Need help now?

Ask a Professional: Feeling exhausted by parenting a teen

Discussion forum for parents in Australia

Ask a Professional: Feeling exhausted by parenting a teen

Community Manager

Ask a Professional: Feeling exhausted by parenting a teen

Message contains a hyperlink

I am truly hating this teen stage of being a parent. My 16 ½ yr old daughter has had a very difficult 4yrs with bullying and mental health issues as a result. I have been there as a sole parent throughout it all supporting her, being on suicide watch, caring for her, driving 3hrs to a therapist, you name it I've been there.

You would think this was my issue (well it was for a long time and still is on my mind but thankfully through those dark days I hope). My issue is she is so sneaky, dishonest, lies to my face - I have found a vape in her room and she still denies she is vaping, is nasty, disrespectful and as a result I feel so disconnected from her.

I get a lot of these behaviours are expected teen stuff, but how do I cope with the paranoid, catastrophising thoughts I have and more than anything the hurt and rejection I feel pretty much daily? Yes, I do have counselling but it just doesn't seem to help. Yes I am trying to focus on my self-care but it is really hard when you go somewhere, come home feeling great and then wham, Ms Jekyll is waiting for me at home to remind me that feeling happy and hopeful does not feature in my life and I come crashing down to reality.

I've heard so many times she'll grow up. She'll realise one day what she did and say sorry. Ra ra ra. Does not help.

I am exhausted. I feel shattered and doubt everything I do/say now as a mum.


Dear @Ajsmumma,

With everything that you have been through as a parent over the last four years, how heartbreaking that you are also having to deal with this attitude from your daughter as well. It sounds like you’ve really reached your limit, and aren’t sure what else you can do to manage this frustration and sadness.

It sounds like you have tried a number of things to help you cope. A lot of parents struggle with self-care, so it is impressive that you do take the time for this. Even though the moments of feeling happy and hopeful don’t last, it is a positive sign that you can feel this way even in fleeting moments.

You mention that you are doing counselling but it is not working. It can be really tough when you put the time and effort into counselling and it doesn’t work out. I would like to explore that a little more, because it can actually be really common to have this experience, but it isn’t always talked about. I'm not sure if you’ve let your counsellor know that you’re not noticing an improvement as a result of counselling.

If you haven’t this can actually be a helpful place to start. Even though this conversation can feel awkward, it is an important one. Therapy approaches aren’t one size fits all, but instead can be a process of individual trial and error and getting feedback from you can help the counsellor identify how to adapt their approach, or perhaps even try a different approach altogether which might be more helpful for you.

If you feel that the counsellor you are seeing hasn’t been responsive to feedback, or just isn’t the right person for you, then it is absolutely okay to see someone else. Different therapists will have different therapeutic approaches, and also personal rapport is an important part of counselling - if someone’s style doesn’t suit you or their approach isn’t one which helps you gain new perspective then it can be helpful to try someone else.

When looking for a new counsellor or psychologist, it can be helpful to ask them about their approach before the first session, as this can give you a sense of how they work, and whether they will offer something different to what you have already tried.

Some people also find that they benefit more from peer based support. Carer peer workers have lived experience of caring for a loved one with mental health difficulties, and another way of accessing peer support is via support groups. Your local hospital or community mental health team may be able to advise on local services, or you may find it helpful to contact the Family & Carer Mental Health Program (in NSW, other programs exist in other states).

Because the main concern at present seems to be the relationship between you and your daughter and how she responds to you, family counselling is another option, if you think she would attend. Family counselling can help families find new ways of responding to each other, and strengthen relationships. Having you both talk together with the therapist facilitating the conversation and helping keep things on track may help your daughter understand your perspective, and give you insights on how best to respond when you are feeling rejected by her.

All of these approaches do take some time, and I know that this is hard when you have already been through so much. It’s clear from your post you are a really caring parent who has put a lot of energy into supporting your daughter. When you have those moments of doubting yourself, I encourage you to remember that even the best of parents can experience these kinds of challenges, and to continue to seek support.

Best wishes,

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.