Dear Dr. Archer,
I’m at my wits’ end with my 16-year-old daughter.
When she was six, she was diagnosed with ADD. Once medicated, she was a very easy and responsible child. Once she started middle school, she willfully began failing classes by refusing to do her homework. The group of girls she hung around with was awful. They screamed at their parents, dressed like streetwalkers, smoked and drank. Once my daughter started following in their footsteps, war broke out in our house.
She started sneaking out. She created a Facebook page, without my knowledge, and posted half-naked pictures of herself. She has come home drunk. I’ve found marijuana in her jeans pocket once, and I find cigarettes all the time.
I’ve always made it clear what was acceptable, and what was not, but it’s in one ear and out the other. She will do whatever it takes to get what she wants without guilt.
We moved to a better neighborhood a year ago, and I hoped that would change things. It didn’t. I have evidence she’s shoplifting. She tells outrageous lies to her peers, saying she’s pregnant and has had an abortion and has cancer.
She sees a psychiatrist, as well as a therapist, both of whom are aware of the issues. But after almost a year, there is no change. She’s in jeopardy of failing school, and is causing incredible upheaval in our home.
I was a single parent for most of her childhood, but am now engaged to a man who has been a part of our lives for the past six years. We have both been doing everything we can to help her, but we’re out of ideas. Please help!
It’s good that your daughter is under the care of mental health professionals. Continue this, but also ask for their advice in terms of what you can do.
Make it clear what is acceptable. Boundaries must be set and adhered to. She will, no doubt, try to manipulate you to get her way. If you relent, this reinforces the bad behavior. As your child, she should be provided food, shelter and education. The car, phone, television, computer and anything else she enjoys are a privilege, not a right. Once taken away, it may cause her to realize her actions have consequences.
It may be difficult, and it may seem like an impossible hill to climb, but start talking with your daughter, and not to her. Talk about anything — a movie, TV show, shopping, whatever — but talk, talk, talk. If you can open the lines of communication, it could be a turning point.
Contact your local juvenile detention center, and see what programs they have for not only your daughter, but for parents, as well. She does not have to be convicted first. Some of these programs are for high-risk teens with no record. Not only that, but if the behavior continues, they will have a list of so-called boot camps for troubled teens. Sometimes it takes drastic measures, but it’s better than losing your child.
Above all, love your daughter unconditionally, and remember that many teens test their parents to the limit before settling down and moving into adulthood. Also remember the words of Benjamin Spock: “You know more than you think you do.”
It’s good that you have your fiancé to lean on. Having an unruly teen can bring incredible stress to a relationship, and it’s important to keep a united front. It’s also helpful to have a network of parents who are going through the same thing. Ask about this at her school. Work together, and do what you have to do. Ultimately you will get through this. Good luck.
Dear Dr. Archer,
I lost my virginity when I was only 17. I loved him so much, and our relationship lasted two years. It wasn’t long before he lost interest in me, and began ignoring me. After a few months, we broke up, and that’s when I lost my confidence. I lost myself!
I’m 20 now, and can’t confront people. I fail my exams because I can’t seem to concentrate on my schoolwork. I don’t go out with friends, and can’t seem to trust people. My ex told his friends all about our private moments, and told one of his brothers, who then started harassing and teasing me, making me even more ashamed.
Dr. Archer, please help me. It’s so painful to be in this place! I want to enjoy my life, but these thoughts never stop, and they’re killing me. Some of my friends hate me, but this wasn’t my fault. He promised we would be together forever.
I want to pass my exams, and be able to concentrate on my studies. I want to live my life like I did before all of this happened. Help!
OK, it’s time to stop the victim mentality. If you don’t change your attitude — and you can — then nothing will change, and you’ll just keep feeding your misery and feeling sorry for yourself.
You’re not the first to lose your virginity to someone you love, only to break up later. It happens every day. And while it’s not pleasant, it’s not the end of the world, either. You’re pining away over a guy who has obviously gotten over you and moved on. It’s time for you to do the same.
Life is ever changing, and there are no guarantees that anything is permanent, except for your character. It’s time to develop that character now.
You’re choosing to hang on to the memory of your ex. Enough! This is over. Stop blaming him, take charge of your life and move on. What you do today shapes your tomorrow. Starting now, no more thinking about him or what was. Starting now, think only of the future, and what you want it to be.
If you have anything in your home that reminds you of him, get rid of it. No thinking about him, no talking about him, no remembering the good times. Take the initiative — call a friend or two, and get out and have fun. See your family, get a tutor to help in school, devote time to studying. This is your life — it’s time to take charge and make it what you want.
Start exercising. Whether you join a gym, aerobics class or take a walk around your neighborhood, this will naturally lighten your mood and give you a better outlook on life. If you have a dog, leash her up and walk daily. It will do both of you plenty of good, without any negatives.
If you don’t have a pet, think of adopting a shelter animal. You’re not only saving a life, you’re gaining a friend. Do not, however, adopt an animal unless you’re willing to make a lifetime commitment for her care. Animals give unconditional love, but you need to give the same in return.
Obviously, this guy was Mr. Wrong. Be thankful you had the experience, and can walk away with new knowledge. The sooner you change your attitude and stop moping, the sooner you can appreciate who you are, and get on with your life. Good luck!
Dr. Dale Archer is a board-certified psychiatrist who founded the Institute for Neuropsychiatry in Southwest Louisiana. He is a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN Headline News and other national TV programs and the author of The ADHD Advantage and the New York Times’ bestselling book Better than Normal. Visit him at DrDaleArcher.com.