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Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

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Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

Prolific scribe

Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

I really need some advice.
I am really upset and not sure what to do.
We have a 13yr old daughter who over the last 6 months has just gone down hill emotionally and confidence wise. Last year she was very confident and had really high self worth. She was very outgoing and quite social. These last 6 months she has become withdrawn, sullen, angry, backchatty and disrespectful. She is fighting more with her younger brother and being quite nasty.
Everything came to a head last week when I asked why she was lashing out at us over everthing and she let everything out. She was really unhappy at school - its a very small school and shes kind of stuck with the kids that are there and cant really chose her own friends. The girls are clicky and my girl is not a leader but not a follower so gets frustrated when everyone follows the leader and she gets upset and isolates herself by ignoring them...if she hangs with the boys who are her really good friends they tease her...such a difficult situation for her. Her confidence and self esteme has been knocked down so far she has given up...she said she just doesnt have the energy to stand up for herself any more. Shes too tired. This completely broke my heart. To hear how sad and unhappy she is. She asked if she could change schools to a bigger school and after much dicussion and looking at it from every angle we agreed to move schools half way through the yr. As soon as we agreed we saw a huge lift in her and she has been really happy.
Last night she was very disrespectful towards her dad and I and there was a massive argument. We as parents feel lost and dont know what to do with the constant backchat and anger towards us...she is always on her ph or computer or hiding out in her room and tonight I discovered she has attempted ...self harm and it scared the crap out of me.
Please help with any advice as we are feeling completely lost as parents and scared for our girl.

Star contributor

Re: Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

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Hi there @Moloko Welcome to ReachOut parents! You have taken a step in the right direction by gaining support from other like minded parents. You both sound as though you have so much love and respect for your daughter, such a beautiful thing. I can't imagine how hard it is when she does not give the respect back and says hurtful things. A very hard time too for her going through all of these hormonal shifts and developing an identity as a young woman. There's a couple of services that could be helpful, one for her is Kids Helpline; they're really great and can help talk her through the school stuff, they have a webchat here.


For yourself too there's ParentLine 1300 30 1300, they're specialists in this area if you need further emotional support.


Are you and your husband exercising much self care? It's important if you can, for the two of you to make sure you get some time to yourselves where possible. Baths, walks, meditations etc. Also I had to do a small edit of your post around self harm, just omitting a specific word. We absolutely talk about self-harm but just need to be mindful around method. 

Star contributor

Re: Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

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Hi @Moloko  Welcome to the Reach Out Parents forum and thank you for sharing whats been going on for you and your daughter over the last 6 months.  


I can sense how much you care and love your daughter and I am sorry to hear that things have not gone so well lately.  It is awful to see your kids so upset and struggling, especially if your daughter has gone from an outgoing confident girl to someone who now has low self esteem and just wants to give up.  I can appreciate how scary it would have been for you to find out she has started self harming.


it sounds like your daughter is self harming as a way of coping with the difficulties she is facing.  You can find some information about self harming on the Reach Out website or you can Click here and Click here


You may want to consider taking your daughter to your GP so they can do a mental health assessment.   They might refer her to a psychologist or counsellor who will help support her during this difficult time.  Also, if she sustains any injuries from self-harm do not hesitate to seek medical attention.


Do you know why things have changed so much for her at school ?


What sort of things have you tried since you noticed a change in her behavior?


Hope to hear from you soon

Frequent scribe

Re: Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

Hi Moloko


Am so sorry to hear how sad your daughter is at the moment.  It is so awful to see our kids struggle and suffer.

Have you considered speaking to the school? perhaps they may be able to give you some insight into why she is unhappy and also the struggles she is having with the friendship groups.

 I agree with Zoeplace it is important to get try get your daughter to see your GP and speak to psychologist and or psychiatrist.  I can only imagine how frightened you and your husband are to realise she is self harming.

The positive thing is at least you now know and can get her some help.

You mentioned she spends a lot of time on her phone/computer.  I would suggest you and your husband set some guidelines around her usage.  She is so young and while you can get her into better habits.  It may not seem a priority at the moment but it would concern me that the kids who are not being nice to her at school can continue to hassle her online too.

I really hope things improve for your girl.

Prolific scribe

Re: Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

Thank you so much for your support. It has helped just writing everything down and knowing there are parents going through or have been through the same thing and can offer great advice.

Prolific scribe

Re: Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

Hi there, Thanks so much for you's been a very emotional couple of weeks. 

I have spoken to her school and teacherSmiley Happy

Everything came to a head last week . I received a text from her saying "mum I need you", "I need a hug, the girls at school are being really mean". That is not a normal text my daughter would send so I jumped in the car and picked her up from school and when I sat down and she poured her heart out to me about feeling very alone and isolated at school and felt like she had no friends that she could talk to or trust. Its a very small school so you are pretty much stuck with what you get and my daughter has always been feisty and knows her own mind so sometimes friendships can be a challenge. She feels like she cant chose her friends because of how small the school is and she can't get away from the girls when the are being catty and mean. She is not a follower or leader so she gets frustrated. They are subtle in their ostracising, a few of us parents have noticed it. Her friendships outside school are great. She asked if she could change schools, she has been asking all year but we kind of brushed it off. 


