17 Year Old Daughter and I Are Constantly at Odds Lately

Updated on June 17, 2017
N.H. asks from Palmyra, PA
8 answers

My daughter is currently dealing with depression and anxiety, both of which she is seeing a counselor for and medication. However, she is constantly fighting me tooth and nail over everything I say and ask of her. She seems to have very little coping skills to deal with life's daily hardships and gives me a hard time every time I try to push any issue whether it be doing more to help out around the house or looking for a job. I am a single mother with an absentee father and am trying to be sensitive to her mental health needs but I am at my witts end and feeling completely depleted. I'm afraid to bring up anything with her as far as what I expect and her responsibilities for fear of her getting angry/upset with me and another argument ensuing. It came to a head last night when I completely lost my cool and we both ended up in tears. She decided to go the her grandmothers for the weekend, her idea/choice not mine, to get away from the situation because she says "it's not good for me". I know space is good but I don't like that she's running when things get difficult. We've always been super tight but lately I feel like I'm losing her just for asking her to do certain things like chores and get a job. She just can't seem to handle the stress of life. I am losing my patience ladies, help!

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So What Happened?

I do want to make it known that I am very aware of the toll depression and anxiety take on you as I suffer from them as well. But I know that life has to go on and I have to keep going, I'm just afraid of her using it as a crutch constantly. We have done counseling off and on as well.

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answers from Miami on

Talk to her in front of her counselor. Tell them both that you know she is struggling, but that doesn't mean that she can shirk all responsibility. She needs to help out in the home and learn to cope with change, because that's part of life.

If she doesn't do better, take her back to the psychiatrist to talk about a change of medicine.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Honolulu on

My daughter is a little older than yours, but she has had depression, anxiety, panic attacks and multiple medical issues for a long, long time. And she seemed to consistently be argumentative and often combative, and unwilling to concede an issue or even to see the other person's point if it's different than hers (where no one is wrong, just a matter of preference).

It seemed like we couldn't even have a discussion or remind her about a chore around the house without her ending up panicking or sobbing or sometimes even threatening to harm herself.

Regular parenting wasn't working (we have a son who's a few years older than our daughter and I guess you'd say that traditional parenting worked fine with him; he's healthy and happy and responded well to logical consequences, he did his chores, did well in school, etc). We tried all kinds of ways to reach out to our daughter, all ending in failure, fights, tears.

Anyway, what helped was going to the counselor together. We contacted the counselor (her dad and I) and left a message saying that we needed help communicating, without our daughter ending up screaming or crying or flying into a rage. The counselor set up a meeting for all of us, where we were all able to express our thoughts with the counselor as a referee, guide, and coach. She helped us stick to the subject. We said things like "we want to be able to say/ask/remind this or that without [daughter] immediately saying we don't understand or she's too depressed or whatever". [Daughter] replied by saying that when we ask/say whatever, she feels whatever. Saying it aloud helped tremendously. At one point the counselor said to our daughter "do you hear what you're saying?" and our daughter had to say "yeah, that makes no sense now that you're making me aware of it". The counselor also helped her dad and me to understand how depression and anxiety makes a person feel, and how not to make excuses but how to approach things differently, and how to effectively parent a kid with mental illness. We worked on specific things that were consistently difficult (how to get her to help around the house, for example) and on general things. The counselor was really good at helping us stick to the subject. We met I think two or three times and then regular counseling sessions resumed with just our daughter and the counselor.

So, that's what helped us. It's never going to be all rainbows and kittens, but it's much better. Maybe something similar would help you. Make sure to keep the subject about how to communicate with your daughter, not about how it makes you feel, because the counselor will still be your daughter's doctor, not yours. Our counselor made that clear. For example, she set up guidelines. She said things like "if you as parents are fighting or arguing over this, we won't address that here. If it's making you feel inadequate or like failures as parents, we won't address that. That would be a separate issue. This is specifically about my patient (our daughter) and how to help her communicate more effectively and calmly with her family".

There's also an organization called NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) that has support meetings for caregivers/parents/family. You can look them up and see if there's one in your area. Or maybe contact them for support or help.

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answers from Boston on

Have you spoken to her counselor about what you can reasonably expect from her? Does she trust her counselor? Depression and anxiety can be debilitating for adults and more so for adolescents. If she is in school and keeping up with her school work, she might be at her limit for what she can do (I would imagine that it's summer vacation for her so school obligations might not be an issue for the next few months but still...). I would talk to her counselor about whether or not she/he thinks that increased responsibility around the house and/or getting a job are things that would benefit her right now. While as a general rule, more responsibility is beneficial for teenagers, when you are dealing with a medical issue, it may not be something that would help her right now.

If the counselor agrees that she is capable of adding some responsibilities like more help around the house or a job, perhaps you could enlist the counselor to broach the subject with your daughter, get her feedback on her concerns/resistance and help her work through those issues to move her forward.

You say that she seems to lack coping skills. You're right, she does - and she has a medical diagnosis that explains why. I wonder if you really understand how depression and anxiety work (and I don't mean that condescendingly - it took me a while to "get it" when my ex was diagnosed)...did anyone treating her recommend any resources so that you really understand what she's dealing with? Due to privacy laws, etc. it's common for caregivers like parents and spouses to be left out of the discussion when it comes to mental health. If she had a broken limb or a chronic physical illness or an allergy, you would be educated on what it means in terms of what the patient can/cannot do, etc. Lack of coping skills is a symptom of her illness, not a character flaw. That's not to say that it can't or shouldn't be a focus of improvement, but that's what therapy and medication are for. If she had coping skills, she wouldn't have mental health issues. Choosing a weekend at grandma's house actually DOES show coping skills. She is choosing to recognize that she's overwhelmed and is picking a healthy way to get space to feel better. Compare that to how some other teenagers cope - cutting, alcohol, eating disorders, drugs - and it doesn't seem that bad, right?

