Advice about 13-14 Year Olds

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  • Academic/Emotional Help for 8th Grader

    (1 reply)

    Our 13yo son needs help, badly. Historically an anxious over-achiever with some obsessive tendencies, during remote computer-based work he became increasingly distracted on the laptop, and now cannot focus for more than 5 minutes at a time. The result is homework taking HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS. We have tried web site blockers, standing over him to nudge, setting hard deadlines with anticipated academic consequences if he doesn't get the work done (though weirdly, not completing the work has never actually generated any academic consequences) -- none have proved particularly effective or impacted his behavior, nor are they really sustainable at this age. All of this is increasing his anxiety and personal frustration, resulting in very very late nights and thus late mornings, impacting his (and our) entire day. Compounded by 3-hour showers, 2-hour bathroom visits (and of course I know what that might suggest at this age, but this really seems excessive). We reached out to a handful of therapists with an emphasis on teen OCD, and the few who actually responded weren't taking new patients. But who should we even be talking to about this? Is it an emotional issue? A learning issue? An executive functioning issue? A school counselor issue? Where do we start? All suggestions welcome!

    I am sorry to hear about your son's struggles. As a mother of a young adult who's had multiple emotional and learning issues (and still has), here's what I wish we'd have done, or done more of. For one, does your son have something other than school that he's really into? Not necessarily a passion, but a hobby he really likes?  What about a job? Things like that help one ground themselves in reality and make it easier to take on academic and other "artificial" challenges. It's hard to tell from your post if he's attending school in person now, but kids and young adults need to have in person experiences more than adults. If school is all or a lot of it is virtual, that could be contributing to his lack of attention.

    Speaking of attention, has he been assessed by the school district? Could he possibly have ADHD? If he's in private school, you can say your are thinking of transferring him to a public one and request an IEP. 

    Last couple of things. A therapist or maybe a mentor/coach would be nice. Someone who could meet with him and talk to him about his interests and goals. That could get expensive, but might be worth it. I've heard good things about

    If I'd do it all over again, I would find a good academic coach for my son to work with. My son hasn't ever learned how to study and organize himself, and now that he's in college he's reluctant to seek help to learn that, and is having a very hard time with his classes.

    As for long bathroom breaks and showers. I think I know what you are thinking, but another thought is... Have him tested for drugs. That kind of thing impacts ability to focus and takes up quite a bit of time, in a private space. Don't want to freak you out, but...

    Take care, and take of yourself.

  • Hello friends -- my 14 year old boy has always been quiet but until a couple of years ago he showed a playful sense of humor and quirky interests in various things. Then middle school hit and he just wants to lie on the couch and interact as little as possible. I was a moody middle-schooler myself, and my husband is also very reserved, but I worry about how how little he wants to interact at all and whether he's losing out on developing communication skills. He plays music in a couple of string ensembles, plays on a school sports team, attends a church youth group, gets top grades without effort, so there are no obvious problems to fret about. His teachers see no red flags. He's grown about 6 inches in one year and seems to need more sleep than he did before. Maybe I'm just frustrated that my relationship with him feels so nonexistent these days and our conversation is so often about me asking him to put his phone away. I often feel sad and anxious around him.  So wise people, any books/articles to share? should I take him to therapy? am I the one that should go into therapy? am I going to get my kid back when he goes to high school this fall, or ever? Would appreciate your gentle responses. Many thanks.  

    I think it is important to do what you can to encourage your son's connection with your family. I encourage you to consider how much the addictive nature of phones is contributing to the problem, and this article may be helpful:

    Good luck to you,

    Richard, author of "Wired Child"

    I don't know if you need therapy, but you do need to make changes. If the only thing he hears from you is criticism, your relationship is going to suffer. So stop telling him to put his cell away. Instead, you could tell him you are turning off the internet for one hour a day, and then do it. Use a few minutes of this time to compliment him: his music, his sports, his grades. The main thing is you have to be nice instead of critical. It will take awhile for him to recover, but you may find that your relationship improves eventually. Don't give up!

    I'm guessing that he is dealing with something. To go out on a limb, maybe he is gay, and the church or his family sees that in a negative light, so he is down on himself.  Have you talked to him about sex, birth control, lbgtq issues and so on?  Have you told him that it is fine with you if he is gay? It could be something completely different, and maybe talking to a therapist would help him figure out whatever he is dealing with. Ask him if he wants to try it. Offer to find someone and take him there. 

    I feel your sadness for the loss of the more playful, affectionate relationship you had. I went through that with my son. Unfortunately, the measure of how he's feeling is more accurate with other people at this time. If a friend's parent says that he's a pleasure to have over or is helpful (when he is neither at your house), that's a great indication that he is doing well. Good grades and active social life are wonderful news. It's a heartbreaking time. I found that when I fretted and led with anxiety, our relationship felt strained. When I could approach the situation again and again with compassion and lead with my heart, that he would come around. And then not. It's a difficult time. Just because it feels awful sometimes doesn't mean it's not normal. Adolescence is really the hardest time human beings have. It's important to remember that he's not comfortable.either. My impulse to him being cold was sometimes to be cold myself, and that wasn't helpful. I had to tell myself again and again to not take it personally , to not feel sorry for myself, and to not feel like a martyr. It's really hard not to! Eventually the relationship will warm up again. It's important to maintain that warmth so that it can happen.
    Good luck!

    I just had this exact conversation this morning with a friend about my almost 15-year old and her almost-14 year old, both of whom sound exactly like your son.  Welcome to the teen years.  I think it's pretty normal, especially for boys.  I get monosyllabic responses and worry that my son's previously chatty and humorous personality has dimmed considerably.  But I think for almost all teens, they eventually come out of it.  My brother was recently telling me that his son (senior in high school) is still "in it" while his daughter (senior at UCB) now talks to them and has a great relationship with them after several years of near-silence.  I'm sorry, I know exactly what you're going through.  Hang in there, don't take it personally (even though it can feel so directed at us), and just keep loving him unconditionally.  

    Middle school is just such a sea change from the days when they looked to you with those bright eyes, asking you earnestly about all manner of things, listening to your answers.  The growth spurt you mention does sound like he is in that zone of discombobulation that I remember with my daughter who I thought, and still do think, is advanced socially and emotionally (you mentioned his grades remain good and other indicators are all good) -- but oh my goodness!  The chaos and worrying of those days! The wildness, the pushing back, even rage, at times, all seemed to me so jarring, it made me feel like a failure, and that I would never get back the hand-holding, sweet days of yesteryear.  But they do come back, both the kid himself, in his goodness, and more stable relating to him.  Of course, girls w/ mothers are different dynamic; however, they do move into another phase and then they do come back to you.  I would say read the recent book on the adolescent brain by Jensen and Nutt, but I'm afraid I was left with "tell me something I don't already know."  Of course, the science is calming, but really, it offers no strategies.  It doesn't say, be patient, and have faith.  because that is what you need.

    I would go buy a book about teens and what they are doing developmentally.  I think stuff I have read says they are supposed to be differentiating/separating from their parents.  I think it is not uncommon to have younger teens hang out in their room a lot.  I have an older teen.  One thing I wish I had done differently is to do more fun stuff as budget allowed when he was in middle school, because now he mostly does stuff with his friends.

  • Has anyone had success with local providers to help their teen's decision-making skills? My 13-year-old daughter gets paralyzed by decisions. Deciding what to wear in the morning is a nightmare. Deciding what to eat is a nightmare. We've tried giving her many choices, few choices and no choice, but haven't found what works.  She's also a bit defiant and a perfectionist which makes this much harder.  She has been diagnosed with ADHD, attentive type and was taking concerta for a while and stopped in 8th grade. I'm dreading hs mornings and evenings and want to try to get her help ASAP.   She doesn't seem like an anxious person but this is probably caused by anxiety. 