To show her that I was listening and supporting I made enquiries to another local school. A lot bigger and the process was pretty simple. This made her smile...I think it gave her a bit of hope. I then talked with her teacher and was in tears as I explained what my daughter was feeling. He had no idea but was very supportive and noticed she had been really down lately. In my daughters eyes changing schools was the only option she wanted. She didn't want to run away she said, she wanted to go to a new school to meet new people and be able to chose her own friend groups and experience new things a bigger school has to offer, she was just so tired of trying to stick up for herself and sick of the crap going on and she just felt alone and trapped.


We all talked, cried and talked some more and looked at all of the options and pros and cons of moving school and asked her some tough questions, which she had really mature answers for, I was impressed, she has really thought long and hard about moving. We talked with her teacher and her principal and they were amazing and said we needed to do what was best for our daughter. I see this choice and incredibly brave, going from a tiny school to a massive school. We decided after much thought and talking to say yes and enrolled her and she started this week. She is so much happier so far, I don't have to drag her out of bed and she doesn't try and fake a sore stomach to stay home. She is up and ready and walks herself to and from school, which I think she is enjoying.


I only noticed the self harm last night ....I knew what it was straight away as I have supported a few girls through this  when I was teaching and when I called her on it she said it was the cat a few times then opened up and told me the  truth. I didn't freak out or tell her to stop, I just asked her questions. She said she only tried it last week when things were at their worst at her old school and she said she didn't like it and didn't want to do it I believe her? I will keep an eye on it to see as I know how addictive it can be especially when things go wrong.

As I processed everything it all just fell into place at how much she has changed over the last 6 months....she has gone from a vibrant, funny, sassy, competitive, confident, social girl with great self esteem and wouldn't take any crap from anyone to a unhappy, sad, sullen, moody, withdrawn and quite angry child whose self esteem and confidence has just plummeted and has no energy to stick up for herself anymore. She doesn't want to try things now for fear of failing, which is so not like her. It beaks my heart. We had put it down to hormones and the such but now realised we missed what was going on at school and I am devastated over that but also very grateful that she is talking to me and that we took the first steps in making her life a bit happier by moving schools. 


I would really like her to see someone to help build her self esteem back up but at the moment she is not open to talking to anyone and says she doesn't want to talk to strangers. How do I get her to go and see someone on her own, not forcing her. I am going to look at the email side on the above link and see if she would be open to that.


Being on her ph all the time....we had a talk last night and are going to put some boundaries and limits on it. She said she is on a lot at the moment as she is excited that she met new people and enjoying texting. Still unsure what to do around this and we are mindful to tread carefully but at the same time not let her walk all over us.

I know it is early days but it is great to see her happy at her new school, even though she is still being disrespectful to us some times. We as parents had to take a step back and look at ourselves too and needed to talk in a more calm manner with her instead of all yelling at each other which we have all done a lot of lately. I sat and talked with her last night and tried to be as calm as possible and not engage in arguments...if she tried to engage I just said "I don't want talk when you are angry like this, when you are calm and ready to talk we will" she calmed straight down and we talked.


I adore and admire my daughter and how strong her personality traits are.(they can be challenging at timesSmiley Happy) It breaks my heart to see her self esteem so low, we just need to find the right tools and advice to build her back up again so you can regain herself or become and even better/stronger self.

Super contributor

Re: Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

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Hey @Moloko


Welcome to ReachOut parents. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I'm so sorry to hear how hard things have been for you all, my girls had similar experiences with their friend group turning on them, then feeling ostracised and isolated. It's heartbreaking.

I think you guys have done wonderfully with hearing your daughter and taking steps that really supported her in her time of need. I hope you take a moment to acknowledge yourselves for this. It's rarer than you might think.

If there are some things that you would like her to do in return, you could frame it as the contribution she makes in return. I agree that her seeing someone would be ideal. It's great that she's feeling happy about the move but there's a good chance that the new school may not be the solution to every negative feeling she has. And I remember so well how high my expectations often were about things. 

If she starts talking to someone now, when she's feeling ok, then she'll have gotten used to it in the future in case things change.

We have a free service called ReachOut Coaching that is an over the phone support service staffed by professionals that can provide you with lots of practical skills you can use to help with negotiating things like her mobile phone. If you click here you can have a look. It could really help you put some boundaries in place now, while she's feeling good about the move, that will help get you both through if things get tough again.

