Daughter won't talk to me...

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-30-2003
Daughter won't talk to me...
2
Fri, 05-30-2003 - 3:54pm


I have a 14yo daughter that I'm struggling to connect

with. A large part of the problem is that she doesn't

live with me, but rather with her mother's parents nearly

three hours away. She has lived with them for about 9

years now (long story). Her mother has pretty much abandoned

her for her new life with a new husband and another child.

I try to visit her and have her visit me and include her

in activities whenever possible, but the distance and

the problem I'm about to describe makes it tough.

The problem I'm having is she won't talk to me... about

anything no matter how small. When we are together she

will not speak a word unless spoken to, and then it is

only short answers in direct response to a question. This

makes our time together a little strained as I struggle

to not have awkward silence. But more importantly, I want

to be a part of her life and know about the things that

interest her and her opinions and whatnot, but her silence

prevents this and is extremely frustrating. I've questioned

her grandmother about this on several occasions, and her

response is "oh she is just shy" Well, yea, but this is

a bit extreme. Her grandmother has said that she is more

outgoing among people she is around all the time like her

friends at school. I've been to her school functions and

there is some truth to the statement but she still seems

pretty quiet. Her grandmother says she enjoys my company

and enjoys the things we do together, but she never tells

me herself.

Between visits we usually keep in touch via email (mostly

because the communication issue would make the phone rather

non-productive) and I do have a LITTLE more success there.

She usually replies and sometimes offers a little more insight

into her world, answering my questions with more than a

word or two. But sometimes I don't get any replies at all,

even after sending 2 or 3 messages over the course of a week.

A 14yo isn't so busy that she can't take 2 minutes to at least

acknowledge a communication, so I don't know what that's

all about.

Anyway, I'm at a loss at how to make the situation better.

I've tried everything I can think of to get her to open up

but nothing seems to help. I'm sure the environment she

lives in and the fact that both of her parents aren't around

(at least I try-- her mother doesn't really have anything to

do with her anymore) isn't helping. I know sometimes abuse

or other traumatic experiences can be a factor, but to the

best of my knowledge nothing of that nature has ever occurred.

Her grandmother says that she isn't really bothered by her

mother not coming around but I'm not sure how much truth there

is to that.

Anyone have any advice? This isn't a new problem, it has

been an issue for several years now and is really bothering

me.

Thanks!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-14-2003
Fri, 05-30-2003 - 4:06pm
Hi and welcome to the board.

I want you to assure you that it is not unusual for a teenage girl to distance herself from her dad. I did when I was a teen, my daughter did from her father too. She's coming around now. Perhaps the topics of conversation aren't deep and intense, but she talks to hubby a lot more than she used to and hopefully that continue. She's 17-1/2.

Also, short answers, no answers, grunts etc. just aren't that unusual. Their minds are elsewhere and can't be bothered. Kids are different creatures when they are around others or in different social situations.

You've tried phone calls, visits, email. . .have you considered writing? Send her a card or even better yet, see if she would participate in a journal. Get a nice journal and write in it simple thoughts and concerns at first. Then mail it to her with the request she write something and send it back. If you can get her to participate, then she probably will start opening up more and more and eventually pick up that phone and call. I know I get emails from my daughter at school (whole 3 long miles away, LOL!) and I makes our days volleying back and forth thoughts. ;-)

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 05-30-2003 - 10:06pm
I think it's great that you've wanted to put as much continuing effort into your relationship with your dd as you appear to have done.

When my now nearly 19 yo dd was 14, that was *the* toughest year, ESP regarding communication. She is not a natural communicator to begin with, and I am. I tried Everything I could think of to draw her out. Actually, I started when she was 7 years old and I realized then that she wasn't a natural communicator and thought if I establish a pattern then, we'd be ahead of the game by the time she became a teen. HOnestly, if a person is not a natural communicator, it is nearly impossible to encourage or make them become one. My 11 yo, on the other hand, IS and NEVER stops talking.

