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DuddyH
DuddyH, BA, MA,
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 154
Experience:  Counselor; Behavioral Consultant
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I have a 12 yr old daughter and she seems to be getting sadder

Resolved Question:

I have a 12 yr old daughter and she seems to be getting sadder as time goes on her father and I have been separated and divorces going on 3 yrs now and she just can't seem to move on it is the same thing over and over again is this normal?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  DuddyH replied 3 years ago.

Therapist :

Welcome to JA.com. Do you mind if I ask a few questions to better understand your situation and the specific problems your facing here?

Customer:

No that would be fine

Therapist :

Thank you very much.

Therapist :

Would you mind clarifying what you mean by "she just can't seem to move on"? Are there specific behaviors or moods that your seeing?

Customer:

She just keeps saying she hates the divorce and living in two different homes for along time her Dad had the kids praying 3 times a day that we would get back together and she seems not to be able to deal with the fact that we won't ever get back together and that she hold it against me that she feels this way as if I can do something to help but I don't know what that would be.

Therapist :

That must be very difficult for you at times. I'm very sorry to hear that.

Therapist :

So are these arguments or disagreements your having? When and where does she bring this up?

Customer:

I am not an arguer so she is more like just telling me usually she is the most upset when she come home from her Dads but the school has also seen a change in her that she isn't her bubbly self at school anymore.

Therapist :

I see. So is it that her father wants to get back together and is telling your daughter so, and then your daughter is bringing this up from her father to you?

Customer:

Well he has stopped that now that I have remarried but he tells them he is all alone and only has the dog to keep him company and has the dog sleep with him at night, they more less are having to be his emotional support team.

Therapist :

That is a very difficult scenario, which I've sadly seen before in my private practice. What's happening is you're daughter is likely "parentifying" or role reversing with her father. As human beings we are designed to be in healthy adult relationships. We have underling emotional needs that partner's meet for each other. Since your ex is not in such a marriage he is feeling lonely and your daughter is very sensitive to this and is trying to protect him.

Therapist :

She feels deep emotional distress when she see's her father suffering emotionally and looking to you to resolve this problem. What did you're daughter's counselor say about this process? What was recommended?

Customer:

Nothing they are very hard to visit with because they have a very good way of hiding that anything is wrong so the counsilors thought they were just great kids and then my daughter was told that counsilors were of the world and the only one to help her was God so she kinda just dismissed the counsilor. Not that I am not a christian by any means I just believe He put people on this earth to help us when we need it .

Therapist :

I hear you. I agree that psychology and counseling is no where near as powerful as the creator of the universe. I don't have the proper training to address spiritual issues or practices. I just try to help people with strategies from strong relationship-science, sort of like medication for a medical condition. God could cure such a condition instantly.

Therapist :

Well to answer your question, you're daughter's behavior in this situation is normal. she is distressed by her father's distress and wants to protect him from it. So her behavior is normal.

Customer:

Is there anything that I can do to help her so she isn't so sad and angry most of the time.

Therapist :

In a basic counseling context, the advice would be first try and work with her father to try and reduce your daughter's exposure and emotional distress to his loneliness and dissatisfaction with being separated from his wife. But everyone involved would have to buy in to that approach. Otherwise it's a question of patience and knowing that this issue will continue until you're daughter is old enough and emotionally and psychologically developed enough to make her own decisions and have her own insights.

Therapist :

You can also listen as much as possible, and ask lots of open ended questions to get her to express her feelings to help her cope. You can also use distraction with activities like you mentioned to keep her from thinking about to often.

Customer:

S what do I do in the mean time as her Dad is unwilling to even talk to me let alone help with anything I just don't want her to slip though the cracks and have emotional damage that can't be repaired

Therapist :

A big part of this is staying very calm and centered yourself. This will teach her through real actions how to manage emotions in difficult relationship contexts for the future.

Customer:

About how old will she be by the time she is old enough to cope with this sort of thing

Customer:

Should I watch for any warning signs that thigs are getting worse?

Therapist :

That varies a great deal between different children. Most interventions for kids under 19 are behavioral in nature. You can set clear limits on what is discussed and how it is discussed. So being respectful at all times is very important for example. Teaching and learning about how to express your feelings and needs is also valuable here for growth and development. It's ok to have and to express feelings and emotions but only in a way that is respectful and appropriate. You can also learn the relaxation response together to learn how to calm and get centered when confronting such difficult situations and intense emotions as well.

