Dear Barb—Teen Trouble

Dear Barb:

Hi, I’m a single mother of a teenage daughter who I had when I was quite young.  Her father did not want to be included in her life, but he has financially contributed to her care throughout the years.  I have always heard people talk about how difficult teenagers are, but I was not prepared for this! My daughter is 15 and has been involved in drugs and alcohol, plus she is skipping school.  Last week I got a call from the school asking me to come in.  The guidance counselor told me Miranda rarely attends class and when she doesn’t she is disruptive.  She won’t listen to me and we end up arguing all the time.  I don’t really think this is normal teenage behaviour.  I tried talking to her father, but he is not interested in becoming a part of her life, as he is remarried and has two young children.  Basically, I have to deal with this on my own and I don’t know where to turn.  Do you have any suggestions? Looking forward to your advice, thanks, Patricia.

Hi Patricia:

Thanks for writing.  Your situation rings true with many parents of teenagers, and it is especially difficult if you are a single parent.  It is unfortunate that your daughter’s father has chosen not to be a part of his daughter’s life, as some of your daughter’s problems may be a result of her father’s absence.  She may feel there is something wrong with her to cause her father to abandon her, but that is a deeper issue that may require counseling.   It is normal for a teen to pull away from their parents and become more involved with their friends.  They want to fit in and what their parents think is not important anymore, but children still need their parent’s love and guidance.  It’s essential that you determine whether this is normal teen behaviour or showing signs of a troubled teen.  Indications of a troubled teen may include a sudden change in appearance, involvement in a new peer group, totally disregarding rules that you set, and excessive abuse of drugs or alcohol.  From your letter it seems your daughter may have gone beyond normal teenager behaviour, as she is not attending school regularly and seems to want to live her life according to her own agenda, rather than what society requires.  There may be several reasons for this change in your daughter’s behaviour, including depression.  Some of the signs of teenage depression include trouble at school, running away from home, irresponsible behaviour and violence.  It appears that your daughter is experiencing some of these issues.  My suggestion would be to go to your family doctor to see if you and your daughter can be referred to a family counsellor.  This is the first step in working toward a positive outcome—before things get out of hand.  While going through this stressful time try your best to take time for yourself and relax and know that you will work through this.  Many parents experience similar situations with their teenagers, and ultimately end up with healthy happy adult children.  Good luck, Patricia.

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