Leonard Street Counseling Center : Advice

I am the parent of a 16 year old daughter, and lately she has been acting extremely different. She has been staying in her room all the time, ignoring most of us in the house, and when I try to talk to her, she will just snap at me and we end up arguing. I try to make her get out and do things, and tell her she has no reason to be so angry because she has such a great family and life. I don’t know why she’s acting like this, and I have no idea how to help her. What should I do?

It can be very challenging and frustrating at times to be the parent of a teenager. They are usually struggling with multiple concerns, such as highly evolving emotions, relationships with friends, schoolwork, and self-esteem. As adults, problems that teenagers have may not seem like a big deal, but to the teen, these issues can feel incredibly overwhelming. When a teen is struggling, it is common for them to shut down and become defensive and irritable, especially with family. They likely think that others don’t understand what they are feeling, and when every conversation leads to a fight, that just reaffirms their belief. It could be helpful to approach your daughter by acknowledging your concern and asking her how she is feeling. In this situation, it is important to not make judgmental comments, tell her that her feelings are wrong, or say her problems “aren’t that bad.”

Instead, try to provide an understanding and empathetic listening ear. Most of the time, when a teen feels like they are being heard without criticism, they will begin to be more open. Offer your time and attention, and if she says no, remind her that she can come to you at any time. Rather than demanding she leaves her room, invite and encourage her to spend time with the family, and ask her if there is anything she’d like to do. You can still be a parent by continuing to have established rules and expectations for your daughter, but being more gentle in your approach may encourage her to open up. It’s likely she may shut you down at first, but continue to make efforts to engage her and let her know you care and are there for her. If your worries grow stronger, and despite your efforts nothing is changing, seek out additional support from trusted teachers, counselors, or family members to determine the best route for helping your daughter. No matter what, unconditional love and support is what she needs most right now.

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