    My son struggles with those kinds of decisions when he is overtired.  See if focusing on increasing the amount of sleep she's getting could help. I do think it's anxiety, but it's made worse by lack of sleep. Perhaps taking an anti-anxiety medication (mild) at bedtime could help her get to sleep earlier and lengthen her nighttime sleeping? Or exercising during the day so she gets more physically tired.  It also helped my son when I pointed out "you're having a hard time with this because you're tired."  That actually made him relax a little.  

    Hi, fellow mom of a girl w ADHD. As far as the "easy" ones (what to wear), I'd let it go. If there are consequences to be had, she'll get them (late to class cuz she couldn't decide, wears something "ridiculous " or inappropriate and gets teased, etc.). As far as the more consequential ones (classes, whether she gets drawn into drugs/alcohol), I found that peer pressure did an awful lot. I never stopped letting her know what my preferences were and why, but yours is likely in that period where parents do NOT matter but friends do). Count your lucky stars if she ends up (chooses) a healthy group. 

    Offer up up whatever counseling, meds she might have available to her, realize and accept that kids w ADHD mature more slowly than non-ADHD, be persistent in your own messaging and encouragement, accept that it's much less up to you now and strongly support the good choices she makes, let her make some mistakes...My blessings to you both. 

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Frustrated with 14yo daughter, worried about my growing anger

May 2013

Hi BPN, I have a problem & I hope this wise group can help. I have a 14 year-old daughter with whom I am growing increasingly angry and resentful. She is a great kid--her teachers love her (for the most part), and other kids' parents always tell me how wonderful she is.

The trouble is, I am growing increasingly annoyed with her and need to find a way to improve things. She is a typical teen--her room is a disaster area at all times, and when I tell her she needs to clean it before she can go out, she will do the bare minimum (hide dirty clothes in the dresser, etc). She does not complete all her assignments on time and makes excuses (none of the other kids are doing IXL!), and if she does do work, she literally does the barest of minimums--I beg, cajole, suggest, etc. and still her papers are of the quality that could be written by a fifth grader (I'm not exaggerating). She loses things constantly (I just got a bill for $130 worth of lost library books), and does not help with household chores, pet care, etc.

My efforts to set firmer limits are complicated by the fact that I have ADD and struggle a lot just to keep a handle on my work and our household. I have tried setting firmer limits, but she is lawyerly and always finds a way around them--which wears me down and exhausts me. I am at my wits end, and have started blowing up at her because I am so frustrated by her failure to help or attend to her own responsibilities. She divides her time between my house and her dad's, which complicates things (her dad is completely checked out and has no idea what is ever going on with school, etc. and she has no chores there either).

Does anyone out there have a helpful solution? I finally snapped this week and sent her to her father's for an undetermined length of time because I just could not take it any more. I have limited funds and cannot afford expensive family therapy ($40/week at most).

Thanks for your insights... Wits' End

I recommend reading books by Mike Riera,, especially ''Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers.'' He's amazing with teens and really ''gets'' them. Your daughter sounds pretty normal in my experience - breaking away from having supervision and constant oversight.

It is hard and terribly frustrating for the parent so I recommend you save your own sanity and peace as much as you can. Pick your battles. Good luck. Been there, done that

You need a set of rules and consequences with her that involve minimum effort on your part. You need to have them developed ahead of time, written down, and ideally mutually agreed upon. Then, when something goes wrong, you point to the list and say, sorry, it's the rule, nothing I can do.

The minimum effort part is key -- then there's no argument to have. Things like, if your dirty laundry doesn't make it into the hamper, I can't wash it. Then when she's out of clean underwear, you say, ''sorry, must not have been in the hamper. Nothing I can do.'' When you get the bill for the lost library books, you say ''If you can't find the books, I have to use your allowance to pay that bill until it's all paid off. Sorry, nothing else I can do.'' Stand firm, and say it, in the same calm tone of voice, as many times as needed -- say the same words, in the same tone, over and over. It's essential not to explain it or fix it for her. She gets it. Dirty clothes or no allowance won't kill her.

With my son, we had a similar issue with schoolwork (he had a bunch of D's and F's mid-semester). In his case, we took his cell phone and computer away, telling him they were clearly interfering with his academic performance. There was all kinds of fuss about ''I can't let you know if a friend is coming over.'' (Sorry, guess your friends can't come over then), and ''I don't have my computer to do my assignments.'' (Sorry, guess you'll have to write them out by hand). His grades were all B or above by the end of the semester.

You also make it clear that her father has his rules, and you have yours. When she is at your house, she will follow your rules.

It would be ideal if you could sit down together sometime when you are both calm, explain that you have a problem and you need her help, and work out the rules and the consequences together. Sometimes this works really well. But with some kids it doesn't; in which case, just show them to her, explain them, and then follow them.

If this is overwhelming, you could pick just a couple at a time (start with the things that bother you the very most), and add on a bit at a time. Karen

It sounds like your child has ADD, too. Perhaps she can't so some of the things you are asking of her without more support. You may have to help her get organized and educate yourself more about teenage ADD. Good luck Mother of an ADD teen

I really empathize with what you are going through. My son had an extremely tumultuous adolescence, and it was very hard on me. Now he is 22, doing great, and we have a great relationship.

You said you ''need to find a way to improve things.'' I think if you focus on improving your relationship and interactions, and not on improving her then things will improve. You need to pick your battles.

First, forget about her room. Just completely shut the door. But, if you have been doing her laundry, then stop. She can and should do her own laundry at age 14 and will deal with her dirty clothes when she needs something to wear! Second, consider forgetting about her schoolwork. I feel a bit mixed about this cause the logical consequence of high school students not doing well is that it affects their college options, which is a long way off, and I really think they are not developmentally ready. But we have a great community college system if she really blows it!

As far as chores, etc, can you try to tie it to some privilege? Like if your chores are done at the end of the day you get your cell phone the next day, otherwise I keep it. Or if your chores are done all week, you get to have a sleepover. Yes, this is like a sticker chart for toddlers. Try to be as emotionless as possible regarding this. Sit down with her and explain the new system--tell her you don't want to yell at her but you want her to be responsible. Let her give her input on what chores she should do and what the privileges granted should be (but you decide!) This is a good time to tell her she can leave her room as messy as she wants--she will feel like that is a win.

Don't let her corner you with last minute demands/requests--I found those very tough--if she does that, practice saying, ''I need time to think about this so you should have told me earlier--now the answer is no--next time tell me earlier'' or ''you chose to put off your chores, so you can't go. I'm sorry you missed this super duper fun outing with your friends.''

I realize the library fine is just one symptom of a bigger picture, but here's what I would suggest. If you give her an allowance (and I think you should), take half away each week till it is paid back. But as a preventative measure, don't let her use your library card. If she has her own and has fines, she won't be able to borrow till she pays it off (unfortunately if it is the school you will be on the hook, then it is back to the payments over time!).

Easier said than done. I am not proud of the way I handled my son's teen years, so I also want to reassure you that blowing up from time to time is not going to ruin your relationship forever. best wishes

You're daughter sounds very similar to how my daughter was. I'm a therapist who specializes in working with teens and their families, but I was at a loss with my own teens. My daughter also had a ''lawyerly'' attitude so everything was an argument. It was exhausting. You mention in your post that you have ADD. From your description, I wonder if your daughter does as well. That was one of the issues that we discovered was a factor. We also had her tested for learning differences and while she is exceptionally bright, her performance in school was similar to what you're describing and she did have some learning differences. If your daughter is very oppositional she may insist that she's ''fine'', despite testing and diagnosis. (Mine did, so refused most help.) You also have the additional issue of separation or divorce from her dad and you say that he is ''checked out'', which also may be a factor. I would suggest some ed. testing and an ADD/ADHD screening. Then you will at least have an understanding of what you're dealing with even if she refuses to use any resources that could be available to her. If she's a verbal kid, therapy with someone that she connects with might help. If you choose this, have her see a few therapists so that she can choose the one she feels most comfortable with and make sure that they have experience with this kind of teen. You're a consumer and should ask as many questions as you need to so that you feel comfortable with the therapist as well. Groups are also a great modality for young teens since they are so into their peers. When I work with younger teens I also will have parent/child, family sessions, whatever I see as appropriate since there are generally upsets in the family, just as you're experiencing and also what my family experienced with my daughter. My daughter is now 21, living on her own, and our relationship is much better. She'll still try to engage me in fights, but I am much clearer with boundaries and it's much easier to be loving when you're not confronted by lost assignments and dirty clothes constantly. Things will improve! Jan

I am eagerly waiting to hear responses. I am so sorry what you are going through, it is not unusual at all though. Lots of teens are like this. The complicating factor of 2 households does complicate school work, and I don't have advice on that. Sorry.

