07-25-2018 05:11 PM - last edited on 08-08-2018 12:15 PM by Jess1-RO
I am looking for some advice about how I can help my partner build his daughter's emotional intelligence and resilience. She has a very fixed mindset and if she doesn't think that she's going to be good at something, she won't even try. Also, when she experiences strong negative emotions (feeling overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, worried, etc) she lashes out at us and has what I call 'little meltdowns'.
To give you an example, she is currently in Year 10. She transferred this year from a public school to a private school because she thought that would improve her grades. They have improved marginally. Over the last couple of months the school has been talking about senior pathways. Specifically around what the girls want to do with Year 11 + 12 to help them with choices in Uni or whatever path they choose.
Last night was the information evening at her school. We all attended and after the presentation, the students were given an opportunity to talk to different subject heads about their choices etc. Turns out that she was also sent a Handbook a month or so ago which would have helped us with the evening immensely. She just didn't see it. When we asked her where she wanted to have a look she had her mini melt down. I think she felt so overwhelmed and realised how under-prepared she was (even though we have been trying to talk to her about this for a while) that she couldn't deal with the emotions.
I'm really worried about how she's going to go for the next two years and I want to help her but I also want to stop being her emotional punching bag (along with her father).
07-25-2018 09:29 PM
I am sorry your family is going through such a stressful time right now. It sounds like your partners daughter is feeling a lot of stress and anxiety around making decisions for the future. I know that can be a really difficult thing for our teens to look at the future when they lack self confidence. Its sounds like she is lashing out at you two because its a safe thing for her to do. In my experience as family we get the brunt of the negative emotions our teen is expressing and the rest of the world usually gets to see the less vulnerable side. I know its hard not to take it personal but it is healthy she is not holding all her emotions in.
Maybe you guys could step back for just a little bit and give her time to put some ideas together about her future? How about set up a date where the 3 of you can go to dinner and discuss her future plans- almost like a meeting? She gets to choose the place and lead the discussion but give her time to prepare?
07-26-2018 12:22 AM
Hi @Langus, I just replied to you in the introductions, so I'm glad you've started a post for some support.
You obviously love your stepdaughter and have some insight into what is behind her behaviour which is fantastic, but I understand the frustration you're experiencing. If my daughter (16) doesn't think she can ace something, she won't even try either. And if she doesn't do as well as she hoped in something, she quits. She leaves everything to the last minute so is never prepared, she always forgets something. So I'll be keen to hear the communities experiences with building resilience and emotional intelligence in their teens as well.
I agree with @sunflowermom, unfortunately we're the one's they take their frustrations out on us because we're safe for them to do so and they know we will always love them. It's really tough sometimes, for us and them.
With your stepdaughter's study, depending on the time she has left to choose her subjects, could you maybe break it down so she chooses one at a time? Again, dependant on time, but maybe one subject a week? That might take some of the pressure off her breaking down what she's likely seeing as a mountain.
I'll give you the link here to some information about coping skills and resilience from ReachOut that gives some useful information.
07-26-2018 09:08 AM - edited 07-26-2018 09:09 AM
Thanks for your message and kind words. It sounds like we have a similar situation. I'll take these ideas back to my partner and go from there.
07-26-2018 06:26 PM
Firstly I would like to say how beautiful it is that you are willing to look for solutions for your stepdaughter rather than ignoring her obvious anxiety and trouble with coping skills. 16 year old girls are tricky as at this point there are many other emotions and influences that are also impacting on their ability to think with a clear head. Add to that the expectation that is placed on them in year 10 to choose a pathway which will shape how they achieve a HSC mark or ATAR. It sounds like she has just become so overwhelmed that she has just not started, I love the dinner idea , it will allow open discussions with her about what she is thinking she may like to do and what she needs to do to get there. Going into the next two years it is important from the start to let her know that the senior years do not define her whole future, if goals change or marks are not achieved there are many ways to reach destinations other than an ATAR. Finally be honest about how her actions make you feel. Let her know that it is normal to feel scared and overwhelmed as well as upset and angry but it is not ok to treat those that love her poorly. You are both doing a great job. Just keep being present.
07-26-2018 07:23 PM - edited 07-26-2018 07:24 PM
Hey @Langus, the insight and support that has been provided so far has been awesome, so I have little to add. I just wanted to pop in and say thanks for posting here and voicing your concerns. These issues sound really important to you and you sound super motivated to improve the situation. We do have coaching here at ReachOut which is one-on-one tailored support. This might be something else you might find helpful to try, keep us updated
07-27-2018 08:26 PM
07-30-2018 05:48 PM
All the suggestions and advice you have received is great.
The only other thing I would suggest is talking to her Year Advisor at school. It will be beneficial for them to be aware of her tendency to feelings of overwhelm, especially since you mentioned she is at a new school, therefore they may not know her very well yet.
The year advisors job is to have a connection with students in that year and to be a liaison between student/parents and the subject teachers. At most schools, hopefully hers too, the year advisor will move through the 6 years with their allocated year, so establishing rapport with that person will be beneficial for all of you for Year 11 & 12. Once you or your partner have had a discussion with the year advisor, they may be able to discuss her subject ideas with the individual teachers for you, focusing on her strengths from year 10, to save you speaking to 6 or 7 different teachers. Then they may be able to come back to you all with suggestions and ideas about possible choices that may work for her.
I agree though, from experience as a teacher and a parent, the pressure that is put on these kids at school and the emphasis on the HSC is at times too much. I have taken the approach with my own daughters, (one who is currently doing the HSC, and another also in Year 10) that the HSC isn't the be all and there is ALWAYS other ways to get where you want to. And it's ok and normal to not know what they want to do at their age. If the message they get at home is...."do your best and try hard but it really doesn't matter" then I think we reassure them and they come home to a place of less pressure, which is needed if there is a lot of emphasis on high marks at the school.
The most important thing I think they need to learn through Year 11 & 12 is to be organised and plan and prioritise, ensuring there is balance in their life. Keeping a detailed diary with all commitments in it, social, work, sport and then assignments and exams too. Then planning when they will be allocating time to complete things and having a weekly timetable.
I hope this helps. Good luck. Come back and let us know how it goes.