I am in desperate need of information to help my teenage daughter. She is struggling with self-esteem issues and the like -- all of your normal teenage troubles. Now she is showing some signs of depression. She is 13. I have just spent the last 2 hours talking with her, and I thought it was going so well, but she said she still felt the same after all of that talking. She was crying the entire time. I just don't know what to do! I am feeling so helpless! I told her that I understood and had all of those feelings when I was a teenager. I just may need some help! Please, give me advice! My son (almost 15) seems to be leveling out with his teenage (puberty) issues, and that is good since I am now going through this with my daughter. I am just feeling like such a failure right now.
As with your son, so it is with your daughter. There is a period of time where the mind and the body must adjust during the transition from childhood to adulthood. There are rapidly changing hormone levels which have as a side-effect the amplification of moods. There are changes taking place in the brain which gives the child a different way of thinking, but requires training. There are changes in the body where even the seemingly simple acts must be relearned.
The reason suicide rates are higher for adolescence is because of all of these factors combine leaving a child feeling unstable. Add in an unstable family life and you should see that disaster is just waiting to happen.
What you need to do is stop blaming yourself that your children are growing up. What they are going through is well within the range of normal. You just thought your job was done because you had become used to your beautiful pre-adolescent children. Now that puberty has hit, you are overwhelmed by the realization that you have more to do -- a lot more.
1) It is your job, and especially your husband's job, to provide stability. That stability is going to cause conflicts because you need to be a wall to protect them and they are ping-pong balls going every which way. There have been a lot of studies showing that dads are critical to the proper development of teenagers. I believe that is because men, by their nature, tend to think and act independent of their emotions. Someone has to say, "No, you're not going out looking like that," while a child wails that he is ruining her entire life, and still stick to it. When things get hard, just say to your husband, "Honey, I'm exhausted. Would you handle this? You're so good at it."
2) Learning helps. Sit down and start learning about developmental issues so that she understands what is normal and not. Let her know what to expect. If you need some material, see: "Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Girls."
3) Every woman out there knows the wonder of mood-swings caused by their monthly cycle, and yet you still function. Why? Feelings are core to a woman's outlook on life, but you know that you can't always act on those feelings because feelings can be manipulated by external events as well as hormones. I catch snatches of Dr. Laura Schlessinger's show every once in a while. It is surprising how she will not let her female callers wallow in their feelings. Instead, she forces them to think logically and factually. You need to do this for your daughter as well. Things have to be done regardless of feelings. There are still chores to be done, homework to be leaned, jobs to be worked whether a person is in the mood for them or not. It is a tough, but important lesson.
I recall at the age of 17 working in a nursing home. A silly squabble occurred between me and a kitchen employee. I got mad, but then I got mad at myself for being mad over such a silly thing, and then I started crying! I couldn't turn the tears off for three hours! Talk about ruining a near-man's ego. I wanted to go home and just hide in my bedroom. My "unsympathetic" mom sent me right back to work. I don't think I realized how right she was until the last few years.
4) There is also the lesson that at times you do things because you know they are right, even if you don't feel like it. The feelings will develop later. It will be an important lesson to be applied when she is married. There are going to be days you don't "feel" like you love your children or your husband, but you continue to act as a loving person ought to act. Before you know it, the mood follows the action. Guess when you get to teach this important lesson to your daughter? Remember that older women are to "encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children" (Titus 2:4).
In a way you're helpless because you can't make the changes easier for her, but you can guide her in the right direction and show her how to deal with life.
"Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed" (Hebrews 12:11-13).
From a sister in Christ:
This is a great point. I suggested to my husband that he take our daughter out for a "date night" to do something fun with her. He is a great dad and has fun with the girls. Our 12 year old daughter has been resistant to our affection since she became an adolescent, but with continued fun times she is more open to our hugs and affection. My husband is planning on taking her to a kids concert this weekend to "surprise" her with something special. Making girls feel special is a unique role only the dad can play out. It sets the stage for future suitors and the trust a girl needs in her father to know what is best for her in terms of a future mate. My father died when I was 11, setting the stage for lots of insecurity in my young mind. Dads, you are very important at this stage. Kudos to all those great dads on this list who take the time to love their daughters in this unique way.
When I first saw your email I knew that Jeff would respond. He did not disappoint me. He had some really good things to say. I want to emphasize the importance of the stability of the home to riding the hormonal waves. I do not know you personally so do not be offended by anything I say. Your husband has to be involved in this effort, as Jeff mentioned, and he needs to lead and guide with spiritual and scriptural wisdom. Primarily he needs to have standards (rules developed in concert with you), communicate those standards in a loving way (the two of you must stand together), and expect compliance with those standards (he will back you up and you will back him up). This is discipline in that it is instructive, corrective and, if need be, punitive. However, discipline MUST have its root in love or it will not accomplish what is intended: godly offspring. Discipline without the undergirding of the love of Christ has the potential to be abusive. Indeed, we provoke our children to wrath when we do not: 1) provide them the security of a stable marriage, 2) instruct them in the way of the Lord and 3) love them as Christ has loved us. I have three daughters (13, 15, 19) and two sons (11, 17). To quote from "The Man From Snowy River," sometimes it can become "a hothouse of female emotions." Without leadership and discipline emotions would rule and it would be ugly. By working together a husband and wife can make their home an inviting and secure refuge from the pains and pressures of a chaotic world.
Questions and Answers regarding Child Rearing and Parenting
Questions and Answers regarding Teenagers
Raising Godly Children in a Wicked World
Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Girls
Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Boys