Dear Dr. G.,
My 12 year old daughter went from being a happy-go-lucky sweet, compassionate little girl to a withdrawn, manipulative teenager who has practiced cutting and had suicidal thoughts. My question to you- Dr Greenberg is...how does a parent who loves her daughter more than anything, navigate through the tough, unforgiving waters of teenage depression? What is the best way to support my daughter as she begins the long road of treatment? At times I still need to be her mom, asking her to clean the kitchen or straighten her bedroom, but sometimes I feel like that could be what pushes her over the edge. Then sometimes I will leave her alone and ask nothing of her and I feel she grows more distant. How can I communicate with her? I feel like I lost her somewhere inside herself and I have no idea how to retrieve her. Feeling very lost and helpless in all this...can you help to shed some light for me?
A Frightened Mom
I am so sorry that you feel so helpless. Of course, you don't want to do anything to push your daughter off the edge. On the other hand, you want to be able to talk to your daughter without worrying so much. You are right to be concerned that as communication diminishes so will the relationship.
I think that it is highly unlikely that asking your daughter to clean the kitchen or to straighten the bedroom will cause her to engage in self-destructive behavior but then again I don't know your daughter.
Good for you that you want to support your daughter during her course of treatment. You also need support and guidance for yourself and perhaps for other members of the family during your daughter's treatment. It seems crystal clear to me that there should be a family therapy component added to your daughter's treatment plan. The entire family needs tools to get along more efffectively.
Please contact your daughter's therapist and see if s/he has a family therapist that she works well with. Or, perhaps your daughter's therapist will suggest that you see an individual therapist. Please get back to me to tell me what treatment option you have chosen. You need support. None of us live in a vacuum and we all affect each others feelings and behavior particularly in a family setting.
Good luck to you, your daughter and your family. You will know that things are better when you can speak to one another without feeling like you are walking on pins and needles
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