Teen Attitude and Withdrawal

Updated on February 27, 2008
A.H. asks from Crossville, TN
20 answers

My daughter who is 13 almost 14 (in june) is very moody and witdrawn. At first I just chalked it up to the age but now i find all these poems she has written and don't get me wrong they are beautiful but they seem to be very depressing from her point of view. We have a very open relationship or so I thought but now it seems there maybe something she feels she can't discuss with me.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to approach this subject for me. I really want to talk to her without scaring her off or having her tell me what she thinks I want to hear.

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So What Happened?

thanks for all your stories some really helped. i have since talked to my daughter and though i'm not sure i got the whole story she has opened up quite a bit as we keeep the lines of communication open i hope she will talk more as she is ready. i have told her i think her poems are beautiful and how proud i am of her for them.

Thanks again for all your help.

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answers from Memphis on

It is possible she is experiencing clinical depression. An appointment with a doctor may be a good first step. Seems all kids go through that angst at about 13, my girls were about 12 when I thought Pod People had invaded my home, lasted about a year and a half. Then it tapered off. But for some kids it doesn't.

Having an open relationship is wonderful, talking, especially for girls, really helps I think. You know her best & know if you think this is a possibility. Depression isn't always about feeling sad, just like anxiety isn't always about being anxious. It's just a chemical imbalance that needs a little medicinal help to get it corrected.

Best of luck to you.

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answers from Knoxville on

A., My story may help. My daughter wrote her first poem when she was 13 and we did not know she was writing at all till she was nearly 15, by which time her depression was beginning to show. Her poems were beautiful, she painted pictures with words, but as time went on they became darker. She started High School in the International Bacalaureat class. This was a course for gifted children. We did not push her to do this course, she came home with the information and we all went to a meeting at the school to find out more. Our daughter was determined to do this course, though we tried to dissuade her because we thought it would be too stressfull for a child going through puberty. The first year went well, though she was being a rebellious teenager and did get fits of moodiness. Her second year started good but after a few weeks the stress began to show, eventually we were getting phone calls from her teachers and she was getting F grades in everything. Her poetry became much darker, she cried a lot over minor things and shut herself in her room and would not communicate. We had brought her up to be independent and make her own informed decisions but at this point she was unable to make the correct decision for her own well being. On one hand she wanted desperately to do the course, on the other hand she was emotionally not up to it, but felt that she would be failing herself, us? society? if she dropped out. I was terrified that she would commit suicide, she kept saying she wished she was dead, that she was a horrible person, that she was no use to anyone. We made the decision that she drop out of the course into mainstream classes, where, because of her emotional state she still was getting F grades. During this time she started on medication for the depression. When
she was 16 she told us she wanted to drop out of school, and the teachers were horrified that we supported her in that decision, but she was so desperately unhappy at school, and her health was more important to us than her education at this point. She got a job, passed her GED and her emotions started to level. She made the decision to wean herself off the medication. All during this hard time we encoraged her poetry, and would ask her to read the new ones to us. Her poetry was an outlet for her teenage angst but also a guage of her mental state. We also saw her writing as a possible channel for her future. Though it was hard, and my daughter and I fought a lot, we also gave her space to be herself, lots of love and encoragement and support, and kept a close eye on her mental health. She is now nearly 24, has a good job, will get her Associates Degree this year and has plans to go to University possibly to do Anthropology and also English. Most teenagers experience some depression as they go through puberty and try to cope with the stresses that society places on them at the most vulnerable time in their lives, but in some cases the depression can get out of hand. You should keep a close eye on your daughter in this reguard. Good luck.

J. B

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chattanooga on

I did the same thing. I would recommend not pushing her on anything in specific, like her being withdrawn. Just try to spend extra time with her, be extra accommodating, and a little extra loving. Not overwhelmingly so... just invite her along a lot. Like, find to time to say, "Hey, would you like to go to get our nails done today?" Or if money is an issue just, "Would you want to go to the mall with me? Would you like to make a cake? Want to invite a friend over tonight?" You get the idea, I'm sure. And if you're both bad at baking.. that just makes the cake thing way more fun. Haha.

