04-12-2021 03:12 PM - last edited on 07-27-2021 01:06 PM by Janine-RO
Ask A Child And Family Professional
So my daughter who is turning 19 has moved out of home and since she has done this is very up herself. She is very irritated by anything I say to her and if I don’t agree with her she is very quick to get in a strop and hang up on me or storm out of my house. She does not want me or my sons at her house and does not make any effort to keep a relationship with us even though we have tried and tried with her.
It just seems that she is only nice when she wants something from me. Which is very upsetting as she was not bought up this way and seems to have changed once she moved out.
All she says to me is that she’s quite happy not to talk or to see me and complains that she has nothing to talk to me about.
Do I just leave her for weeks on end with no communication? I don’t want her to feel abandoned but she is making it very hard to be in contact with her and I just end up in tears with sleepless nights and she really doesn’t care if she is in contact. Everything has to be on her terms.
Hi @Sandra57 ,
It sounds like it has been both frustrating and tiring to have been putting all this work into trying to have more contact with your daughter. It’s really understandable that you would be feeling upset about this.
At the moment it seems like you’re stuck in a bit of a pattern where you are trying harder and harder to improve things, and that you are always the one reaching out and initiating contact, and your daughter pushes away. Often in situations like this, the more one person reaches out, the more the other person retreats.
Contacting your daughter less often provides some space for her to be the one who contacts you. This might not happen right away, and the level of contact might not be as much as you would prefer. However, giving your daughter some sense of control regarding contact with you will help foster a more positive relationship moving forward. It might be with a little time apart, she will be more able to identify the positives and benefits that come with spending time with you and have a chance to miss you.
You’ve identified that you don’t want your daughter to feel abandoned, which is a sign of how much you care about her. Contact doesn’t need to be all or nothing - you could trial contacting her less often without this meaning you are never able to contact her. There’s no ‘right’ amount of contact - it is very individual from family to family, and it might take some time to find the right amount.
It can also be really helpful to let your daughter know that you’ve heard what she has said about not feeling the need to talk to you as often and as a result you won’t be calling her as much, but that she is welcome to get in touch with you. This makes it clear to her that your reduced contact is intended to be supportive, and it also places some of the responsibility for maintaining the relationship between you with her. This may feel a little counterintuitive, but placing some responsibility on her can help stop the pattern of you putting in more and more effort and her pulling away.
At the moment, it sounds like when you do speak with her, these interactions often don’t end well. I also encourage you to notice whether there are particular patterns which tend to result in her ending the conversation. For instance, if there are certain topics of conversation she seems particularly irritated by, try focusing on topics which are less contentious.
A common challenge for parents of young adults is that they may want to provide advice and guidance when their child is living independently for the first time (especially if the child is telling them about some of the practical challenges associated with living out of home). Unfortunately, this kind of advice isn’t always well received - sometimes the young adult can feel like the parent isn’t recognising they are no longer a child, or can feel criticised even when this is not what the parent means. I am not sure if this may be part of what is happening with your daughter, but since it is so common I thought it would be relevant to mention. If you think this might be happening, it can be helpful to only offer advice if invited, and otherwise just acknowledge how she’s feeling about the situation without trying to solve it for her (even if you have some really great advice to give).
If there are times when conversations with her go better and she does not end them abruptly, you may find it helpful to think about what is happening in those conversations that help (topics discussed, things you say to which she responds more positively).
You mention some sleepless nights, and it’s clear this has been really difficult for you. I would encourage you to also make sure that you are looking after yourself during this difficult time - reaching out to supportive friends, taking time to do things you find relaxing, and any other strategies you have used in the past to deal with stress. If you find that even after doing these things you are feeling more and more upset, it may help to have some individual counselling.
Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families, in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.
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