The Teen Doctor

Answers to your questions about adolescents

A Single Parent & Teen Anxiety

How to handle single parent stress

Dear Dr. G.,

Last year my teenage daughter who is my only child and was a sophomore in high school had a difficult time during the last two months of school-May and June. She was sick for two weeks with a bad flu and seemed to have anxiety about returning to school after that. She went to school but would have trouble getting started in the morning. I was afraid she'd be late so unfortunately I started nagging her and yelling at her. This made things worse in my opinion. My daughter and I continued to fight every morning and my daughter seemed to go to school upset each day. Believe me, I was upset too. I needed to get to work on time. I am a single parent and I can't afford to show up for work late.

To make things even worse my daughter started getting stomachaches at night which would interfere with her getting her homework done. She didn't hand in a number of homework assignments and this affected her grades. Thankfully, she tests well and she still got decent grades. I got e-mails from her teachers. To tell you the truth this really stressed me because I couldn't force my daughter to do her homework. I did take away weekend privileges like sleepovers and socializing but this didn't make a difference.

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Dr. G., by the end of my daughter's sophomore year I was pulling my hair out. Now my daughter is starting her junior year and I am afraid that we will have a repeat of last year. Maybe this year will be even worse because my daughter will be starting to think about college and we both may get more stressed.

This summer has been a good one. My daughter worked at a summer camp where she taught arts and crafts to five year olds. She loved it. She got up on her own every morning and we really didn't fight. I am hoping that this school year is better than last year but I'm scared. Truly, I'm sorry to see the summer end. My question to you is how to ensure that this school year is better and smoother than last year.

An Anxious Mother

 

Dear Mother,

I read your letter a few times to sort out what may have been going on in your home during your daughter's sophomore year. I am happy to tell you that I have some very good ideas about what may have occurred to create the firestorm in your home. I am delighted that you sought out my advice.

Here are my thoughts:

1.It is not surprising that your daughter had anxiety about returning to school after being ill. That is not uncommon. Going back to school or even back to work after being ill often produces anxiety. We worry that we missed out on a lot and may not be able to catch up.

2.It is extremely stressful to be a single parent who is trying to juggle being a parent and likely the primary breadwinner. Your anxiety about getting to work on time likely made your daughter's anxiety about going to school worse. Anxiety is contagious. I am sure that this was not your intention.

3.I suggest that you and your daughter work on lowering the emotional intensity in the house. When emotions are running too high nothing good happens.

4.Please make sure that you have ways to calm down and catch your breath. It's important that you model this for your daughter.

AND

5. If these problems occur again this year consider going to a therapist with your daughter so that you can learn to interact with your daughter more effectively. I would like you both to feel better.

For more articles like this please see my website:

http://drbarbaragreenberg.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents.

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