Really. She might just be suffering from depression. Lots of teenagers do. School is a terribly hard social environment and then add in the hormonal changes, the dealing with coming into her own, and everything. Don't be overly anything with her. If you seem too worried, hurt, angry, annoyed, or too ANYTHING... she will feel overwhelmed. The best advice I can give is try to include her and spend time with her, but always be very chilled out. It will help her relax a little.

If you are aggressive about this... she will resent you for it. And she will only want to push you away. DO NOT FORCE YOURSELF INTO THIS. Teenagers, especially edgy or depressed ones, do not respond well at all to forceful or demanding behavior. And about the don't let her go anywhere unless you're there??? That will make her crazy. She's 13. She needs her independence. Don't get overly worked up or scared. She just needs a little extra love, one on one time, and support. She'll most likely open up to you if you are consistent. Even if she pushes you away at first and declines your invitations, she will come around.

You also might want to think about treating her to special alone time. Like, set her up with bath salts, some candles, a good books she'd like, maybe even a fruit tray in the bathroom. Just give her an hour or two to pamper herself by herself. Every girl needs a good pampering! If you did that maybe once every two weeks, it could help her nerves a lot.

Plus, the poems are a good thing. It's helping her vent and express herself.

I wish you the best of luck and please let us know how it goes!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Greensboro on

I hate to say it, but it sounds like she's depressed. I've been depressed since my grandfather passed when i was 14. My parents just chalked it up at me just wanting attention, and they still do. They chastised me and made me feel guilty for "wanting attention". Which has kept me from seeking necessary help. Please do not overlook her moods, she may not know how to ask for help. But don't push the subject either. Tell her that she can talk to you about anything and you won't judge her; that you just want to be there for her and hate to see her so hurt and upset and it bothers you to see her this way. Don't tell her about the poems, that will upset her more. The best thing for you to do is to open the door for her to open up to you, but do not push, that may only drive her further away.

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answers from Memphis on

Is your seventeen-year-old daughter mature enough to help you with this situation? Perhaps she can help you. I'm not suggesting that you send her in as a spy, but perhaps the two of you could talk with your younger daughter together. Of course, then you face the dilemma of her thinking that you are "ganging up on her."
Did you just happen upon the letters accidentally, did your daugher leave them where you could easily find them, or did she actually give you the poems herself? The answer to this question can tell you whether she is ready to talk. Whatever you do, don't let this go on for too long without either talking to her yourself, suggesting she talk to a school counselor, or making arrangements for other professional counseling. As a high school teacher, I know that kids this age feel everything with much more passion and emotion than an adult would. Although something may seem trivial to you, don't trivialize it when speaking with your daughter. It will just alienate her. "But, Mom, you don't understand!" Good luck!

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answers from Hickory on

My daughters are now adults.

I remember - THAT STAGE. [1 daughter was much more difficult then the other - so they are not all alike] Depression seems to be part of 'the change' for some [definitely one of my daughters]

I learned - it will pass - but it is so difficult.

I read a really good book at that time called - PARENTING ADOLESCENTS [Kevin Huggins - I think]. I learned that raising teens is like navigating whitewater... It had a very good perspective on those troubling times.

Sounds like you already have a good foundation.

Keep the lines of communication as open as possible [without pressure]- Be available when they are ready to open up... [Unless you feel that the depression is not merely hormonal and is leaning toward suicidal]Doesn't sound like...

You have the most important thing beautifully in order. You care. Your daughter sees that...

Remember - it really does pass. [For most - there are exceptions, but don't panic yet. How you described it - sounds pretty normal]

My daughters and I are best friends now.

