As a parent with a daughter, your hands will be full when it comes to navigating her emotional life, especially during adolescence. Between the pressures of social media, friendship drama, and body image, there’s plenty of room for your daughter to decline into bouts of anxiety, depression, and reckless behavior. But it’s possible for you to help her come out stronger and wiser from her teen years. The key is to disrupt her negative thought patterns that are pushing her to spiral down. Here are five ways to work with your daughter through turbulent times, even when it seems like she couldn’t care less about your help.
Empathize With Her
Whatever is triggering her this time, your daughter is scared and angry. Ask her to talk to you, but don’t force the issue. Even if she chooses not to talk to you, showing empathy is most important. Empathy is your ability to imagine how your daughter is feeling and respond to her with love, care, and understanding.
When you put yourself in your daughter’s place, you’ll better understand how to comfort her. When you’re empathetic towards her, you’re validating your daughter’s emotions, so she doesn’t feel so alone or wrong for how she views her problems. As a result, she will have the breathing room to reframe or reinterpret her problems, which can halt or slow down her decent into more dangerous behaviors.
Ask Her What She Needs
Your daughter wants someone to listen. Ask her what she needs to feel better. And, yes, you might hear her say she needs illegal substances or for you to disappear, but that’s not what she really needs or wants. Here are some ways to interpret her responses:
- Feeling alone and isolated: If she says she feels all alone, she may need help handling the other adults in her life, such as teachers, coaches, an older male, or other parents. Offer help when possible.
- Feeling exhausted: If she says she’s tired of life, she may really need more solid, quality sleep and better nutrition. However, this could be a more serious cry for help that requires the intervention of a mental health professional.
- Feeling trapped: If she says she feels trapped and suffocated, maybe you two need to go on a drive for some fresh air.
- Needing freedom: If she says she needs her freedom, maybe she needs a walk or time with a healthy friend away from the house.
- Needing friendship: If she says she needs new friends, be that friend while still parenting her.
Give Up Controlling Her
It’s easy to somewhat control the actions and behaviors of a five-year-old, but it’s just about impossible to control a teen. You may want to demand that she behaves a certain way or stops feeling an emotion to get her out of her depression. Usually that backfires with a teen who may or may not be troubled. To truly help her, try your best to be less critical of her behavior, thoughts, and feelings and more nurturing (and remember — empathetic).
Do Something Together
You might be under the impression that your daughter doesn’t want to spend one more second in the same room with you. The opposite may be true. She may be yearning for your company, but doesn’t know how to express her needs, even when asked. Suggest doing something simple in the moment, even if it’s just watching a silly YouTube cat video for three minutes. Even the most hardened troubled teen daughter may say yes. And here’s an extra (and extra difficult) tip: ignore her eye rolls and develop a thick skin to her insults.
Find Professional Help
Sometimes your daughter’s problems are simply too much for you to handle. A mental health professional may break through her hardened veneer. Your daughter may initially resist going to counseling. Give her the option of interviewing a few counselors herself to see if there’s a fit.
If you think your daughter would benefit from more intensive counseling, visit turningwinds.com. You’ll find a compassionate and understanding community of professionals who truly understand the complexities of your family’s challenges.