. My 13 year-old daughter is having a difficult time with her
friends. . She comes home crying on a weekly basis. . Instead of
talking to them about a problem, she keeps everything bottled up
inside until she explodes.
. There is a group of about 14 girls that hang around together at
school and at lunch time. . My daughter is usually the first one to
the lunch table, when everyone else shows up she gets crowded out. .
She and another girl have started sitting at another table. . They
then explained to some of the friends why they were sitting there
and they are now mad at her and calling her a "princess" and bowing
to her. . This hurts her feelings and she has told them this. .
Unfortunately, it was not a very nice way in which she responded to
. She recently got her hair cut, now they are telling her she
shouldn't have--also saying that she has done this to look like a
certain friend. . I do not know what to say anymore. . I have tried
talking with her, but it just gets her more upset. . Anything you
can help us with would be greatly appreciated.
. Dear Krystal,
. It is an unfortunate reality that teenage girls can often treat
each other more unkindly than children at any other age. . It sounds
as if your daughter is interacting with a group that has begun
establishing a more rigid social hierarchy, which can be when the
teasing and social cuts become more painful. . However, one positive
for your daughter is that she is still part of the group, and it is
apparent that she continues to have friends. . My impression is that
what we need to help her with is how to respond to her friends.
. Most of the time, when a girl your daughter's age asks for
advice about what to do when other children are teasing unkindly,
she is told to "ignore them" or "tell a teacher." Unfortunately,
neither of these actions is really an option if your daughter wants
to remain within the group, and she knows this. . For most
teenagers, the peer group is the strongest influence in their lives,
and when it comes to social or relationship issues, their peers are
often more influential than the teen's parents. . Your letter
indicates that you are beginning to notice this change with your
daughter, because you are finding it more difficult to talk with her
about issues that upset her.
. However, it IS possible to maintain a close relationship with
your daughter throughout her teenage years. . In fact, it appears
that you already have a strong bond with your child, because,
although she becomes upset when discussing the issue of her friends,
she continues to talk to you. . She continues to tell you what is
happening to upset her, and she continues to want your input
(although it may not always feel that way). . When discussing these
issues with your daughter, I would suggest that you talk to her once
she has calmed down a bit. . When she is crying, tell her that you
love her, offer to give her a hug, and let her know that when she
feels ready to talk about what happened you will be there. . Sit
down with her in a favorite spot-at the kitchen table or living room
sofa with a cup of tea perhaps-and hear her out. . Then ask if she
wants suggestions and the two of you can engage in a little problem
solving. . I believe you might find that these times will become
very special to you both, and will work to strengthen the bond
between you and teach your daughter that she really can talk to you
about anything. . This, of course, is essential as she moves through
her teenage years and f increasingly difficult problems.
. Now, about her friends. . Teenage girls tease each other and
make unkind comments for two reasons. . First, they want to get a
reaction. . And, perhaps more important, they are trying to
establish themselves within the social hierarchy at school. .
Unfortunately, it is not always the nicest girls that are the most
popular. . Nice girls can be popular, certainly, and we all want our
daughters to be compassionate and kind. . Yet there will always be a
couple of girls in any class that have climbed the social ladder by
being pretty and making other girls appear less worthy of popularity
than they are.
. The best way for your daughter to cope with the girls that are
upsetting her is to show them that their comments are not making her
upset. . If she responds to the girls in a way that makes them look
foolish or unkind in front of the rest of the group, they will very
likely stop bothering her. . However, it is important that your
daughter does not begin to believe that it is acceptable to be mean
to others-this would put her in the same role as the unkind girls. .
Instead, you should explain that she can keep other girls from
making her miserable by showing them that she is not weak.
. For example, when the group of friends is bowing and calling
her a princess, a good response that comes to mind is, "Why thank
you, my subjects. . It's nice to see that you finally see my place
in the world." She can say this with a big smile, to show that she
is not taking herself too seriously, and the other girls will no
longer be in a position of power. . Or, on other occasions, if a
girl is simply being nasty and hurtful, she could always comment
that, "I feel bad for you. . You must have a really rotten life to
think that it's ok to be so vicious and mean," and then turn away. .
Again, the girl who is doing the teasing will no longer be in a
position of power-so what's the point of continuing?
. I hope these suggestions make a good start. . Please, let me
know if you need anything else.
. Dear Cheri ,
. I am trying to find answers to the problems I am having with my
9 year old daughter. . First, I must tell you I am not very good at
talking about my problems and probably will have things a little out
of order, but I will try my best because I am very concerned about
. From the time Brittany was born in 1994, she was not cared for
by her biological parents. . Her father is my oldest son, and
Brittany was her mother's second daughter. . The girls have two
different fathers. . When Brittany was two weeks old, I had her and
her 11 month old sister, Amber, removed from their home because of
the way they were being cared for. . My wife and I got temporary
custody of both the girls and then set about trying to get my son
and Brittany's mother to be better, more responsible parents.
. We had custody for the majority of the time for the next two
years. . There were trial periods when the girl's parents were
allowed custody so the various agencies could evaluate their
parenting skills, but the girls were always returned to us. . After
these trial periods failed, I decided to adopt both girls so that
they would have a stable home and not be shuffled around like Barbie
dolls. . When I say that I decided to adopt them it is because I did
not, at that time, know that my wife did not want to adopt them.
. After several years of court battles against their parents,
government agencies, (they didn't want to let me adopt Amber because
she was not a blood relative) we finally got to adopt both girls. .
It is here, I believe, that my troubles with Brittany actually began
because this is when my wife of 28 years left. . She said it was
because she had already raised her family and now was her time to
have fun. . I got shared custody of both girls and we went on with
our lives. . The girls live with me all the time and my ex-wife is
supposed to get them on certain holidays and a couple of months
during the summer.
