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Ask a Professional: Naughty 13 year old girl

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Ask a Professional: Naughty 13 year old girl

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Ask a Professional: Naughty 13 year old girl

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I’ve been battling dealing with my 13 year old out of control daughter for almost 12 months. We live in a small country town, so waited quite some time to get professional help. At the moment, I’m struggling to get to to go to school. She says she hates school & has no friends. I’ve offered her to change schools, but she doesn’t want to. I’m at the point where I’m sick of going up to the school for meetings & them ringing/txting me, because she just doesn’t want to be there. I’m a single mum with a 6 year old also. I do shift work & on the days I’m home, I could spend till lunch time, trying to get her to go to school. She just wants to stay home & do nothing. She is on medication for anxiety & depression.


Hi @Evelyn , 

What a tough situation to be in - it sounds like you have a lot on your plate, so no wonder you are feeling frustrated.

You mention that your daughter is on medication for anxiety and depression - does she feel like it is helping her anxiety and mood? If not (and she has been on the medication for at least 6 weeks), I would recommend seeing the prescribing doctor again - because everyone is different, sometimes medication needs to be adjusted before finding the dosage and medication which works best.

I understand it took some time before your daughter was able to see a professional - I’m not sure if this was for the medication, or if she has been able to see a psychologist or counsellor as well. Seeing someone in addition to being on medication is usually really helpful, because it can help people work out other strategies which will help improve their mood and help reduce their anxiety, which can help improve behaviour. If it’s likely to be a while before your daughter can see someone, she might be open to trying some self-help tips as a starting point.

If your daughter is feeling anxious and depressed, it’s not surprising she doesn’t want to go to school. But, not going to school isn’t going to help her mood long-term (and the longer she is away the more anxious she may feel about going back). So it’s great that you have been doing your best to get her to go to school. It could also be really helpful to explore with her what parts of school are particularly difficult, and if there is anything which would make it easier.

It sounds like you have found your conversations with the school about this pretty frustrating so far. Instead of waiting for the next time they call you, you may find it helpful to arrange to speak with them to ask about what they can do to support you in this. It is reasonable to expect them to be able to offer some support or accommodations to make things easier, and asking for this directly can be the best way to make sure they offer some form of support. This could take the form of a school counsellor or student welfare officer, or could mean that your daughter is allowed to attend a shorter day at first (if this makes it easier for her to go), or able to skip activities which make her particularly anxious (such as talking in front of the class).

There’s also some more information about tackling school refusal here:

One last thing - it’s okay not to be perfect at this. Even if you are only able to get your daughter to go to school some of the time, this is more often than she would be going without your perseverance and hard work. It can take time for improvements to be noticeable, and there will be ups and downs. Some parents find it helpful to take note of good days or ‘wins’ which can help keep you going on the days where things are especially tough.

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.

Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: Ask a Professional: Naughty 13 year old girl

Hi Evelyn,

So sorry to hear about your struggles with your daughter, and I know first hand how frustrating that is. I have a 17 year old son and 15 year old daughter. My son is on the NDIS and has had OT and psychology and I've been involved with the school. His OT also has teenage kids and works with kids in this age bracket. I was very frustrated with trying to get him there, but he reminded me of how hard school can be for some kids, and you mentioned that your daughter has no friends. If that wasn't just a turn of phrase, that's a really hard spot for a teenager and looking at ways of helping her make friends could help. There are quite a few programs around being a friend and improving social skills. Both my kids have been in scouts, and maybe picking up a sport, craft some kind of hobby and making friends there would help. My son has really benefitted from scouts and our church youth group, while our daughter has her dance friends and was in scouts when she was younger. 

Is your daughter close to your six year old? 

Maybe some family board games like Monopoly or playing Uno at home might help. You learn a bit bit of social interaction there. 

Also the school library is a place where many kids who don't have a lot of friends can go at lunchtime at school. 

Meanwhile, it sounds like you have very little time to look out for yourself, but I do encourage you to get a breather...even a cup of tea. 

Take care & best wishes,