Therapist :

Yes, you always want to be on the look out for "life interfering" behaviors and/or moods. Monitoring school performance is important. Doing everything you can do to keep her away from a negative peer group through supervision and adult supervised activities like you're doing is highly recommended. You also want to maintain compliance with your direction, that she does what you ask her to do etc.

Therapist :

As far as serious mood issues go, the most common problem behavior to look for is task-avoidance, if she stops doing things she used to do, if her grades go down etc.

Therapist :

You should also watch for appetite and sleep changes. You can do everything you can to make sure that she knows how to eat healthy and that she goes to bed at a good hour and gets high quality sleep each night. These are "protective factors".

Customer:

We seem to be doing all of those things although she claims I don't understand her which at times I don't and that I haven't been through a divorce so I can't know what she is going through just seems as though we have a road block that we can't get over and I love her so much and hate to see her hurting the way she does.

Therapist :

Again, when there's parental distress kids can gravitate towards an antisocial peer group. So really monitoring friends and internet and cell phones etc is important. I'll address your last post next...

Therapist :

I think the best thing is to avoid criticism when discussing emotional hot-button issues. She is suffering because her Daddy is suffering. She's too young to understand all of the variables and emotional needs and history etc right now. So listening and asking open-ended questions (can't be answer with just yes or no) is probably best, XXXXX XXXXX she feels. Expression is helpful as long as there are no "out-of-control" teen behavior problems. Then you have to get the high risk behavior under control first and then work on emotions. But with you're daughter, setting a side times to just talk and actively listen and soothe. Express a real interest in wanting to help her feel better, back rubs etc are good also.

Therapist :

These are very touchy and difficult issues, here are you doing ok emotionally when you have these exchanges with your daughter?

Therapist :

Ideally you protect her from "parentification" with you. If she sees that you're distressed because she's distressed and because of your relationship history with your ex, she may start to want to protect your feelings also.

Customer:

I think I am I find it hard to give her the answers she wants because I feel she doesn't need to know the things her Dad did to me when we were married so she just sums it up as my fault for the divorce and I just leave it as that.

Therapist :

Well that may be your challenge here. To really be a parent and to know for now that your daughter can't tell the difference because she's to young. If you can set your mind on being there for her, on listening and staying calm for her sake, I think this will really pay-off for everyone involved in the future. You may have to just let her know that you can talk to her about adult matters when she's an adult and just be there to support her because she is distressed from not having an immediate solution...

Customer:

She also said somethings that have me puzzeled like the fact that I don't disiplin them enough and asked her what she wanted me to do it was spank them when they are naughty(thier dad did that and is a screamer) and I just don't have it in me to do those things I am not just stern when they are wrong but to no physical punishing to them

Therapist :

It's not easy, but the more calm and clear minded you can be under stress now with her, the more calm and clear minded she will be as an adult when things are equally or even more difficult.

Therapist :

I think a role clarification may be needed here, with very clear boundaries. You can let your daughter now that you are the parent and will chose how to manage behavior and when and how to punish when and how you decide (it is your choice). As long as you are using strong parenting skills then it's not her place to criticize you. That's the parental respect part (which is also in the bible). Many children of divorced parents who spend time at one place and then another for a week etc, are very sensitive to changes and patterns in the environment. You may need to be more structured and directive in your parenting style at times to make sure she follows through, particularly when she first arrives.

Customer:

Thank you very much just needed to know that I was still doing the right thing, just get a little spooked when things don't seem to be getting better.

Therapist :

No, I think you are right on track here. It's very difficult at times I know, but you're daughter is learning from you now. Eventually, she will see what's right and wrong in the adult world, and perhaps you can talk to her more in the future and resolve and answer questions. Right now to continue with your structured and supportive parenting (love and limits) is the best approach. Structure and schedule are very important also, but I think you've got that part under control.

Therapist :

Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Customer:

No but thank you and May God Bless you

Therapist :

God bless you and your family also, - thank you.

Therapist :

.....

DuddyH, BA, MA,
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 154
Experience: Counselor; Behavioral Consultant
DuddyH and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you

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