The chore thing has worked for me in that my daughter now is in charge of the dinner dishes, which includes emptying the clean dishwasher. What I like about it is, there is no negociation. There is a time to do it, after dinner. She knows when that is, and she actually does it. I have to admit, she doesn't do all of them, it seems like there is always some pot on the stove that is missed, but I'm keeping it positive and thanking her every time with no critiques on the workmanship. If she forgets something, I just do it later. If she eats else where, she doesn't have to do the dishes. It has helped a lot. She hates being asked to do any chore, so the this takes that aspect out of it. We are coincedently now getting along really well now too.

Her room is still dirty, and I still check power school all the time, but at least this is a start. Good Luck!

Yes it is frightening. I am going thru that with my 14 year old boy now. It's been described to me by my therapist as a time of testing. Trying to find out where the limits are, and it sounds like your daughter doesn't have many. I struggle with the limit setting as well. Here's what I have been trying, with some improvement in his behavior and attitude.

1. Choose your battle carefully. I have focused on only 2 things that I can manage. One is a daily chore (take out the garbage) and limiting Internet time. Eating in his room and eating late at night are 2 that I can't manage just yet.

2. Write it down. He is too good at talking/arguing/badgering/bullying that I am not willing to engage him in discussions on these selected behaviors that I'm trying to foster. For each day that I take out the garbage, he loses 2 days of Internet time. No discussion necessary. I write it on the calendar. I leave him a note with the info. I do not talk to him about it beyond the basic facts, which is about a 1 minute statement. This has improved things tremendously. Talking about the rule wears me down, and I end up feeling manipulated.

3. Do not punish to cause harm or shame. Kids are smart and sensitive and want to do good. There are moments when my son and I can connect and I get a glimpse of his feelings. My goal is to be on his side AND move him along the path I feel is best. It's tough.

4. I sent my son to therapy for a while. I wasn't convinced it did much for him. I think it's better for ME to go to therapy, to get the support I need to get thru the day! I think if my mom had gone to therapy, my childhood could have been just that much better. Anon


13 year old has become so negative!

Oct 2012

My daughter, almost 13, has become so negative! Is this a phase? She puts down everyone, and almost everything. And last spring started complaining about feeling left out of her group of friends at school and her competitive dance team. She is an amazing dancer, a straight A student, beautiful and thoughtful. Something she's always struggled with is that she really likes one on one friendships, but hasn't met that one friend that she really clicks with and also wants to be her BFFL. I can see that she's a little competitive(a lot actually) and the things she complains about are people getting more compliments in dance, especially girls that are not as good as she is(they know), or at both school and dance, there is a different girl at each, that are really gregarious and loud and everyone pays attention to them, and somehow they're leaving my daughter out. I tried explaining to her that everyone responds to that feeling of not being included in different ways. I become that person that is loud and funny and talks a lot because it makes me feel a part of what's happening, where she tends to remove herself. And both are okay.

At first I really got sucked into the negativity. I would listen and fret, I even called my friend whose daughter dances with mine. But nothing was resolved and now I find myself wondering if its something she's going through or if I should be really concerned. She's always been on the serious side, an old soul, and went through a really funny outgoing phase, but really seems to be struggling with her confidence right now. So far, I've been trying to react in a more positive way, instead of getting caught up. Or listening and saying, ''I'm sorry'' or something like that when she complains. For instance at a sleepover she was texting me about the girls being loud during a movie, and I just said ''try to have fun, at least you've seen the movie before'', and then when someone was hogging the bed I left it at, ''I'm sorry'' and her phone died. I want her to talk to me, my mom wasn't available or kind when I was this age, but really?? Is it a phase? My gut tells me it is, but I am worried that because we're so different I'm not taking it seriously enough. Thank you

I WISH I had written your post when my daughter was 13! Instead, I wrote a similar one when she was 15. Our girls sound ver similar: My daughter was/is competitive, had few ''good'' friends (or was critical of the ones she did have), quit volleyball because she was not ''the best'' on the team, texted me a lot (also for situation like the slumber party situation you describe)....

What I did not realize was that she suffered from anxiety! It came to a head in high school, and I finally took her to see someone, and with therapy and some anxiety meds, she is 100% better. I did not realize that she had performance issues, had some perfectionist issues, and pretty severe anxiety. The medication has worked wonders for her, and I have seen her blossom in high school. Once she realized what was going on, she told me that she has always felt this way, even as a small child. My heart breaks that I did not know or did not help her sooner. I always just brushed it off as her being a ''high maintenance'' kid or self centered or whatever. I am much more supportive of her now, knowing how her brain works, what she is feeling, and how to help her.

I don't know if your daughter has anxiety, but your posting of your daughter sounds EXACTLY like something I would have written a few years ago. There is a good book called, ''My Anxious Mind'' that you may want to look at, just in case. It's for teens.

Good luck. I never thought I would support anxiety medication, but that, coupled with some therapy, saved my daughter. She is an amazing senior now, has much more confidence, and is currently applying for college. There is NO WAY she would be in this place if we had not gotten her help when we did. My heart goes out to you!

My daughter went through a similar phase at 13 while at an all girls school. Girls at that age can be very catty and yes they are very competitive. In addition, as if that wasn't enough, their hormones are raging (causing swinging emotions) and their brain synapses are forming new pathways. All this plays a factor in this negativity. 6th grade is very rough (it was for me and many a night I cried bitter tears). Hang in there. It's important to show that you support her (which undoubtedly you do), but also try not to ''solve'' her ''problems,'' but rather try to listen with your head not your heart and try to guide her to a positive resolution (letting her define her solution). I've learned that my daughter wants me to hear her problems but not necessarily solve them. She is still forming her identity and this can be difficult in addition to figuring out who her true friends are(which btw, my daughter does not have many but few good ones), and who she can trust. I hope this helps. It will get better, my daughter is now in 10th grade in a public school and doing very well. This is where I cry....ahem she pretty much doesn't need me anymore boo hoo!!! Gloria

Dear Mom, Oh, it sounds like your daughter is really going through it. It's so hard to see that happening and not be sure what to do! While it is '' normal'' for young teens to go through some negative self awareness and difficulties navigating the social environment, from what you wrote it sounds like your daughter is really hurting and is letting you know that she needs your help. It's really important that you don't write it off as ' just a phase' and miss the opportunity to help her get through this. Adolescence is a really challenging time for kids. Their identity is developing and suddenly who they are in relation their peers appears critical. It's great that you are empathizing with her but it sounds like she's asking you '' How do I do this?'' and of course you don't have all the answers ( what parent does!).

I would suggest that you get curious with her, get a sense of what she would like to be happening with her friends and then do some collaborative problem solving with her. Most Importantly you don't want to lose the trust you and she obviously have. And that is at risk if she feels like you don't '' get'' what she is going through. As her parent you are the best compass she has, and you can't figure it out for her. It's the beginning of her growing into her own person and you get to stand by and watch and, if she lets you, sometime hold her hand. ZS

Typical 13-year-old behavior? need a reality check

May 2011

A few months ago, my husband and I became foster parents to a boy we knew who had to be removed from his home due to significant abuse and neglect. I'm educating myself about the issues that come with this territory, so I'm not asking for support about that part here (I have in the past--thanks all!).

