11-17-2017 01:07 PM - last edited on 11-17-2017 04:00 PM by Ngaio-RO
My 15-year old daughter was recently diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She's currently taking medication and is seeing a therapist to help her manage her depression. She stopped going to school (which is a big thing to her since she is really smart and academically driven and is currently enrolled in a highly competitive and intellectually challenging school). She refuses to tell me what her thoughts or feelings are so I, as her main caretaker, is at a loss on how to deal with her. Is it ok for me to act happy in her presence (or would this make her more irritable)? If she acts irritated or withdrawn, should I just leave her alone or try to coax her out of it and let her do something? how can I motivate her to do some activities? how can I discipline her if she appears disrespectful? how can I teach her to at least verbally (or in writing) express her thoughts, fears, and feelings?
She self harms and because of this, I can't leave her alone. I am a working mom so this is really hard for me. Since she doesn't go to school, I sometimes bring her to work. I do not know though if it's making it worse that she does not have much alone time but I just cannot risk leaving her alone at this time.
It is so heartbreaking to see your child go through something like this and I want so much to help her but I do not know if what I'm doing is making her feel better or worse.
Is there a parent here who had undergone a similar experience? your thoughts on the matter would really be of great help.
11-17-2017 04:30 PM
I'm so sorry things are so difficult for you and your daughter at the moment. It's such an incredibly hard situation to be in. It's so natural for a parent to want to protect their child and it can be overwhelming to see them not just feeling bad but inflicting pain on themselves.
Just quickly, I made a tiny edit to your post. Just putting in self-harming instead of the other word you used, as that can be triggering for some. I hope that's ok. Also, I noticed your use of Mom, which tells me you're not based in Australia. That's fine too but it means we can't recommend any services to you.
Although it sounds like your daughter is engaging with services. Which is amazing!
It sounds like you're doing everything you can. Supporting her as best you can and getting her the help she needs.
My suggestion would be, regarding things like discipline and motivation for studies etc. is to try and get guidance from both your daughter and her psychologist. If you can open up a dialogue with your daughter so she feels that she can tell you what she needs and knows you'll hear her, that can really help you know how to respond to things. For example, if she behaves badly, there may be extenuating circumstances stemming from her anxiety or depression. It doesn't mean she's allowed to behave badly or treat you poorly but if you know her anxiety is really high, it will help you understand why she's not coping as well today or not responding as you would like her to.
It's absolutely no different to kids with physical ailments. If she had chronic back pain you would expect her patience to be short when the pain is very bad. There just might be times when she's not completely in control of herself.
Also, your daughter won't lose her sharp brain so she'll be able to study later!
11-17-2017 10:40 PM
I'm so sorry to hear of your daughter's struggles @DISTRESSEDMOM. It's heartbreaking seeing our kids hurting and unhappy and I really feel for you.
I think @Ngaio-RO suggestions are great and so I'll just add on some extras I've learned along the way with my daughter, who's also 15. Something that worked well for my daughter in learning about her emotions, was a mood chart. If you google 'mood chart' you'll find many from which you can choose your favourite. Choose one that shows the facial expression with the emotion name under it. We have ours on our fridge, and if you're daughter's not keen at first, start using it yourself. We have a little magnet each that we put on the emotion we are currently feeling. Having it on the fridge, she'll see it each time she gets a drink or something to eat. Even just by looking at the chart she can start to learn emotion names which I've found has helped my girl in expressing herself.
Another awesome thing we had was a 'Glitter Jar'. It was simply a big jar filled with water, with colourful glitter. When my daughter was irritated or frustrated she'd come out and shake the jar furiously, saying "my glitter is all over the place!!!" She could express her muddled head or heart that way instead of being rude or aggressive.
I have depression myself and I know the people around me are very well meaning, but I've found for myself that trying to be coaxed out of it makes me feel worse. The times I've tried to jolly my daughter out of bad moods has backfired incredibly too, which shouldn't have been surprising to me!
What I've found to be the best thing to do is ask my daughter if there's anything she needs me to do. I let her know I'm here if she needs to talk. Then I leave it with her and give her some space. She's learned over time to calm herself down quite quickly, so it's been a great life skill for her to learn.
As @Ngaio-RO said, we need to have the same compassion and understanding we would if our kids had a physical illness. I found I need to be a bit more lax on some things and pick my battles, but it doesn't mean my daughter rules the roost or that she is allowed to be disrespectful, abusive or aggressive towards me. We have consequences in our home, and they have been worked out by myself and my daughter together which mostly works really well.
I really feel for you with your daughter self harming but it's great that you can take her to work with you. Has your daughter given you any indication about how she feels about it? I used to get mine to help with simple things like filing, and she loved shredding all the old files. We were given a couple of alternatives to self harm. One was ice on the skin, and the second was an elastic band around the wrist to flick. The elastic band did the trick for my daughter, and combined with learning how to express herself, she no longer needs it which is such a relief for me. It's so frightening and worrying as a parent, so I hope your daughter finds some relief using one of those options.
11-24-2017 09:00 PM
Thanks @taokat and @Ngaio-RO for your response. They are very much appreciated. I wanted so much to tell my daughter about some coping mechanisms on self-harm I read online (such as the ones you mentioned, holding an ice cube and elastic band) however, I am hesitant since she might disregard it if the suggestion comes from me. I would rather that it comes from her therapist or someone she probably would follow. She refuses to talk to me about her feelings. She just clams up which is really frustrating.
Before I let her see a psychiatrist, she can still tell me if her friend who triggered her depression was bothering her or doing something which makes her anxious or cry. But when she started seeing her pyschiatrist, she no longer shares to me her feelings.
She used to be a sweet and very dutiful daughter. But now, she just ignores me when she feels like it. Doesn't answer me when she feels like not answering. Doesn't care to apologize if she hurts my feelings. Bosses me around. Honestly, I do not know how long I can hold on to my patience. And if I am enabling her if I do not call her attention about it. I am really so frustrated with how things are going.
11-27-2017 07:39 PM
It can be so difficult @DISTRESSEDMOM. We're human too and it hurts when our kids shut us out or treat us poorly. Implementing any change takes persistence and patience, but it can be so trying and so hard to keep it together at times.
My daughter can be very bossy and disrespectful sometimes. I let her know that I'm not going to engage with her when she speaks to me that way, and I don't. Sometimes I need to leave the room or go outside to get away and not let my thoughts take over which is when I get really upset.
With the self harm alternatives, maybe make a printout and leave it in her room with some elastic bands? Even if she initialy rejects the idea, you'll have planted the seed. Would that be something you'd be comfortable doing?