“As a single mum, I thought I had a close and loving relationship with my two children. My daughter, who is 15, doesn’t seem to feel the same way. My son, 12, tells me that she’s been telling people her home life is terrible and that I’m a cruel monster.
“She’s complained that she has no personal freedom and that I’ve tried to keep her and her father apart. However, nothing could be further from the truth. She has a lot more freedom than I had at her age, and I’ve tried really hard to help her and her father maintain a good relationship.
“I feel so hurt and embarrassed because I’ve no idea what else she might have been saying and who she’s been saying it to, other than her school friends. The fact is, I love her very much and can’t believe that she would hurt me in this way. I have no idea how to speak to her, but I feel I’m going to have to confront her.”
“I don’t think a confrontation is what she needs right now. She’s likely to react badly and may see it as confirmation of what she might or might not have been saying to other people. In fact, all of this could be no more than gossip that your son has picked up, or a mis-heard rumour about someone else entirely. However, if you’re daughter has been saying these things, you need to tread carefully, as there could be several explanations.
“Young people place great importance on image, so it’s possible that she is trying to create a persona other than her own; perhaps of a hard-done-by youngster from a fractured family. I’m not saying this is how she sees herself, only how she might want others to see her. She may have low self-esteem so creates a fantasy life for herself where she’s a more interesting and exciting person, one that others will find more attractive. She may even feel the need to attract sympathy for some reason, perhaps because she doesn’t like herself very much. Perhaps she is simply mad at you about something.
“Whatever is going on, you won’t resolve the problem by being confrontational. You’re more likely to do this by encouraging her to talk about her feelings. Many parents find the teenage years challenging, but it’s important to remember that it’s often very hard on teenagers too.
“As they grow into adults, they must cope with significant physical changes to their bodies along with powerful hormonal surges. These can produce unpredictable emotions and behaviour, at a time when they under great pressure from peers and from the need to succeed at school. It’s all very strange, confusing and tough. So what she really needs in her life is a stabilising, calming influence – someone who can talk with her. Not to nag or ask about homework or school; just to be and to chat. She needs to know that you love and care about her, and talking is the best way for her to learn that.
“If you’re unsure about where to start, ask for her advice or opinion; we all need to feel valued. It can be as simple as what to have for dinner or where to go out with a friend. Alternatively, tell her about your day or something that’s happened, and make sure there are pauses so that she can join in if she wants.
“Building a better relationship with your daughter may not happen overnight but with patience I am sure things can improve. Remember, being a teenager doesn’t last forever.”
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- Press Association