection whenever she did something good, and ignore all bad behaviors. At this late stage, it is probably too late to use this strategy, as she no longer cares if she pleases you, and in fact is more likely aiming to hurt.   

The best thing you can do right now is convince her you love her no matter what she decides to do with her life. (You can love HER even if you hate her CHOICES.) If she will continue in therapy, and it turns out she does have bipolar tendencies, you may see changes for the better as soon as she is properly diagnosed and treated. If it turns out she is perfectly healthy and just doing this to hurt you or to prove she's not her sister or because she loves tats (some people are simply artists, and want to use the body as their canvas...I'm not saying it's a good thing, but it is a possibility...and if that's the case, perhaps you could send her to art school instead...)or if she just wants to follow a different drummer, she is eighteen. You'll have to let her go.

Good luck, Leslie.  

Parenting --Teens

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Kjirstin

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My own dysfunctional youth in an alcoholic family helped me decide to raise my children with love, acceptance, and honesty. It must have worked. We`ve got terrific kids. Those I've answered on this site usually feel I've been helpful in their unique situations. Our world is so much better when we lift instead of crushing. Every child is worth more than any bank can hold. If I can help at all, it will be in teaching both parent and child of their own personal value to humanity, and how to punch through the noise of the moment to find their greater purpose. Together, we can all make a better world.

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