{I understand why God made babies so cute. If they came out as teenagers - the human race would never have continued :)]

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answers from Fayetteville on


I think that you are doing well letting her know that you care and that you are there for her when she is ready to talk. She has 2 other sisters, how is there relationship? I have 4 sisters and I am the middle child like your daughter. It helped me when I went through things to talk to my older sister.

I also work with a lot of young girls ages 11-18 weekly and I do see and hear poems like those you speak of. It helps them to be around other girls and other positive adults. Girls are able to find out that they are not the only ones dealing with some things and they also find out that Mom is not the only old lady who has a particular point of view when it comes to her happiness.

Just keep doing what you are doing, A.. I think that your daughter will do just fine. You seem like a wonderful mom who "pays great attention". Best of luck!


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answers from Hickory on

Hi A., I also have a 13 year old and she's in the seventh grade. She stays in her room alot and plays on her laptop most of the time. We are not hooked to the internet at home so I don't worry about her being online. I did ask her doctor about the withdrawal from family things and her spending so much time alone in her room. The doctor said at this age it is normal for them to entertain themselves and as long as her grades are not dropping and attitude seems o.k. not to worry too much. I am a christian mom (46 ys. old) and a teacher of second graders. I have bought a book titled How To Say It To Teens and I can't remember who it is by, but, it has tips on how to talk to them about things in their lives, what to say and not say. Also you may enlist your daughters to help. It seems like if she is depressed she needs to let it out and confide in someone perferrably a family member, or doctor. I am sure you pray about it but the Lord will help you and your daughter through this. Do you pray about it? I hope this helps.

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answers from Jacksonville on

What do your other daughters think? Do they see any signs that she is depressed? Maybe its nothing but a way to write poetry. Teenage girls are very moody, but if you have three you know that. Try talking to her, there will be attitudes whether you do or not. Might as well ask.



answers from Raleigh on

No real great advice since I can't say I did great when I was in this situation. I tried several therapy avenues, but none of that was productive. What I had was a very depressed son who likely needed medication much sooner that he got it. He has been away from home for over two years now and may never come back to live at home. He is stable now, but in the custody of a therapeutic foster home a type of step-down from the group home he ended up in. My best advice is do whatever it takes to break through to her and do it now.

M. S



answers from Nashville on

My advice to you would be to just let her know that You are there for her, to listen and understand whatever she is feeling. Most kids nowadays, can't comprehend that Mom was once a teenager too, and went through pretty much the same things they are experiencing, maybe just in a different time setting. I have two grown boys and went through a lot of the depressing stages with them. Have you tried going in and sitting with her on her bed, and listening to a song (of her choice) with her? Sometimes we have to take ourselves back to our childhood in order to communicate with kids. Find ways to get closer to her on a one to one basis. (such as pillow fights, or even a private pajama party.) Just something you and she can share together. Maybe even reading a book together from cover to cover. When she feels that you are not just her Mom but her friend, then she more than likely will begin to open up to you in a different light. I am not by any means saying that you are not a friend to your girls, just that we have to relate to them at times with the child that is still within all of us.
If she continues with this depression thing, or gets worse, I definately would seek the advice of your family doctor.
I'm not sure if your family goes to church or not, but in this age we are living in, our children definately need strength from a higher power, and what a mighty God we serve.
Good luck!



answers from Wheeling on

It is good that she writes. I too write. Some good. Some bad. It is the deep emotions that she is feeling. And she able to put it down on paper. She has found her inner gift. Right now she growing and learning of her self. And I feel by writing it down. She is seeing what is within her spirit, herself.
When I write things like that I seem to want to be by myself. I suffer depression and other mental illness. But writing helps bring out the feeling that sometime troubles me.
She really need you to understand. Do not turn away from her. Let her know that the writings are helping her understand herself. And if she has any question. She need to come to you.
Maybe you could try to write. Show her what you feel in words on a paper.


answers from Memphis on

It is possible she is experiencing clinical depression. An appointment with a doctor may be a good first step. Seems all kids go through that angst at about 13, my girls were about 12 when I thought Pod People had invaded my home, lasted about a year and a half. Then it tapered off. But for some kids it doesn't.