What I'd really appreciate is a reality check from parents of 13-year-olds (boy or girl) about typical behavior. My grown daughter was really mellow at this age, so I've been unprepared for just how hard it is to live with a teenager this time around. I think lots of his behavior is related to his past, but plenty of it also just comes with the age.

Have you got a moody, unpredictable, sullen teenager? I'd love to hear about it. Please help normalize this confusing experience for me! How have you risen above the rapidly fluctuating moods without feeling crazy? Is your teen childish one minute and then talking about asking a girl out the next? Was 13 particularly bad and then they settled down? Throw me a lifeline, someone! I need some encouragement that this is normal, and this too shall pass. which way is the wind blowing now?

YES! This is all normal, even for kids who are not dealing with the enormous emotional issues that are associated with your particular situation.

Deep breathe - one day at a time! encouraging

Moody teens? What?? Unheard of!

I had a moody girl and I'm afraid to say that it lasted for quite a few years. She is a really sensitive person and feels things very acutely. I think lots of people are like this. It makes for a deep thinker, a creative person, and often a depressed person. My daughter was in therapy and did end up going on anti-depressants after hitting rock bottom, which was very hard for all of us. She was on them for several years and has finally weaned herself off at 19. Sounds like you are doing all the right things for this kid. Good for you! But yea, it sounds like his normal moodiness might be compounded with his past. Be aware of him falling deeper into himself. You might mention to him that if he feels really bad, and doesn't want to talk to you, he should call someone to talk and make sure he knows who that someone is. Does he have any creative outlets: writing, drawing, painting? It helps.

Keep talking to him and loving him! Good luck! anon

13 was the worst in my experience. 14 was about as bad, 15 was better and 16 is much better. My daughter seemed to have two personas. One was affection, silly, babyish but basically cooperative. The other was a sullen, nasty, foul-mouthed brat from hell. She would switch between the two so often -- many times a day -- that I would sometimes feel I was going crazy. I used to joke to my friends that the evil twin sometimes took control of her body, and I never knew which once I was going to get. Also I'd find myself reacting to one when the other had taken over, so my reactions were often out of sync with her behavior. Now I look back and can actually feel sorry for her, at the time I only felt sorry for myself. She's not perfect now, but much better. I can tell when I call her if she's alone or with friends. If she's alone she answers in a high-pitched cheerful ''baby'' voice ''Hi Mommy!'', but if she's with friends I get ''Hullllo'' in this ''I'm bored out of my skull just talking to you already'' drawl. And I've heard her friends use the same voice to their parents! It's really kind of funny, if you can keep your perspective on it. They are torn between wanting to grow up immediately and being scared to death of growing up. I think you just have to endure it, give what guidance you can and try to keep the relationship intact. Been There

Moody, sullen, changeable, depressed 13 year old? Sounds normal to me. Even a kid with everything going for them (friends, academics, activities) can find high school unbearable. Plus 13 is the beginning of the steps towards life independence that good parents encourage, even as they wince while boundaries are tested. Although you can physically take away privileges for disobedience, this is the point where you might prefer to rely on the strength of your emotional bond and open communication with the young adult.

In your case, the bond may need extra effort, to compensate for its newness. If it were me, I would offer activities as treats: ask him what he'd like to do-- on Saturday, or for his birthday: Shoot hoops? A movie together? An outing with friends, made possible by you? A modest dinner out? A daytrip to SF? A music festival? Camping or hiking? Visit a rock climbing gym? A football game? You want him to have some memories of good times and guardian support and appreciation. This can be as simple as asking him what he wants you to buy at the grocery store for lunches or dinner. Or expressing interest in his interests. Or cooking him breakfast.

We found it helpful to frame some complaints with teens as ''good roommate/bad roommate'': A good roommate picks up after himself, does his share of cleaning/taking out garbage, listens politely, controls his anger, doesn't swear at adults, doesn't borrow stuff without asking, lets people know if he won't be home for dinner. With our kids, this sent the message that we were thinking of them as adults in the making; with a newly adopted kid, it might be scary (''I'm not permanent''). You sound very conscious of his issues and baggage.

General teen survival recommendations: Encourage exercise (sports, and make him walk or bike to school). When you do drive him, encourage talking (''no texting in the car''). Provide as much fresh fruit, veggies (with dip if necessary), and protein as you can (milk, eggs, meat, beans-- can be in the form of sloppy joes or hot dogs and beans); in the afternoon, boy teens will often eat whatever you put in front of them. Make the junk as healthy as you can: ice cream, or a glass of milk and homemade oatmeal cookies with raisins, nuts, wheat germ. Calcium is supposed to be good for impulse control; fish oil (tuna, salmon) and vitamin B is supposed to be good for depression. But sadly, the only way past an ordinary miserable teenhood is time.

One warning: IMHO, parents of kids over age 12 should have an adult at home afternoons and evenings, if at all possible. Good luck!

13-year-old daughter pitting mom against dad

March 2011

My 13 year old daughter is a middle child, does well in school, has friends, an artistic temperament, and is a sensitive and moody young teenager. She and I have similar personalities and clash more often than she does with her father. She also argues quite a bit with her sisters. My issue is this: over the past year she has started to go to my husband whenever I set a limit and get into an argument with her. He listens to her ''side'' of the story and then the three of us have to discuss it. She knows it drives me crazy when she doesn't get her way and says ''I'm going to tell Dad'' and goes to find him or even texts him about what's going on. My view is that he needs to tell her to turn around and solve the issue with me. He thinks he can add value to the discussion and that this is a good family communication style. Sometimes he has useful feedback and sometimes we disagree about how to handle the situation. I think this is a dysfunctional style of parenting, pitting the parents against each other while she's in the middle. I also feel undermined. Does anyone have ideas about how to resolve this? thanks for your help

Have you been spying on my household? SO familiar. I'm the dad and my 12-13-yo daughter did that numerous times, literally leaving the house (sometimes at night) in a rage and going to mom's. Not the only reason, but daughter is now in a residential treatment facility and doing well. And on home visits this behavior no longer takes place. One thing I learned, and it is now an agreement within the family:

Family rule: If you are residing (or with, at any time) one parent and you have a problem with that parent, you work it out with that parent, no exceptions. A violation (by the child) brings consequences (more chores, loss of privileges, whatever).

You obviously need a buy-in from dad on this. The way you laid it out (and I can't tell if you and dad live together or are in different households, but no matter), dad is NOT helping, and whether or not his intentions are good (probably are), he is feeding a manipulation. Without dad's buy-in, you're kind of stuck, and the situation will not improve. ''My view is that he needs to tell her to turn around and solve the issue with me'' is exactly right. If he is firm on this 2-3 times, your daughter's behavior (on this point) will stop. But 1) you need to both explain the new rule to daughter and 2) if she violates, there need to be consequences, imposed by you and supported unequivocally by him (or I suppose, consequences can be imposed by him if you are in the same household, but dad may not be as motivated to do this). Once your daughter buys in, there may be ways to incorporate dad's feedback into difficult situations, but not while she's playing the two of you like an accordian.

Been there, in spades, but it is history now. Hope this helps.

A good book we were assigned at the RTF is ''Common Sense Parenting.'' I forget the author. Great guidebook. rg

well, I agree with both you and your husband. I think YOU should take the initiative (when possible) and when she approaches you with a tough request, say, ''your dad and I are going to have to talk about that.'' Then the two of you can talk in private, then all three of you can talk about it, then the two of you can talk again if needed, then you present your decision to her. But obviously this process isn't going to work for all the zillions of little decisions that have to be made every day, so you and your partner have to agree ahead of time that you each have the authority to make those decisions that need to be made on the spot, and if she runs to dad afterwards, he should say something like, ''Mom already decided on that one, but this weekend we can sit down and talk about it for next time.''

