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Teenage Problems/My daughter joined a cult,struggling to cope with this,need help,worrying me a lot

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I found out off two people this week that our 16-year-old daughter joined a cult.

Apparently, she's joined this group calling themselves "The Brotherhood Of The Sun" and has changed completely in behaviour; she's started to be very picky about what she eats, telling me that "I can't eat it, it's not in the list of foods they allow" and has also started to wear crop tops and hotpants a lot more than she used to (previously she liked smart dresses and blouses/skirts), and has started to over-eat as the cult prescribes. A family friend who had stopped in a layby to load up his car told me he'd seen her in a local field with 20-30 other people from this group; he didn't confront her so as not to make a scene.

Her college principal also phoned me to say that she'd been skipping lessons due to this cult, and trying to recruit fellow classmates into the cult, which shocks him.

It doesn't help that 3 girls and 1 boy in her college have joined Scientology; 1 boy quit college to go and live with Scientologists full-time, apparently he was "stress tested" by them.

Apparently this cult worships 30-40 gods, and the leader is never seen by members, but he shows up in a Mercedes S-Class with blacked-out windows at cult meetings.

Now my daughter is trying to recruit her 24-year-old sister and 19-year-old brother into the cult, but neither will do so, and she's getting annoyed with them.

She's even told us she has to go to this cult retreat meeting in Milton Keynes at the weekend (we live near Birmingham, and by train it's like 48 minutes away, by Google Maps), and that she will pay for the tickets herself.

Apparently this cult has, in our area, gained some local notoriety, for converting Christian, Jewish and Muslim girls into the "religion" and caused some uproar amongst parents. The cult is still obscure, compared to most religions, in fact they have no presence on social media, no Facebook, no Twitter, nothing.

I don't know how my daughter got into this cult, but I'm worried a lot about her, especially since I know little about cults, and my husband is worried a lot about her, with her behavioural changes etc.

If your child did this, how would you handle it?


Sorry to rush, I am on a shared computer here.

Answer
Hi Michelle,

Firstly, let me apologise for the delay in getting back to you; my paid work has been a bit manic and it has been difficult to find time to sit down at a computer and write you a reply. I also wanted to have a look at whether or not I could find any information on this cult and whether there was anything sinister about it, so this again, added to the delay. I apologise for not getting back to you sooner.

You are right about the cult being elusive and information that I have been able to gleam has been very sketchy and each item I read seems to contradict the other or appear to be writing about something else. It has not been easy to find any information that relates to the group other than historical information that I am not convinced is linked to the same group.

Cults usually start based upon a religious or philosophical idea that a person has which they then convince others to follow and believe in. From the idea, ways of life are established and patterns of behaviours develop (what should be done, what is not allowed etc) which means that those who join the cult become indoctrinated into a belief system that reinforces the original idea. Groups are usually led by a charasmatic person (usually a man) that is able to convince people (usually those who are young, vulnerable and needing some form of acceptance) into putting faith in the teachings that he/she delivers. In some cases, cults develop for financial gain and seek to exploit followers by promising more knowledge or asking for money as proof of a commitment to the cause; and this has left people bankrupt and emotionally scarred. Cults have been reputed to have caused splits in family, financial hardships and in some cases, death (through suicide pacts) but not every cult is the same so I am not suggesting that this cult is going to lead to any of these things; but it is worth being aware of incase they start to develop.

Why people join cults is a difficult question to answer because sometimes the ideas and beliefs suggested seem so absurd that it is difficult to believe that people can genuinely believe in them enough to complete alter their lifestyle. Sometimes, it is the leader of the cult that is the magnetic pressence; usually someone who exudes confidence and has an air of intellectual authority. This person can make the individual question their own beliefs and ditch them as being unrealisitc, whilst simultaneously cohercing the individual into outlandish behaviours. Cults prey on the vulnerable and the young because both of these groups can easily be coherced into questioning their identity and wanting acceptance. If a person does not feel like they are accepted amongst their peers or is struggling to find an identity, then they can become easy targets for a leader who is seemingly offering everything for nothing more than a commitment.