As a single mom, I know it's hard to get through day to day even when everything is fine. When you have a major issue to deal with, it's even more difficult. Do you have opportunities to get relief from stress? Do you have a network where you can talk to other parents whose kids have the same diagnosis and just vent or learn some strategies? If you can't get to a support group or there isn't one in your area, there are lots of groups on-line and being able to vent to someone else who gets it might help you. My ex has some mental health issues and when he was first diagnosed, being able to connect with other people in similar situations was very helpful.

Finally (sorry this is so long!), pushing away at this age is totally normal. A lot of kids are miserable to their parents the last year before graduating from high school. It's their way of dealing with the fact that their childhood is ending and they are heading into a big transition period in their lives. Even if your daughter didn't have mental health issues, some degree of difficult behavior, tension, being pushed away, etc. is normal. Adding in D&A amplifies that behavior - it's not easy to deal with, but it is expected.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Okay, deep breath.
Just how depressed is she? If she's got emotional and mental issues then school may be all she can handle at this point. Does she NEED to work? Are you not able to provide food and housing for her? My kids worked as teenagers because they wanted cash to spend on the fun stuff of life, not because they needed to contribute financially to the home.
You may want to meet with her counselor separately, get some advice and tools on how best to support your daughter and deal with her during this difficult and tricky time. When my daughter was seeing a therapist for her anxiety the therapist often checked in with me, to get my perspective on things and to give me feedback (though everything that was said between she and my daughter was strictly confidential.)
I know it's not easy, but you are the adult and need to keep a cool head. Instead of pushing for her to do things spend some time together and talk about what needs to be done. She can (and should) take care of her own room and belongings, do her laundry, etc. Is there more you are expecting at this point? I mean, I get it, no one likes to see a sad teenager sitting around doing "nothing" but maybe she just needs some time and space. Growing up is harder for some kids than it is for others.

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answers from Portland on

I think counseling for you, too, would be a good start on your end.
One of the things that can sometimes happen in relationships is that we address a problem from the perspective of "how do I fix X's behavior/attitude" instead of "what about my part in this relationship needs to change to reflect that I appreciate any effort that person is making? What is it about myself that can stand to be improved?"

In short, if there is a dynamics issue, then only addressing one person's issues isn't really going to improve things. I think your daughter's knowledge that she needs to take some space for the weekend should be honored. That said, I think you would be giving her a valuable offering if you said/asked "I know that I'm not a perfect parent, and I am going to go to counseling too. Would you be willing to go with me from time to time?" This isn't just an olive branch, it's an investment in your future with your daughter. You are her only active parent, and I know you are burned out, and you also need to understand that this would be a HUGE investment for both of you. If she sees you being willing to take responsibility for your own actions and behavior, it will encourage her to take responsibility of her own.

Added: I agree with *everything* JB had to say. I, myself, have dealt with depression and anxiety disorders: it takes a long time to find good strategies to overcome feeling overwhelmed by the little things, sometimes. From my own experience,a lot of counseling/therapy as an adult was necessary to help me recover from my past and develop the skills I needed to be a happy, successful adult. It's not an overnight fix. Being abandoned by a parent is huge stuff. Your daughter is carrying a lot. Be happy that she's talking to you, going to counseling and taking her medication. She's *trying*, in her way. Give her that benefit of the doubt-- focus on what she *is* doing successfully, okay?

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answers from Minneapolis on

I'm sorry you and your daughter are struggling. I would honestly be glad she is seeking some space with a trusted relative. She could have gone off to a lot worse circumstances. If she is really challenged with depression and anxiety, consider placing a lower priority on household chores for now. I would still have her clean up after herself and her personal belongings. I find it most successful to wait until my daughter wants something from me, and then say, "yes, after you clean your bathroom area" or whatever needs doing. I helped with laundry when my daughter's mental illnesses because significant. My daughter had similar issues, and we tried pushing her for over a year to get a job. None of our lecturing, nagging, or encouraging worked. She had way too much free time, and found all sorts of trouble over the last year, unfortunately. Job seeking was very hard for her because the application process was super anxiety-provoking. Finally we told her she needed a job first, in order to drive a car in our household. That was what finally motivated her. She found applying on-line much easier and less intimidating than asking for applications. Now she actually has 2 part time jobs, and it has been a tremendous improvement in her mood.

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answers from Norfolk on

I think you need a support group.
It's tough being a parent under the best of circumstances but when they are depressed it feels like everything is against them even if it's just normal 'pick up your room' type stuff.
YOU will feel better if you can talk to other parents in similar situations so you know where to draw good boundaries.
Talk to the counselor and see if he/she knows of any support groups in your area.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Make a phone call to her therapist. She is underage so you do have some rights regarding that relationship.

Tell the therapist that you guys need to do at least one joint counseling session per month.

I truly don't think a teen in the home can overcome anything until the whole family is participating and working on goals at the same time.

You are part of her problems. She is part of your problems. Together you guys need to work towards common goals and learn better communication skills.

1 mom found this helpful
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