. From the day she was born, Brittany has been like my own
daughter. . She clung to me like no other child I had ever seen. . I
had already raised three sons, but I was closer to Brittany than any
of my other children. . This continued until the past few months.
. About November, 2003, I really started to notice that Brittany
was not as close to me as she had always been, and that she was
being very defiant to everyone around her. . My ex-wife came to Ohio
to share Thanksgiving with us. . My mother had surgery and my ex was
going stay with her for two weeks to take care of her. . The third
day she was here, she was ready to go to my mother's for the night
and asked the girls to go with her. . They said they would rather go
spend the night with their biological mother and come home in the
morning to spend the day with my ex.
. I am sorry I forgot to mention, I told the girls about six
months ago that they were adopted and who their real parents are. .
Their mother has another 6 year old daughter by yet another man, but
has finally settled down and lives with a VERY good, Christian man.
. Amber and Brittany have a good relationship with her and Dan and
are actually at their home as I write this letter spending the day
with her and their sister, Chelsea.
. During this Thanksgiving incident, my ex-wife told the girls
that if they didn't go spend the night with her at their grandma's,
that she would pack her things and go back to Michigan. . The girls
decided to spend the night with their mother, and my ex packed her
things and went home.
. Brittany's behavior has been poor since about that time. . Her
grades have dropped, she doesn't want to listen to ANYONE, she pouts
a lot and says that the kids at school and church group don't like
her and poke fun of her, etc.
. I found a note to a boy that she has liked all school year. .
It had the normal questions on it, do you like me circle yes or no,
etc., but the last question really upset me. . She asked him, "Do
you want to have sex with me". . I have always talked to the girls
about all subjects and they know that having sex is something that
they should wait until they are married to do, where babies come
from, about their periods (thanks to my sister!), etc. . This was
when I really realized that I have to find out what is wrong and get
her back on the right track.
. I hope this letter is not too confusing and that you can spare
a little of your busy time to help me with Brittany. . I must tell
you that Amber is a wonderful daughter and does not show any of the
signs that Brittany does. . She does have her certain problems,
because she was a drug baby, but copes with everything very well. .
Her grades are good and she seems to be a very happy girl. . Thank
you for anything you can do.
. Dear Don,
. You are absolutely right in asserting that your daughter is in
need of help. . And, with the situation you describe, it is
perfectly understandable that your daughter would be confused,
angry, frustrated, and scared. . I would like to preface my answer
by stating that, although I might be able to give you some insight
into Brittany's behavior, I think it is essential that you seek
professional help for her. . In fact, I believe you and your
daughters would benefit from family therapy. . I strongly think that
Amber will eventually exhibit significant issues as well, because
she is coping with the same difficult problems as her sister.
. You mention that your daughter's behavior problems began last
November, which coincides with your announcement that you were not
their father, but their grandfather. . This information could cause
any child to become very emotionally distraught. . It would not
surprise me if Brittany is very angry with you because you lied to
her. . I understand that you and your ex-wife may have had your
reasons for deceiving the girls, but the fact is that deceive her
you did. . Your daughter is old enough to feel betrayed, and it may
take some time until she can forgive you. . And honestly, although I
am certain that your daughter loves you and always will, I would not
expect your relationship to ever be the same as it was before you
told her the truth. . This is one of the issues that need to be
addressed with a therapist.
. You also gave some insight into your daughter's relationship
with your ex-wife, the woman she believed was her mother. . You
stated that your ex-wife decided to leave you to raise the girls by
yourself so that she could have her freedom. . You also allude to
the fact that she does not spend much time with Brittany or Amber-by
choice. . Brittany is aware of this. . Also, losing a mother to
divorce is difficult for any child, but if the child also realizes
that her mother has chosen not to interact with her on a consistent
basis, the normal abandonment issues he or she feels will be much
more intense. . Add that Brittany was then told that your ex-wife is
not her mother after all, and the abandonment and resulting feelings
of low self-esteem get worse, not better. . Your ex-wife's behavior
last Thanksgiving further cemented these feelings. . I am afraid
that your daughters were testing her to see if they were important
enough for her to wait for-and she failed the test. . This is
another issue that needs professional intervention.
. The incident last November must have further upset your
daughter because your ex-wife forced her to choose between her and
her biological mother. . Brittany's relationship with her mother is
extremely confusing and tenuous for her right now. . Although she
has a good relationship with her at last, she still feels abandoned.
. And while she may love her new sister and her mother's significant
other, imagine how she must feel watching them live the happy,
normal life she must feel that she deserved. . She may feel that she
wasn't "good enough" for her mother to care for properly, and this
will lower her self-esteem even further. . I am not indicating that
I question for a moment whether or not you provide a loving home for
your daughter, but again, the unfortunate way Brittany discovered
she was adopted has damaged her relationship with you, which might
be causing the yearnings an adopted child feels for his or her
biological mother to be more intense. . Therefore, her relationship
with her biological mother is another issue that needs to be
discussed with a professional.
. Finally, regarding the disturbing letter you found to her
classmate. . You did not indicate how you handled the situation, but
I have a suggestion. . It is essential; of course, that Brittany
understand that sexual behavior at her age is clearly wrong. .
However, she may be seeking male attention and is doing so in an
inappropriate fashion. . This behavior, of course, can be very
dangerous. . This issue should be addressed immediately.
. Again, I strongly suggest that you not only seek individual
therapy for Brittany, but that family therapy be considered as well.
. Your relationship with your daughters has been changed forever. .
They have had some very, very, difficult issues to cope with in the
recent past. . It is clear that you are a dedicated and loving
father-please; get the help your family needs.
. I would appreciate an update on how your family is doing.