At 16, your daughter will be at peak of her emotional uncertainty; whereby she is at an age where she does not know what is going to happen in the future, confused about who she is and feeling like she is on her own. It could be that because of this and because of what has happened to other people at the college, that she has reached out and embraced this cult because she thinks it can answer all of her questions and solve all of her problems. It may also be an act of rebellion which most teenagers have against getting older and having to take more responsibility. This is likely to be the case if, as you have written, the group has received noteriety and a lot of parents are unahppy about it, that your daughter has decided to join this cult because it is quirky and different. Your daughter is typical of the kind of person (by her age) that is likely to be targeted by a cult and they will probably have sold the idea to her of it being a sociable thing where she can meet lots of people. Whatever her reasons for joining, how is the best way to deal with it?

It could be an idea for you, your husband or your older children to attend one of the meetings and see what is actually going on and whether or not it is something to be concerned about. It is only when you know what is being taught and said can you understand why she is behaving in the way that she is. If you do not think that this is a good idea, then ask your daughter to get some information or tell you about what is being taught and why. If it is a legitimate group that meets with positive intentions then it should have nothing to hide; it is only when information is withheld or secretive that you have to question their motives. With that in mind, I would ask your daughter if they have asked her to contribute any money to see if their motives are financial.

Finding out as much information as you can about this cult may help to settle your minds about whether or not your daughter is safe; but as this information is not freely available on the internet, you are either going to have to attend a meeting or rely on what your daughter says for you to make a judgement call. Asking your daughter about her motivations for joining and what she hopes to get from it, may help you to decide whether or not this is a phase she is going through or something she adimantly believes in. It might be worthwhile reading her Facebook posts if she has to see what she is posting as her status updates and specifically, regarding this cult and see if this matches what she is telling you.

The difficulty with this situation is the more that you try and discourage her from going or being part of it, the more likely she is going to embrace it so you have to take an interest but without letting her know what you are really thinking. Taking an interest by asking questions will also serve to build up a rapport between you and your daughter so that if there were concerns about this cult then she would be more likely to disclose them to you and tell you so you could intervene.

I know it must be confusing to think that your daughter wants to join this cult which is something that we do not know anything about but chances are she is only doing for either a reaction or to meet people. As long as the cult is not engaging in illegal activities or promoting such, and as long as they are not encouraging your daughter to do thinks that she would not normally do, the best course of action is to allow it to run its course and maintain an observant distance. Have faith in the way in which you have bought your daughter up in the sense that if she was asked to do anything untoward that she would say 'no' and tell you. Continue to be supporting and loving parents even though you don't understand what is happening and continue to be there for her if she needs you and chances are that you will all come through this sooner rather than later.

I hope this helps.  

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Daryl Taylor, BSc (Hons) Psychology, PGDip (pending certification)

Expertise

My expertise covers everything and anything to do with growing up, being a teenager or a young adult or being the parent of one of the pre-described. I can cover issues on identity, sexuality, love, relationships, families, drug/alcohol abuse and anything and everything in between.

Experience

I have volunteered for AllExperts.com for over ten years now, but even before that I was trying to use my experience to help others by working with Advice4teens.co.uk, Teenadviceonline.org and even Lycos and Ask Jeeves. My experience comes from being a teenager primarily but this lead me to work with young people from the age of 13. I have worked front line, face to face and over the telephone, e-mail and webchat for a government department called Connexions UK (aimed at young people aged 13-19); as well as being student counselor in New York, a Peer Mentor, a student teacher and working for my school, college and University to help raise the aspirations of young people. My life has not been easy and I have been through my fair share of issues; so there is little that I haven't been through in reality opposed to just reading it from a book or from my academic studies. I have been featured as a case study as achieving through adversity for a number of magazines and I have featured in a couple of books on both sides of the Atlantic; even though I am UK based.

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The Albert Kennedy Trust

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Relationships: Cathy Senker, 2012, Raintree The Dean and Chapter Positive Nation GTEN Television Aim Higher

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BSc(Hons) Psychology Post Graduate Diploma in Multidisciplinary Design Innovation Basic Counselling Skills Effective Listening Skills Mental Health First Aid

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Outstanding Student achievement Adult learner's Award

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Allexperts.com Advice4teensuk.org Teenadviceonline.org lycos.co.uk askjeeves.com Connexions Direct

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