I'm the ''tough'' parent too, and I know it is hard. It also helps to have blanket policies. Like one for my daughter around that age was only one sleepover/weekend (cause otherwise she was a basket case). That was exactly the kind of thing she could talk dad into, until he and I agreed on a ''policy,'' rather than deciding about each request good luck!

Wow. You may not like to hear this, but, from my perspective, it does not sound like she is 'pitting' one parent against the other. Your husband, from what you say, often adds to the discussion. He IS her dad, And, as, you wrote, since you and daughter have similar temperaments and clash more, having the dad enter into the discussions may be a good thing. As long as he does not actively undermine you, but it becomes a joint discussion. Sorry. Another Mom

Husband losing it with 13 & 14 year old sons

April 2010

I need help and advice and I don't have anywhere to turn. I've been with my husband since I was 15 - almost 26 years now. Our relationship was rocky at the start but has been pretty darn steady since our early 20's. The only thing we've really had trouble with since having kids is parenting style differences. That's pretty much all we fight about. I work with kids and while I'm not lenient, I'm also not harsh. He wants to see results more quickly.

Now that we have 12 and 13 year old boys (soon to turn 13 and 14), things are getting really tough. My older son and my husband argue constantly. When I feel like things are getting too intense I butt in to try and bring down the emotion level some. I know that's not going to work, but it elevates to the point of being scary to me. My husband gets really upset when the 13 year old makes mistakes, and is constantly controlling his emotions. But he doesn't understand that our son can see through that. He'll say things to him like he's destroying our family and then be upset that our son doesn't agree. How could he possibly? What adult let alone child feels they can take on that level of blame? That's just an example.

So now my husband is feeling he might move out. He has been my lifeline since I was a teen and I can't imagine life without him, but I also can't imagine life like this either. It's not emotionally healthy for any of us. I'm so afraid of being a single parent. I have a big job and work so much. I'm not good with handling finances. I guess one thing I'm wondering is if there are other couples who have separated for a time for this kind of reason and things worked out in the end? We have been in family therapy and I imagine we will continue. I think it's actually brought up more emotion for my husband who is a very passionate person. I'm all ears - hoping someone is out there listening and can help! anxious

I feel for you; this is a scary time. But it is just a period of time -- in my experience, this kind of raging tempest can blow over. My situation is different from yours in that I am a divorced mom with a thirteen-year-old son who spends half his time with his Dad. But it is the same in that Dad really wants to control son's behavior, can't tolerate any level of challenge to his authority or doping off from son, Dad says really hurtful things to son (''you disgust me'', etc.). Last year my son refused several times to go to his Dad's house when it was Dad's turn to have him, but because it is important to me that son keeps up his relationship with Dad, I persuaded him to go. There were tears, son would take off for an afternoon or walk out of Dad's house at 9pm on a school night, etc. etc. Drama. His Dad and I went to see a therapist about our issues with son, and therapist urged Dad to be less punitive and controlling, at which point Dad told therapist that she favored women and stalked off in a rage. It was awful. But that was last year. This year things have mellowed between Dad and son. Son seems more oriented toward pleasing Dad. Dad has softened somewhat toward son. I am not sure what happened, but I think that my constant emphasis on ''we have to try to get along,'' and my insistence that Dad and son work together had something to do with it. I kept out of the way, comforting my son when Dad said hurtful and stupid things (as your husband does), and letting Dad know that son was hurt by the statements (without adding my moral judgment to the mix). Long story short: it can get better. Stay your course and be sympathetic to both son and Dad (Dad has issues, they came from somewhere) and stress how much you want to support their relationship. I think that it will pass. in calm waters... for now

We have a 13 year old girl and have had major stress due to that, as well. Again, I am more tolerant, and my husband more strict. What I have done is to talk to each of them individually, and explain that I am trying to help them. With regard to my husband, I have backed off a lot, and actually walk away from the room when they get in an argument, unless I feel he is being way to unfair. I also explained to my husband why I feel the way I feel, and have had him read books on teens (Staying Connected to your Teenager by Michael Riera is a great one), so he has also calmed down a bit. I explained to my teen that we have different parenting styles, and that she needs to learn to deal with both, but that we ultimately love her, and want what is best for her, though it may not come across that way. I try to spend one on one time with her, talking, talking and listening. You don't want every conversation to turn into a lecture! And by all means, continue the counseling. If this counselor is not effective, find another one. Remember, your husband and you are in this together, and remind him of this also. Tell him how you feel, that he is your lifeline, etc. and that you need to do this together. When my husband finally understood how much I needed him to co-operate, and how much he was affecting me (and my daughter), he did calm down and try to soften up a little. He is still strict - that is what he is, but at least they are nor at each others throat all the time now. Good luck! Timi

There is actually a tremendous amount of help and support available for parents, teens and their families here in the East Bay. Feeling like your own identity and that of the family is in crisis...or feeling in over your head...are not uncommon experiences in parenting teens, especially if you're not on the same page with your spouse. Please feel welcome to check out the materials on my website at and you're also welcome to contact me if you think that having a consultation might be of help. Sometimes it's really good to turn in the direction of a third party (or other outside perspective), so that you two can limit fighting each other, and join together more in the service of figuring out compromises and really determining if this intense strain can be lessened--either through some increased support and education about the challenges of parenting teens, or by determining whether you really do need to consider separation.

You might also want to really comb through the UC Berkeley Parents Network website for resources and family, couples or individual psychotherapy seems like a pretty good idea given what you've described. All the best.... Michael Y. Simon, MFT

Demanding dads and their sons - argh! I think sometimes it is better to have a male therapist. Guys DO think differently. Michael (Mick) Hausauer is fantastic. Non-judgmental, calm and solution oriented. Not one of those therapists that forever says, what do you think?. He has ideas and solutions. He's good with the dads and good with the sons.

His office is on Piedmont Ave in Oakland and his phone number is 510- 654-2311. He was good for my son but even better for my husband. Men need results. They need to be in charge, to fix things. Talk is not enough. peace maker mom

13-year-old daughter does not want to talk to me

March 2010

I have a 13 year old daughter who, only recently, does not want to talk to me about her life. She will tell me what she needs (clothing washed, food, binder paper...) but does not want to talk about anything that might be happening at school, with her or her peers. I know for a fact (based on discussions with other parents) that some kids in her circle of friends at school are smoking pot (or have been offered pot), are having sex (or playing around sexually), and skip classes. I do not believe my daughter is doing any of these things, but at the same time, she refuses to participate in any discussion with us around these topics. She finds us ''overprotective'' and if we try to talk to her about any of these issues, she accuses us of ''not believing'' her (although we have never accused her of anything).

How do you talk to your teen without them shutting down? We do not have discipline issues at home, and she is an excellent student. BUT, she will not talk about any of the life issues that we need to discuss. I am concerned that she is going to start thinking that the behavior of some of her friends is ''the norm,'' and will use their experiences as her compass for what is acceptable behavior for a 13 year old.