Having an open relationship is wonderful, talking, especially for girls, really helps I think. You know her best & know if you think this is a possibility. Depression isn't always about feeling sad, just like anxiety isn't always about being anxious. It's just a chemical imbalance that needs a little medicinal help to get it corrected.

Best of luck to you.



answers from Goldsboro on

Dear A.~

It's probably not you your daughter is withdrawing from. Is she having problems of any kind in school? Not just grades, but socially, etc.? The poetry is a big clue into this. It is best to talk with a trusted teacher first. They see a lot and don't usually offer the info unless we ask.

Are you open to whatever she wants to talk about? I'm sorry to tell you that often this behavior indicates something a child or teen feels would not be accepted by those s/he loves. Perhaps she is feeling an attraction to the same sex and is confused about it. Most teens don't know that can be caused by wanting to be more like the person, i.e., they: have "perfect" hair; are popular; are very talented; are self-confident; get wonderful grades. Anything to make the teen feel like they are not measuring up and want to be more like the one being admired. Often a long talk with a trusted pastor may help in this department, if it is approached in time. Left too long to fester, your teen can become convinced that she is "different" and turn to a lifestyle that is not natural for them.

Or maybe drug use is either involved or she is being pressured to become involved and is conflicted. The fact that she is troubled by this would be good; it means she does not really want to do it.

At any rate, you need to sit down with her, reassure her of your unconditional, undying love and support, and explain that you know something is bothering her and you want to help. She needs your loving reinforcement of your values and beliefs, what you do and do not accept. Be prepared- it may be a very long night. But she wants and needs your love and approval.

Best wishes. God bless.



answers from Huntington on

Is she into gothic or emo ? This is a huge wave going over girls especially. Make sure she is not cutting. She needs major family support. Make sure of her friends. Do not let her go anywhere unless you are going to be there. It has to be this way. There are alot of teens who are contemplating suicide. Is she haveing eating problems? It could be a number of things that is bothering her. Could be alot of peer pressure at school. Ask your 17 ad 12 year old about her too. You have to be aggressive on this weather she likes it or not. She is the child , you are the parent,don't let people tell you she is going through a phase~~ she is not. You are right to be very concerned.The world pulls our children away from us.Ask her teachers to watch her and report what they see and hear. Ask the 12 year old to watch her too, sometimes sibblings love to nark! In this case you have to have someone to watch her when you can't.On top of all this Pray. God will show you and others how to each her. I pray that She will be safe. Those poems that she is writing , she is expressing how she feels about life. I don't know the content but by the way you are talking they are disturbing. I have my sisters 4 children and they do some disturbing things for sure. It takes discipline, alot of it, and structure. Make sure you do alot of family things together. Get her in a youth group! Yes, she would really enjoy it! Here is a mumber of a person who does youthgroups--###-###-####. They go camping , hiking, learn how to have manners,the bible,community work, etc. She will get on track!



answers from Lexington on

My daughter seemed depressed and the pediatrician said she was physically fine. She started into therapy. After almost 3 years in therapy, she got worse -- Major Depressive Disorder. She got treated for that with psychotropic medication, and at first seemed fine, then got worse. The doctors sent her to the local university doctors who didn't want to run tests on her because she already had (psychiatric) diagnoses, and saw no reason to run physical tests. To make a long story short, it took 9 years after starting on the road into psychiatric therapy and medicines to find the underlying cause and start treatments.

So, from our rather tragic experience, I cannot stress the importance of looking for a medical cause.

Therapy is great, too, but does not negate the need to also look for a medical cause.

