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Parenting --Teens/adult daughter emotionally distant since childhood


My daughter is 20 years old. The past ten years has been a struggle for her and our family. It all started when she was around 9 to 10 years old. She started to act out, do poorly in school, and even gotten suspended from school for fighting. We decided when she was 11 to switch her schools thinking it was possible she was being bullied.

Everything was going great for the first half, when we caught her with a bag of marijuana shortly after her 12th birthday. Around this time, she started to act out. We sent her to see a therapist thinking something was bothering her. After a few sessions she flat out refused to go saying it was a waste of time because nothing wrong with her. She started to get into trouble at school again. I was getting phone calls home about her disrupting class, her locking herself in the bathroom at school and for getting into altercations with other students. We took her to see a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with social anxiety. She was prescribed atenolol.

Her teachers and we began to see a huge difference in her. She was paying attention in class and she stopped fighting with her classmates. At home, she still spent a lot of time alone in her bedroom, but she stopped acting out and would spend some time with her family.

Everything started to fall apart again when she started high school. She met this boy; at first, we thought he was a good influence. He was a year older, on the basketball team, his parents had decent jobs, and he did well in school. It wasnít long before I noticed her changing. She started to skip school, and her grades began to drop again. It was a few weeks before her 15th birthday when I caught her snorting cocaine. We immediately grounded her, taking away her phone, computer, and all forms of entertainment.

Things didnít get better. She continued to skip school, break curfew, and emotional shut down over the next year. By the time, she reached grade 11 she just dropped out completely. We started to really lose authority over her. She wouldnít listen to anything we would say, sneak out and stay out all hours of the night. We even reported her missing once when she didnít come home for two days. She started to abuse marijuana again.
By the time, she was eighteen we suspected she was smoking marijuana or snorting cocaine daily. It wasnít even six months after she turned of age that she began to use heroin. Any ambition or goals she had left were gone. She spent all her time getting high or finding ways to get high. Over the next eighteen months we had to kick her out four different times and each time she came back claiming to be clean.

This last time she returned after being in minimal contact and said she was on the methadone program. It has been almost six months and she hasnít touched any drugs not even marijuana. The problem is she is so emotionally distant. She doesnít appear to show any emotion. I havenít really seen her happy, mad or even sad.  Two months ago she did start to see a therapist once a week. When asked what is wrong she shuts down and says she doesnít want to talk about it. I am at a loss of what to do?


I would imagine part of the way she copes is to avoid emotion. This is probably what the drugs were used for at some point. She found help to stop using, but in the process she learned to protect herself to not experience the emotions. This may be what she needs until she can learn to let out emotions a bit at a time. I suspect there is some trauma from her past that went unresolved for a long period of time. Hopefully she is with a competent therapist that can help her. What I would suggest is that you don't try to control her life. This will probably push her back into her using life. What you could suggest is that you attend a session with her in order to understand her a bit better.

Doc David  

Parenting --Teens

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Dr. David Simonsen


I work with teens and parents on a weekly basis. I have learned that one way of parenting doesn't fit every teen. Being able to be flexible and a good listener can really cultivate a great relationship between a parent and teen. I will give you a no-nonsense pratical way to help your relationship


I am a Ph.D. level licensed Marriage & Family Therapist presently in private practice.



M.S. Marriage & Family Therapy; Ph.D. Psychology

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