I realize there are a lot of hormonal changes going on, but I'm fearful this will continue as she gets older. We know the advantages of therapy, but she's so unwilling to go ("Why would I want to talk to a complete stranger about my feelings?" "Promise me you'll never call the counselor again!" and "You must think I'm a complete FREAK!") that we're torn between "forcing" her (ugh!) and working within our existing structure of crying/screaming/apologizing/storming around/slamming doors/whining about every other night.
Other days are generally cheerful, but my husband and I are walking on eggshells and are emotionally exhausted.
Anonymous: You’re obviously well-informed and realistic about your daughter’s situation. She’s: internally pressured, check; hormonal, check; emotionally out of control, check; exhausted by holding it together in public, check; letting it all out at home where she feels safe, check; too volatile/disruptive/miserable to be in a “phase,” check.
And you’re rational about therapy, check.
Funny thing about being informed, aware and evolved, though: It can lull you into thinking you’re all set and your daughter’s the one needing help.
You’re not all the way lulled, obviously; you asked me for help. But I harbor no illusions about my purpose. Most letters don’t get answered, and everyone knows this about advice columns, so writing to me is 1 percent asking for help and 99 percent writing out loud.
So consider this a nudge toward saying out loud to a therapist, “We need help with our daughter.” And to her doctor, too, because some illnesses and even food intolerances can affect mood.
A good therapist who treats adolescents, especially teamed with a good pediatrician, can give parents the insights and phrasings and options to engage a volatile child instead of tiptoeing around her — which can either solve this or be Step 1 toward a treatment your daughter needs. Bonus, you won’t refuse to go or call yourselves FREAKS.
And, you can tell your daughter you told a stranger your feelings (topics unspecified) — and say you not only found it helpful, but also not unlike telling a doctor-stranger about your abdominal pain or a dentist-stranger about stuff getting caught in your teeth. Don’t debate, just state. Walk the walk to good care.