HELP. Any talking points/resources/books are greatly appreciated. Need a mother's helper

My daughter is the same age, and starting displaying the same behavior about 6-8 months ago. We have always been very close, so it was a big shock for me, in addition to the worry of wondering what she was up to. It really escalated after she became interested in a boy who she wanted to date, but I thought she was too young for dating at 12. Books I have found very useful are ''Staying Connected to your Teenager'' by Michael Reira, and any books by him. There is no easy solution, but he has some useful tips (such as staying open to talking late at night, when they are more prone to confidences, taking long car rides with them during which time they often open up, etc.) Just remember that they will grow out of it - so I hear from many of my friends whose kids are now grown, and are again close to their parents. Timi

my daughter, now almost 15, has never been very forthcoming though she is more so now. I just tell her what I need to tell her and preface these conversations with, ''I know this is difficult/embarrassing, but I've got something I want to talk to you about.'' Then I say what I want to say and ask if she has questions or comments (no). So in your case, you can say, ''I know some of the other students at your school are smoking pot, and here's what I think about that'' or ''here are the consequences if you do it'' (probably avoid saying ''I know your friends are...'') best wishes

As recommended (probably) by many in the past, I would strongly suggest picking up Mike Riera's ''Uncommon Sense for Parents of Teenagers.'' It's a fantastic companion for parenting teens. In addition, there are ''parenting teen'' support group listings here on the UC Berkeley Parents Network website and I have some resources listed on my own website at I would also check out A. Rae Simpson's Harvard Study (available at this site: Parenting teens and figuring out the right balance between preserving privacy and autonomy and keeping our kids connected and safe is a difficult art, but there is a lot of help available to you. Hang in there with your daughter as she pushes you away. She doesn't really want you to go away, she just needs you to understand how and when to reach out to her. These resources will help you with that challenge. Michael Y. Simon, MFT

I think the trick to getting teens to listen is to talk about both sides of an issue. At first glance, you may see no upside to smoking, but people do it so they must be getting something out of it. So when you talk about smoking, for instance, talk about the cons, but also talk about the pros, and then give your opinion. Also, once a kid gets out of elementary school, you can't control them anymore, so don't think that they will talk because you ask them to. You just have to accept their decisions. Make sure you compliment her generously, also. Sanon

13-year-old girl is falling apart physically & socially

Jan 2008

I need advice about helping my daughter, who's having medical, psychological & school problems. She's 13 & in 7th grade. She used to have lots of friends, love sports, & do well in school. With the onset of her period 9 months ago, she's fallen apart. Medical & psych problems: First she dropped out of sports & withdrew from friends. Then she developed severe headaches & missed 90% of school days. I'm an RN & taking the lead in coordinating her care; my husband is very engaged. We've had her evaluated by a behavioral pediatrician (for neuropsychological testing), a Stanford pediatric neurologist & a psychologist. Major medical problems have been ruled out. Diagnoses are: 1)chronic daily headaches; 2)anxiety disorder, social anxiety & panic attacks; & 3)executive function deficits. Chronic daily headaches are among the most debilitating & hard to treat. Hers most likely are due to severe stress at school. (They disappeared during our recent vacation.) Next steps I see are a child psychiatrist to evaluate for anxiety & depression; possible endocrinology consult; & a new therapist (she refused to open up to the current one). She's on 2 anti- headache meds, which she surreptiously quit taking during the vacation & now refuses to take. She probably needs meds for anxiety &/or depression. Am I overlooking anything?

School: She's gifted academically, but her grades dropped from A's to F's due to refusal to do homework (''it's stupid''). Her school counselor arranged for a home teacher 5 hrs/week, but my child refuses to do the work even when she feels OK. The school district wants to put her on home schooling &/or hold her back to repeat the 7th grade (which will devastate her). I feel confident dealing with the medical system, but I'm lost about school bureaucracy & our rights. What do I need to do?

She's creative & artistic, spending hours deeply absorbed in writing,reading & drawing. She wants me to find another school, but we can't afford a private school. She'd thrive in a school for the arts or in independent study. How can I help her find an environment like this?

I'm overwhelmed & super-stressed about this. I'd appreciate any help you can give me. Mama tiger/ Earth mama

My heart goes out to all three of you. 1). Have you looked into evaluating her overall health balances, including hormones, with a practioner who is a naturopath? I can recommend Dr. Zhao Su, a fantastic diagnostician, with a 360 degree look and comprehensive review. She is gifted, and uses all sorts of training/disciplines to get the full picture. She is also a young woman, very gentle and loving, no judgment at all. Just kindness and curiousity as to the root of the problem and finding the right quick solutions. Zhao Su, L.Ac, D.C. New Paradigm Health Center 2287 Washington Ave. (Marina Exit EAST, off 880, corner of Washington and Marina., San Leandro, CA 94577 510-346-2688

2.) Have you looked into the sexual pressures at her school? Becoming a menstrating young woman can have all sorts of ramifications in the teen world.

Knowing you will find your answers! Louise

You might want to consider consultation with a naturopath who addresses hormonal issues to complement your traditional medical evaluations. Amy Day of South of Market Acupuncture/Natural Health in San Francisco does phone consultations. Teens with executive functioning issues often do not do well with traditional therapists. My son's neuropsychologist, Terry Doyle, is excellent but is booked in the short term. Her office might be able to make a recommendation. With your daughter's issues, she qualifies for accommodations under section 504. The Disability Rights Education Defense Fund can assist you in making a request for accommodations. While you await a medication evaluation, you might consider giving your daughter natural supplements. My son is successfully using 5-HTP, N-Acetyl Tyrosine (depression) and GABA (anxiety) while awaiting a medication evaluation. Good luck. Anon

Please understand that I am saying this from having had a virtually identical experience with my now 16 year old daughter which started when she was in the last half of six grade.It is extremely apparent to me that your daughter is very highly likely to be experiencing relational aggression by the girls in her school. I suggest that you run, don't walk, to get a copy of Queen Bees and Wannabes to read before the end of the weekend. And that you rent a copy of the movie ODD GIRL OUT and watch it with your daughter, the sooner the better - tonight if possible. Also, google ''relational aggression'' and read all the articles tonight! I doubt that your daughter has ANY of the problems diagnosed and suspect that she has had more anxiety raised by all the doctors. She is probably too embarrassed to volunteer to you what is happening to her at school every day in the social life. And the school probably is not tuned in. You very well may need to move her school; all good private schools have financial aid available, as well as scholarships. But this problem is at every school today. The doctors simply don't know what girls today are dealing with at school. The bullying is endemic and deadly. She needs your unwaivering support to reassure her that she is completely okay and that there is nothing wrong with her, in fact, I'll bet there is everything right with her. I am sure your daughter is a talented, bright, caring, loving, probably gorgeous young woman. And she is encountering jealousy turned into bullying. Monitor her text messages, her email, her instant messaging and keep copies of all the mean things you probably will find. Start right now; her life might be at stake. The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to help her and that there are a lot of resources for help. Email me and we can talk more. sg

I would suggest consulting Bodin Associates: They're educational consultants, who are aware of all sorts of resources & alternatives. When my son had similar issues, they pointed me in the right direction. Liz

I really feel for you!!! My daughter was falling apart around the same time, but in different ways.

Firstly, I'm a pracationer of living life fully and healthily, and mom of a happier and sweeter 16-year old daughter, not a medical anything, just so you know where I'm coming from.

It sounds like school is a real problem and if I were you I would FIND the money for a different school. I don't think medicating her in order for her to fit into the round hole is the way to go. That said if she is SO depressed and verging on being suicidal you do what you have to do to save your girls life (which is what happened to us-she's taking anti-depressants). Is there anyone such as a counselor at school or a group that your daughter could connect with? My daughter joined the gay-straight alliance at Willard and it helped her to feel a part of things and that school wasn't all bad.

If she's interested in anything physical (sports, dance, acrobatics, yoga, etc.) sign her up! I think sports have also saved my daughter.

We went to a great Art Therapist. It was the first time I had done anything like that, and us both being artists, it really resonated and helped us to get at things that we couldn't put into words. Her name is Ava Charney-Danysh, in El Cerritto, 527-6112.

