Trying to understand my 17 year old

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2003
Trying to understand my 17 year old
Wed, 04-09-2003 - 9:39am
I need some advice from you all on how best to deal with an issue. My younger daughter made a decision several years ago to attend an excellent boarding school that is two hours away. (The high school in the town we live in was not seen as a good fit- and I work there! ) She is now a junior. It is a very traditional school, and she has done very well there, with some starring roles in plays, several Honors courses, and so on. Up until Christmas vacation all was well. She had talked about going to Italy this summer with a program for high school students and she was looking forward to a trip to New York. Right after Christmas, she told me she no longer wanted to go to Italy. (This had been something that filled her with excitement, so it was a bit weird to hear this.) She said she just wanted to stay home and work this summer. (It seemed strange to me that she wanted to work as a waitress instead of go to Italy, but I kept my opinion to myself.) Then she said she did not want to go to New York, even though she loves it there. Again, she just wanted to be home. This is as if a younger child said, I do not want to celebrate Christmas! She adores New York. Well, now she has decided- with no discussion- that she wants to come home for her senior year. She knows no one at the high school here. Her closest friends (three girls) go to another small school which she does not feel is right for her. (I agree.) Some of the new people she was hanging out with and beginning to get to know during Christmas and March vacation are into drinking and smoking pot. (Remember, I am a high school teacher, so I know these kids!) Also, some are high school dropouts. She wanted to spend New Year's Eve with a 22 year old Coast Guard man. Of course she did not tell me, and when I found out, only a few hours before all of the festivities kicked in, I told her it was not an option. I had never met him, and furthermore, what is a 22 year old doing spending New Year's Eve with a 16 year old and her friends? She said to me that she feels the last three years have been "a complete waste" and also that she will not be able to live with herself if she goes back next year. She IS seeing a counselor now, but I need some parental support. What do you all feel is going on? What should I do? I persoanlly feel she should go back for her senior year, but she seems to have made this decision and is applying very dramatic language about it all. Remember that when she comes home, she is on vacation- of course she has fun. But going to that school will be just that- school. And of course, I will not be able to let he go around with all of these kids who are making bad choices. (I have not told her that yet, but I will on Friday when I see her. I really worry for her safety.) She is a beautiful girl. Help!
Avatar for yuccabugg
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 04-09-2003 - 5:23pm
Has the counselor offered any input or insight?
Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Wed, 04-09-2003 - 10:18pm
She has been away from home for 3 years, and you were not there to monitor her choice of friends. What makes you think her friends THERE are any different from the friends she is choosing HERE? And if she's only home on break, how did she get involved with these "new" people so quickly? If the counselor has not indicated any emotional disorder(and you ARE sitting in on the sessions, aren't you?), then I suspect her "new" friends aren't quite as new as you think, and THEY are the reason she wants to come home. She obviously wants money to do her own thing, hence the waitressing job. Since your dd basically left home at 14, she has developed apart from you. You said yourself, when she's home, it's vacation. No chores, no job, not much supervision(where would she MEET a 22yo anyway-nowhere MY 16/17yo dds would have been). But of course, that's what goes on when she's away, too. I think you should try to reconnect with your dd, & try to find out what kind of a person she has become. Maybe spending one year with her, between 8th grade & the rest of her life, wouldn't be a bad idea.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 04-10-2003 - 12:23am
What has she said when you've asked her *why*? Besides the 'not being able to live with' herself if she returned to that school, what is your dd saying as the reason why? Pay close attention to seemingly 'satellite' comments she makes; the kind of comment that doesn't seem to 'fit' or be 'connected' to the rest of what she is saying. Those are often the most telling statements.

It's impossible to guess what exactly is going on. She *could* be thinking that she's basically grown up from gr 8 onwards on her own except for visits home and now thinking she wants to be home again before she has to leave for college again. But I think if that is part of it, it's kind of secondary to something else. She could have had a falling out with everyone she's been friends with; discovered disloyalty or been very let down. Which I think holds some possibility as it would also explain why she's choosing friends in your town who are either too old for her or HS dropouts or into drinking/smoking pot. Why? Because many times kids who have have something bad happen to them think that they don't "deserve" more; other times, they feel like this is the kind of person who will accept them ...

I personally think that something has happened in her life that has caused her to feel like she either doesn't 'deserve' something good or that the dropouts/partiers, etc., are more 'trustworthy' than the so-called 'straight' friends ...

My sister chose to drop out of school in gr 9 and mess her life up completely for the next 5 years, going from literally being a straight A student without effort, shy, quiet, and totally a non-problem child to being out of control. I won't say what we eventually found out caused this, but something HAD happened to her that made her feel unworthy of her family's love/acceptance, and unworthy period. It was a pretty powerful negative experience. I'm not saying this is what's happened to your dd; I use this as a reason for my 'theorizing' that something may have happened *to* her as opposed to just perhaps bad choices she's making. Things like this can and DO happen. It's not always a matter of parenting or lack of; poor choices on the teen's part or other 'typical' things ...

I would encourage you to talk to her counsellor. I don't know how much the counsellor can divulge; perhaps the counsellor would be willing to talk to the two of you together if she/he can't break confidentiality - it's worth asking if your dd, for whateve reason, can't/won't talk to you on her own. But I also would try to approach your dd by telling her that things just aren't fitting together; there is definitely something missing here, that you love her, are concerned, will listen without judgement no matter what it is, and encourage her as much as you can to try to be open with you. And don't give up.

It doesn't *sound* like your dd reacted in a strongly resistant manner when you vetoed her NY Eve plans, altho she likely protested, maybe even was mad - but if this were straight rebellion or straight bad influences from others around her, she would, I think anyway, have reacted strenuously to your vetoeing this, esp at the last moment. If she is just used to not having to be in a typical parent/teen role with you, she would have reacted harshly and I seriously doubt she'd be asking to move HOME for her senior year, already knowing that you can and you WILL veto something inappropriate - which is part of the reason why I don't think it's about that so much. It seems more like she is looking for a kind of refuge or perhaps it is as simple as wanting to reconnect before going on with the rest of her life.

Ask her what she envisions life being like if she moves home, before you tell her what will and won't be acceptable. Find out what HER view is about life at home, and how she perceives it FIRST - and invite her to tell you this in as conversational (i.e. not 'we need to sit down and talk about this') way as you can muster. This alone will likely give you some clues as to what *she* is seeking in this decision to move home. Ask her what she thinks it will be like; what she thinks the rules might or might not be; what she thinks are 'fair' freedoms and compromises.

Good luck. I hope she WILL come home for a year. I think she sounds like she needs to :-) and that's really okay you know. The 'best school' or whatever is not the be-all and end-all ... healthy, sound and loving relationships are far harder to learn to maintain than grades. I would welcome her home and trust that you will take the steps together one at a time. Even IF you don't learn what exactly has all happened beforehand. She may only reveal that over time and re-established day to day closeness; being able to argue with you and be there that night to know everything is okay before she sleeps - things that aren't as readily accessible when you live away from home and situaitons that happen on a daily basis over the 'honeymoon' times over vacations, you know? Hugs.