Other things that help are sleep hygiene and excellent nutrition. Even dark and light at proper times of the day are important.



answers from Santa Fe on

This is fairly normal, but that doesn't mean it's okay. It might be nothing more than hormonal changes, but it could be a sign of something more serious. I'd suggest getting the book "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters" by Dr. Meg Meeker, who has been a pediatrician for years. This book is about the struggle girls have growing up, and how their fathers can help or hinder their development. However, there are a few times she talks about depression in teenagers, and one time she says that she considered depression to be a "sexually transmitted disease" because of the much higher rates of depression in sexually active teens, compared to virgins. Your daughter may not be having sex, but it is possible that a boy felt her up or something, and she's feeling dirty about that. It may be something "lighter" than that--like a friend gossiping about her, and she's feeling out of the loop.

I'd suggest doing something together (make cookies or go for a walk or *do* something so it doesn't feel like a parent-child conference), and casually bring up that you're thinking she's got something on her mind that she can't discuss with you, and you need to know what that is. Assure her that you won't get mad (even if she did something wrong like cheat on a test and will need to face the consequences or be disciplined for it), but that she needs to be able to tell you what's going on in her life.



answers from Louisville on

My 14 yr old daughter is that way also. When she gets angry she will write some hurtful letters and give them to me which tends to upset me. Finally after all her threats and letters, my husband asked her if she was serious about what she wrote in the letter. Because if so he needed to take her somewhere and get the proper help that she needs. Well that finally brought us to the point where she starting talking to us about her feelings and how she thinks we treat her different than her siblings. My daughter has PMDD so it is very hard on her and she gets anxious, depressed, angry, defensive you name it. She is finally seeing a specialist and we are getting the right help for her. Things have gotten much better..Sometimes its best to kinda be like ok are you serious about these issues or what because as a parent we never know what our children might do or say to get the attention that they want. Maybe you and her could attend counseling together. My daughter and I do once every other week and it really helps..Hope all gets better for you and your daughter!!!!



answers from Jackson on

I have a 16 yr old daughter who lies an awful lot. I have sent her to a therapist. she seems to like her very much. But I've always made the mistake of trying to make her do things more my way. I've found out that by accepting her for who she is and talking with her in a more gentle way instead of hollering all the time has made some serious improvement in our relationship. I basically just sit her down and ask her when i sense something isn't right with her. I truly believe she loves the fact that i take the time to show i care. but even just watching a chick flick with her makes us grow closer.



answers from Greensboro on

Hi A.,
I can relate to what you are tlaking about. I had the same situation with my stepdaughter at about that age. She will be turning 19 in a month. When I noticed her withdrawing and heading into her own world I had to find a way for her to deal with what's putting her in that state. To make a long story short, I had a conversation with her explaining that we could have conversations with me not in that parent rold if she needed someone to talk to. We would call these our apple orange chats. She would ask about one or the other and it was our key phrase that I was to put mom aside . Mind you if mom needed to know what was goin on, there would be due consideration that she came to me first. This worked for us thhen and to this day we have a very open and honest relationship I believe because of that. She has also had friends that needed that outside ear. I of course did what I could and also talked to their parents. It developed a trust between us in which we knew theses conversations were completely truthful on both sides as agreed to. I believe that Chrissy is a very well adjusted young lady in part due to knowing she always had someone she could talk to openly and honestly about everything. Keep in mind that you may hear some things you really would rather now know, but try to be as open minded as possible and show her she is not alone even though it may be a bit hard to hear on your part and hard to say on heres. If she won't open up right away, confide in her something that you mihgt not have ordinarily told her.
I hope this has helped and please feel free to get in touch if ya need an ear.
I can be found on AOL or yahoo as Shazzizme



answers from Nashville on

Ask her if she wants to talk to you about it or if she would prefer to talk to someone else. If she wants to talk to someone else talk to your youth pastor or call the Child Advocacy Center in Cookeville and get a recommendation on a good therapist for a teenage girl.

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