I don't think there has been very many studies done on this but I am convinced that the onset of hormones and periods changes a girls brain! We know very well about PMS in adults, but don't really attribute PMS to the difficulties that our daughters go through starting at around 12-13 (or earlier). We tried a lot of different modes of healing (homoepathic, accupunture, talk therapy, chiropractics) and finally found a WONDERFUL nutritionist to help with my daughter's irregularities in her period. This woman really knows her stuff and recommended a few good supplements for hormones and overall health. In fact, I started taking them for my PMS and it has really helped. You might call her and ask her if she thinks she can help your daughter. She also talks about healthier foods to eat. She makes it really clear to my daughter what the different supplements and foods are good for. Her name is Anasuya Batliner, in Berkeley, 848-8439. Her website is It looks more ''groovy'' than she really is. She's very straight forward and practical.

It's a really stressful time for all of you. Take care of yourself too because you need the strength to keep trying things and to be there for her. I think the teen years have been MUCH harder than those early infant years. Try and do things that you both enjoy on your days off or after work/school. Do something out of the ordinary to break the spell of a stressful day. Take a walk at night by the water, take a run together, Kabuki Hot Springs in SF has a women's only day on Sundays, eat out at your favorite cheap restaurant, have a picnic (when it gets warm), pet some animals, you know...

There, I think that's all I know how to do!

I wish you the best of luck! anon

Hi -
My daughter had severe anxiety / panic attacks and physical symptoms too starting around 8th grade. The source was entirely socially related (she was a great student). A queen bee friend betrayed her and publicly led everyone to shut her out, this lasted a year. By then her own low confidence I think reinforced it. I found out several years later. She internalized it and was ashamed to talk about it. Cognitive behavioral therapy was a good first step for her, I mean more than a year of it with her being motivated and engaged in the therapy. That eventually eliminated the panic attacks and almost all anxiety. It was hard work, most of it her practicing techniques in her day-to-day life and looking inward.

Then she became aware of the layer below that and articulated that this was no less than a trauma. She put the blame where it belonged and got really angry. She requested more typical talk therapy to deal with the feelings that whole thing generated. She had someone for a while and will find someone in the near future. She can function pretty happily without that immediate kind of help.

She had major, serious physical symptoms - the most obvious but most superficial aspect as it turned out. Medical experts were almost no help. She's still dealing with one of the physical symptoms at a low grade, not a crisis any more. I'm convinced and so is she that that trauma and her inability to talk about it or deal with it for a couple of years was at the root of everything.

By the way, we changed schools and she got into other activities and made different kinds of friends. Her trust in people is still not 100%, but she's open and her new experiences with people have shown her that she's not a freak and the world is not made up entirely of mean people, and these realizations are comforting. I had told her this earlier but it was not possible for her to take it in from me, she has to keep knowing it more and more herself.

To this day, that girl's name is the ugliest word in the English language in our house.

I wonder if something happened with your daughter unrelated to her period? I forget whether you mentioned, is she in some kind of counseling?

Hope this helps. Good luck.
been there

Mama tiger/ Earth mama -
Sorry to hear about your 13 year old's problems. They sound similar to ones our own 13 year old daughter is experiencing. I'm reluctant to blame everything on hormones, but she's been diagnosed with PCOS, and that seems to be a significant factor. Like many with PCOS, she was put on YAZ birth control pills, which helped for a couple months, but which now seems to have made many of her symptoms worse. Back to Square One. Good luck to you! Oaktown Dad

I am sorry both you and your daughter are suffering. I am a therapist who works with adolescents and their parents (when necessary) and have an office in Rockridge. I have been in practice many years and am comfortable working with this age group. If you would like to set up a one time consultation with both you and your daughter, feel free to e mail me. I do accept insurance but I'm no longer on any managed care panels. Alison

Hi Stressed Out Mama,
I don't have all the answers here, but wanted to say that as a clinical psychologist and fellow mother in the trenches, you seem to be doing all the right things. You are headed down the right path, it is just long and painful. I absolutely feel a psych medication evaluation could be really helpful.

I also think the match between your daughter and her therapist is critical. If she does not feel comfortable and safe with the therapist your daughter will not prosper from the treatment. Shop around if need be, but be picky about the match. It is key. You are going through so much watching your daughter suffer. I also hope you are engaging in good self care, which might include getting your own support. Good luck and know you are not alone.
Another mom

My daughter and her best friend had similar issues at this age. When girls start their menstrual cycle their hormones can fluctuate wildly and destabilize them. My daughter became extremely irritable, was moody, anxious, and had headaches. She saw a neurologist and was diagnosed with migraines. Many girls develop anxiety and depression when they start their menstrual cycle-- their rate of depression is equal to boys before menstruation and double after it. My daughter's pediatrician put her on birth control pills and this helped a lot. She still had headaches but they became less severe over time and she just ignored them. Her mood became more stable. We started her on meds for her ADHD at age 16 and this helped her a lot because her difficulty concentrating was affecting her grades and self esteem. She is currently healthy, has lots of friends and is getting good grades at UCSB. She got into UCSB on appeal, in part, by writing about her ADHD and how meds helped so much.

What your daughter is going through happens to a lot of girls. It sounds like her self esteem is a big factor now.

Could she transfer schools and get a fresh start or do part-time home study and part-time classes? anon

Maybe my response under ''Looking for recommendations for family therapist/teen issues'' will be helpful. Hugs,
mom of struggling son in residential treatment

I can totally sympathize with you on this. I would highly reccomend consulting with Dr. Lisa Hardy in San Ramon. She has extensive credentials and can be easily googled. It is well worth the effort, time and money. Call her practice immediately and start getting your daughter on track to well being. anon

Have you looked at the Maybeck School in Berkeley? It's near and I hear it's wonderful (friends' children go there). We are looking at Hyde School in Maine, which is extreme and extemely expensive. This problem is a huge weight, I feel the same unhappiness and pressure, and I feel for you and your daughter.
You're Not Alone

Our daughter, when she was 12, went through a very similar thing -- daily headaches, visits to specialists, out of school for several months.

Ultimately we were helped enormously by the San Mateo Teen Anxiety Clinic. They offered (i hope they still do - it was great) a 6 week class for both parents and kids (meeting in separate groups). I believe non-Kaiser members can join for a fee.

If you still are looking for direction or just want to compare notes, I am happy to talk with you.

Best to you,

13 yr old - hormones flaring

March 2007

Our just-turned-13 yr old daughter is new to the public school system. We have never talked to her about dating, sex, relationships etc. She has mentioned many times that ''she knows everything''. we accidentally came upon some of her emails - from which it seems that she is somewhat obsessed by boys/sex. She has not been on a date so far. But she has told us that all of her friends in school have had boyfriends. so looks like we have to have some long overdue conversations with her. we need some advice:

what realistic limits can we set (and expect her to obey) on dating and sex. I am looking for guidelines that have worked (or not) for you.

- is no dating till high school a realistic limit?
- is no sex of any kind till 16/17 a realistic limit?

we definitely want emphasize to her that relationships with boys is not restricted to sex. we want to be supportive as she explores new horizons but at the same time we want to educate her about her responsibilities.

- would allowing her to meet more boys - either in a group environment or one-one-one - help her appreciate non- sexual realtionships.

we were under the impression that we would not have to deal with this situation until high school. how many of you have had to deal with this in 7th grade?

please help Concerned Dad

The only real damage you can do to your 7th grader is to adopt the attitude that your standards are unrealistic -- or to allow her to think that they're arbitrary. My daughter knew we did not want her to have sex in high school or drink or do drugs. She also knew WHY that was the case. My parents had the same expectation, but didn't need to explain it to me because it was an expectation shared by the parents of all my friends, and most of my community.

What has actually changed between my generation and my daughter's is that we have to talk to each other, and be honest about expectations and why they are appropriate. You will find the public schools to be your ally in this, as your daughter's classmates self-destruct under the pressure of being teenagers with parents who have either given up, or think their morality is obsolete... or hold their kids only to the standards they remember from the '60s (a very different time). My daughter has had friends hospitalized for drugs and depression, for cutting and for attempted suicide. She has had teen friends get pregnant and either have or not have a baby. She has had friends throw up on her, go to jail, go to rehab, go to character-building boarding schools... and one just went crazy.