My dd's dad wasn't 'involved' while they were growing up, at least not in the ways that matter to establish a relationship. I used to 'run interference' and 'interpret' for them till the older was 12 and I told her he was her dad forever and she had to figure out a way to forge a relationship with him that SHE was comfortable with. She has done exactly that. They don't talk much about anything personal, if anything; more it'll be about a car she wants to purchase or a trip she wants to take, but there has been a kind of relationship that has grown over time. She seems to understand her dad better than anyone I know. He has always been 'around', but for example, this past year he's asked me no less than 3 times what grade the younger dd is in. But she and her dad are also starting to figure out a kind of relationship now, but it's VERY much in the beginning stages.

Since you're the parent who is trying to have a relationship with your dd, I want to encourage you. I never stopped trying to communicate, to share, to draw my dd out. Even when it resulted in getting my head bit off (esp at 14) for asking too many questions, or talking about something she did not think was relevant or interesting (they can be pretty rude at that age). I wrote her the odd letter. I wrote her the odd email. I wrote how *I* felt about her, and about what was going on in our relationship without making it seem like she was who was responsible for the relationship between us. Just things like sometimes sharing memories of her; noticing how she was growing up; being proud of her grades; being proud of how she was learning to stand for things she believed in. I knew a lot of what was going on in her life as I drove her everywhere, was there before & after school to pick her up as it was out of district, etc. I'd ask about her friends. I'd share thoughts I'd had when she was born about her. My hopes for her future and the kind of people I hoped she'd have in her life, the kinds of friendships I hoped she'd have, and the kind of guy I hoped she'd end up with one day.

In short, I started to learn how to share just *myself* and how she had blessed my life. I did it during the very toughest times with her even more. Those who are unloveable need love the most, and altho she was never really that unloveable, lol, there were times when she royally ticked me off and she knew it.

So. Keep writing her. Keep reaching out. Even when you draw silence. Share what you think about things. Share stuff you hear about other kids her age from friends you have and ask her what she thinks about things, even if she doesn't necessarily answer. Tell her you find her to be an incredible young woman and that you miss her when you don't get to see her. Keep letting her know how important she is to you even when you don't even get a response. Perhaps letting her get to know YOU will help her to eventually feel like she knows you better in order to start responding more. My dd is very VERY private; she never used to even tell her very best friend much of what she *felt* on personal levels. Her very long time bf has managed that more successfully than anyone else but it's been an uphill battle all the way and he's often sought me out to ask me what I think when he just doesn't get something.

Some people are truly, TRULY just very very private by nature and not given to sharing themselves or their thoughts and feelings easily, even with those they know well and love dearly. It takes time, persistence, patience AND - most importantly here - ACCEPTANCE of her on HER terms. I've even told my dd that it's one heck of a thing for me to try to understand when she doesn't like to share her thoughts and feelings when it is something that is an actual *need* for ME - and shared it in ways that have made her laugh more than not. But I've also found ways to let her know how I think HER way is truly cool; it works for HER and there are some very good things about being that way. I have even done personality profiles in the past (the first time was when she was 14, lol) on her and on myself and seeing the differences and how they will affect us was incredibly eye opening. It was the first time I REALLY *got* just how unnerving and annoying my pressuring her to open up or respond in MY way must be to her when her personality is NOT like that, period. It took away the 'personal' edge to it and helped me to see her as an individual separate from me and then I started to try to understand what those differences would all entail; how the ways she was different from me worked for *her*; what were the good things about being that way and it helped ME dramatically. And as a result, it helped her and I form what is now a truly good relationship. But she still doesn't talk about how she *feels* about personal issues :-) - but now it's okay with me. We talk about lots of other things now and I have learned how to sense how she feels by listening and seeing how she responds to whatever is going on.

Hang in there. You WILL establish a relationship with her over time. As long as you keep trying, sharing yourself, and so on - it will happen. It may not be exactly how you hoped or envisioned it to be, but hopefully in the process of letting her be herself without making her feel bad or guilty for being that way, or letting you down because she can't interact with you the way *you* want and accepting her as she *is* it really will help over time. And her getting to know YOU meanwhile can do nothing but also help her to feel like she knows you better and that will help too. If she is already naturally reticent, a person like that will not open up and just share themselves with someone they do not feel that they know that well. But they tend to be more at ease with someone who has opened up to them and accepted them.

Kudos to you for trying and keeping on trying. :-)