Parenting --Teens/troubled daughter


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 can hear your heart hurting and the level of concern and stress through this message. I know you have been on quite a journey with your daughter over the past 10 years and your only hope is to see her be a happy and productive adult.

Either through instinct or experience you have learned that while you can't control your daughter, you can influence her decisions by controlling her environment. That is a lesson that many parents never get, so hats off to you. Unfortunately, you will not be able to control this situation either. Your gut instinct is probably correct, there is probably something there that you need to be aware of. A grain of information that will make this whole journey make sense. She's just not ready and the more you push, the more she will withdraw. You have done and or supported the best situation right now by allowing her to process it all with a therapist. I know you are thinking, "Why not me? I would understand, I love her unconditionally". Sometimes its easy to tell a stranger that you don't have to live with and that you can process things with at your own pace. Telling a parent that you live with or have a lot of contact with may feel that it's open for discussion at anytime.

So what to do? Continue to be supportive and give her some space. Consider speaking to a therapist to prepare yourself for the day she is ready and can help you also continue to be strong, supportive and loving.  Probably not the magic bullet you were hoping for, but as a fellow mom of 31 daughters, many who came from abusive situations and traumatic events it was the advice that was given to me early on and saved my sanity many nights. On the flip side, most of my foster daughters are in their mid 30's and because they know I can respect their boundaries they still share when they are ready and need a mom and now, friend.

Good luck. Take care of you!


Parenting --Teens

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Penny K


I enjoy assisting parents in parenting atypical teenagers that do not respond well to normal parenting techniques. I am able to provide parents with a straight forward behavioral approach that has proved to be successful.


My husband and I have raised 31 daughters, 29 of our children were foster teens who ranged in age from 11-18. I was a site director for a local group home for adolescent girls, an Executive Director for the Children's Policy Council and the Executive Vice President for a residential treatment facility that specialized in alcohol and drug treatment for adjudicated adolescent males and provided comprehensive assessment to adolescents in the custody of the state. I have been a staff trainer for the Boys Town Model of Care and for the past 10 years I am the lead facilitator for the Parent Project parenting class in my county. In the past 20 years of my career I have assisted over 2000 adolescent youth and their families.

Boys Town Behavioral Management Trainer Parent Project Facilitator

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