The excitement wears thin pretty fast... and despite parents who think its just the way it is... all these examples supported our expectations and request that she not drink or do drugs, or have sex, in high school. Yes, she and her friends stepped over the line from time to time -- but where would they have been if there were no line??? My heart breaks for her friends who flamed out trying to react against parents who wanted to be cool and figured nothing they said would matter. Or whose parents weren't even paying enough attention to know what was going on.

I would encourage you to start talking with your daughter about the future, and the fact that she HAS one... Make your expectations known to her on a routine basis -- by talking about other kids, or things in the news. My daughter and I used to watch Jerry Springer and the Maury Povitch Show when she was home sick... with the spoken rule that she would NEVER DO ANYTHING that would get her on a show like that. Don't talk about your own foibles -- its dull and in my case would have involved some ''don't do what I did''...even though what I did was not much by modern standards...

My mantra when my daughter was your daughter's age was ''No one told me how much of my life I'd be OVER 18....what was the hurry?'' Anonymous for the sake of my Good Girl

Please!!! Lots of girls have birth control and are ''deeply in love'' at 13 years old. While some 13 year old girls are still kids, some girls consider themselves very mature.

My advice to you is to start hanging out with her. Take her to something that you want to do. Girls will tolerate even ball parks with Dad if it's one on one. You sound great and I am sure she adores you. So talk about everything. Talk about STDs and crazy sex things like 10 year old mothers. Talk about what guys think about girls......about the paradox of nice girls and girls who are nice and about names girls can get called if they have too many boy friends, wear too much make up etc.. and about infatuation/love and talk talk talk...she will roll her eyes but take everything in.

Tell her stories about people you have known.... Moms are great but she is so lucky to have a Dad so for her. The voice of experience

Girls are under all kinds of pressure to date and be sexually active at a young age. My girls have always been in public school, and from the time that some of her friends had ''boyfriends'' (5th grade), we told my oldest that she was not allowed to date until she was sixteen. Now we didnt tell her she couldn't have a ''boyfriend'' or go out with a mixed group of kids, so when these instances came up, we let her because we thought she was mature enough to handle them. And it worked. She didn't have a steady boyfriend until 11th grade, mostly because she really wasn't ready. She is 18 now, and I'm not sure when she became sexually active, but we have had many conversations about protecting herself, birth control, Planned Parenthood, etc. My younger daughter is 15 now, interested in boys, but she knows she can't date until 16.

Something this limit also does is give the girls an excuse if they're not ready to put the blame on their parents (my parents are So Strict, they won't let me date until I'm 16!)

Good luck. Its an important job we have to bring strong young women into adulthood. Jenny

I really wanted to respond right away to your posting, but waited until I talked with my 16-year old daughter to see what she had to offer. Firstly, you better start talking and fast! (Public school is not the only place that the issue of boys and sex will come up, by the way.) 7th grade is not too late to talk with your daughter, but don't wait any longer! She's at the right age to be thinking about these things, she doesn't have to act on any of it of course. And she's not going to have intercourse before she has her first kiss! (The first kiss, is very poignant too.) My daughter's suggested that she ''not do anything that she will regret the next day.'' And I will add to that: don't do what doesn't ''feel'' right. You have probably been instilling in her to listen to her inner voice about what's right and wrong for her on many levels, so now's when she will begin to test that out. Imposing limits are good for you, and for her to know what is okay with you, but there are no guarantees! She's going to do what she wants if she wants it badly enough. Now's when you have to trust her and also to give her advice about how to get out of situations or what to look for ahead of time. To not get herself into a situation that she will be uncomfortable getting out of. As far as dating you can lay down the law, but if she's determined enough she will find a way to see a boy she likes.

I think the number one thing to do is keep the channels of communication open between you all. Let her know that she can talk to you about stuff, be open and without criticism. You are helping to guide her now and you want her to come to you to ask for help or advice, not to sneak around behind your back because she's too afraid to bring something up. If you have another woman family member who she is close to, maybe sugest to her that she talk to her also for another point of view. It's so sweet and sad to hear the stories they tell!

Even if she says she ''knows everything'', I'm sure she doesn't as she's only 13. You can talk about sex without assuming that she's having it or giving your okay for her to have sex. It's just a conversation about real life issues. Don't be afraid to talk to her, just start talking even if she squeels! A good book for you and her to have is ''Out Bodies, Our Selves''. It has lots of very practical information, and can be a good conversation starter. Let her keep it in her room so she can look at it without you.

There are few things for young teens to do in Berkeley, but some of them are fun like ice skating, going to Mel's Diner for a snack, the movies, swimming in the summer, etc. are things they can do as a group. Let her lead, you don't need to organize stuff for her, but you can suggest things if she seems at a loss.

For me, going through this bittersweet time with my daughter brings back a lot from my past. It's a good lesson to look back and try to remember how you felt and what you wish had or hadn't happened! It's her passage to womanhood, help her do it as joyfully and safely as possible. been there and returned!

I have a 14 year old I sympathize. The first thing to remember is you can't stop her from having sex, you can only guide her to make good choices. Here are the things that have worked for us so far.

My daughter's first date was in 7th grade, we insisted it be chaperoned by us. we all went out to dinner and then a movie. We tried not to hover or be geeks. They broke up in 2 weeks. Relationships do not last very long in middle school

Next bf lived in neighborhood so we knew him better, he was at our house a lot! We specified group dates-Notice we are getting more lenient as she has been responsible.

Keep in mind that in middle school conforming to the trend is what's comfortable maybe her school is date crazy-frankly TV etc. shows nothing but dating, teens HATE to be different in their social circle, they may be rebelling against you but they want to be doing, talking and dressing like their friends, if you try to mess with that you are making her be the outcast.

That said you want to help her make good choices so provide her with reading material about responsible sexual behaviour, relationships etc. Then have your wife discuss it with her, don't push too hard and don't freak out, stay calm and state the facts.

Inform her that prior to having sex she will need to be examined by a Gynecologist, explain what the 1st exam is like. This seems to slow girls down, they respect the doctor (just like you get a physical every year before school starts) and they really don't like the idea of the speculum! It helps them wait.

Expect and understand that you will be out of the loop on this-she probably does not want to talk to you or your wife about sex or the boys she likes.

All boys my daughter knows are terrified of her dad, my husband. He does not threaten them in any way but all his dealings w/them are very old school, father knows bestish. One boy was disrespectfull to our property after a breakup and my husband let him and his mom know in no uncertain terms that itt was unacceptable. This boy still is around (again relationships move fast! They went from ''dating'' to friends to flirting again) and he behaves toward us and my daughter much more appropriately. I thought this was awful at first-but it seems to keep those boys respectfull-so your wife is their pal, you make them sweat.

We let her know we will be her bad guy if she feels pressured, ie if she doesn't want to do something I take the blame by saying she can't. This gives her an out that saves face in teen world. good luck! feeling your pain

As a nurse who has worked with adolescents for over 25 years, I think it's very important (particularly when discussing difficult issues like sexuality, drug use, etc.) that we always present accurate information. The parent who wrote in suggesting that telling a teen girl about the unpleasantness of a pelvic/speculum exam might deter her from sexual activity may be barking up the wrong tree.

For quite a few years, in many teen-friendly clinics, teens have had access to birth control methods (including birth control pills) without pelvic exams of any kind. Testing for common sexually transmitted diseases (i.e. gonorrhea/chlamydia)can also done with just a urine specimen.

SO.....if one does want to use fear tactics, it might be better to be accurate.Accurate information helps build trust. There are many genuine risks that teens face when making the decision to become sexually acitve.For instance: adolescents are the fastest growing group of persons newly diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It's important that adolescents get to discuss the pros and cons of sexual activity with people who care about them, in an honest, respectful way. Lori