Prolific scribe

Re: Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

Thank you very much for your support...Yes I looked at the coaching for her...they even offer an email one as an option...I mentioned it to her tonight but she wasnt into it at all at this stage...she said im feeling really happy I dont need to talk to anyone. I will keep working on her but am also happy shes talking to me.
We talked about how the same thing may happen at this school but her response was..."but at least I can walk away and have lots of other friend options" at her old school she didnt have those options. But I have talked lots with her about managing her friendships. I think she is just searching for that friend she connects with.
If you have any tips on how to help build her self esteem and confidence back up that would be so appreciated. I find at the moment im hovering a bit and just checking in on her that she is ok quite a lot.

Re: Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

Hi @Moloko thank you for sharing your story with us , you sound like a really loving and caring family and good on you for reaching out to us .

My now 17 year old was a disrespectful 13 year old too and I have to say as much as I Iloved her fiesty sassy nature she drove me mad with her back chat and attitude at times ! You are not alone believe me ! 

You asked what you could do to help her self esteem ? 

There are a number of little  incidental things that might help : 

Praise her every time she does something well , even if it's making her bed or making a lovely comment to her Dad . These add up and create what I call " buffer credits" a way to help kids become resilience to disappointment and hurt out in the world . 


Ask her opinion and advice on things that matter to you : What do you think about  I should do about this issue ? What  would you do if it was you ? Teens LOVE this . It makes them feel grown up , important and valued . Praise her insight and intelligence .


Tell her that making mistakes in life is normal and that we all make mistakes through out our life and we don't have to be perfect to achieve things . Making an effort and doing our best will always be worthwhile and good enough . People who make huge deals about YOUR mistakes are often insecure and scared of failure themselves . It's a reflection of their issues not your  mistake . 


Get her  involved in an extra curricular activity . Scouts , Drama , Karate , Soccer . What ever floats her boat . Hobbies that challenge us and stimulate I believe are essential to our sense of competence and mastery in the world .  Drama is FABULOUS for self esteem and confidence . You don't have to want a a career as an actor to obtain huge benefits from doing classes and a production . I have seem children change and thrive in months .


I would keep a very close eye on the self harm if she is not seeing a counsellor . To be honest I really think she needs strategies for dealing with the anxiety and stress and should see one . Mindfulness meditation is an evidenced treatment for anxiety . She can down load the " Smiling Mind " app onto her phone and do it at home with you . 

Self harm can escalate and after a few times of doing it it can become a habit . Speak to her about the alternatives such as  elastic bands and ice . Flicking the bands around the wrists  when she gets stressed and overwhelmed can be an alternative and holding ice until it's becomes uncomfortable is another . 

Explain to her that the urge will come in waves and that she can call on you to ride the wave with her so that she does not resort to maiming her body .  You can talk her through it until the urge passes . 

Be mindful as parents of how you argue  with her too too . High tension , loud yelling can trigger feelings  of worthlessness and thus self harm to cope  with the fall out feelings after the fight . . If it happens , we are only human ! remember to talk it through with her when you have all calmed  down  that night  not the next day . Better to not let her feelings fester overnight .  Once they are alone in their room , they start to ruminate and catastrophise . That is when they make  emotional self sabotaging choices . Apologies  at that time too  can work wonders on smoothing the waters and creating a better frame of mind  to take to bed that  night . None of us are perfect parents ! 

Best of luck with it . Let us know how you go . 😊





Prolific scribe

Re: Having struggles with my 13yr old daughter

Thank you so much for taking the time to give such wonder advice....I really do appreciate it.
Yes having a fiesty sassy strong willed girl can be challenging at times😂 I do celebrate those traits in her but she has to learn to filter...we are working on that. How is your daughter now at 17?

Re the sports and drama...she plays quite a bit of club sports and dances and just got into drama class at new school. Im making sure we keep those all up. We try and go out each sunday for a walk as a family...shes not so keen on this at the moment but does come.

Thanks for the advice re self harm...I will talk to her about alternative strategies as I do worry if something goes wrong that she will turn to this as a way of coping...she assures me she wont, that it was just a one off at her lowest point and didnt like it but I will be keeping an eye on it and thankfully I know what to look for.

Shes in her bedroom a lot at the moment either texting friends or watching the ipad and sometimes drawing....comes out for food and shower or to go to school or sports....she still seems withdrawn....should I be worrying about this or is this normal for a teen? I know its going to take time work to get her back.

On an upside she has had a very good first week at her new school and we have only had one instance of disrepectfulness towards us and her relationship towards her brother has been great this week. We talk each day about how her day was and what she did and new friends she made.

As a parent I am working on approaching things in a more calm way yelling. It takes a bit of self control but it seems to be working with both kids and I am having to pull hubby up on it as well...he is a naturally shouty man. All of the yelling between us all has put a lot of stress on us as a family and that really needs to change.

We are going to talk this weekend about ph boundaries as shes still on it all the time "talking to friends". Any tips on how to approach this as its going to be a tough one. We want her ph left in kitchen at night...she doesnt want a bar of that and I want her to just find a balance with how much she is on it.