Therapy for freshman girl or will time help?

Looking to the BPNverse for thoughts - our DD is a freshman in high school, great grades, extra-curriculars, is really kind to people, loving and caring and creative. She has a group of friends at school, and is constantly making new ones, yet doesn't seem connected to any of them to the point of hanging out outside of school (granted, time is a total premium). She's also dyslexic and I think that the way her brain is wired she just doesn't naturally 'get' the whole girl dynamic, meaning most of the bad stuff (trash talking, manipulating, excluding) and SUPER SUBTLE stuff that girls do as they navigate HS.

I've never felt like she needed therapy, her social skills are totally acceptable, she's not shy or overbearing, great with adults and kids, and she has plenty of people she talks to, texts with etc. But today was kind of a tough day at school for her, feeling like she's surrounded by people but not really connecting, and I said to her "since you were a baby, you've been so openhearted and just want to connect, and the problem is, that's really rare, and sometimes other kids just suck."

So will time help? Maybe freshman year is just tough socially, lots of the kids at her school know each other but she came in not knowing anyone. Or maybe she needs a moderated group of girls? I don't think she'd do individual counseling and like I said, I don't think she really needs it. But I do think she needs to connect with people on a deeper level and is not getting that - too much to expect of 15 year olds? Something that comes with age? Any other really open-hearted teens' parents out there? Any and all advice, especially from parents of HS or college aged openhearted kids (or beyond) is greatly appreciated.

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I have a daughter who is now a college student, and I would suggest your daughter find a variety friends outside of school and/or a small group in school, to balance out the main friend group. Maybe a music or theater or recreational sport, something low-pressure that meets maybe weekly. My daughter had the large pool of friends and acquaintances in school, but also did a sport outside of school, and a small club in school. Having this variety was really valuable.

Dear Parent of a Freshman,

As I understand it, your daughter doesn't see any friends outside of school?  No overnights at either your house or theirs? 

This is, actually, a serious problem.  Girls need private time with girls their age.  (Boys, too.)  Our child had *very* few friends in high school, but she always had a couple of very close friends with whom she shared overnights, and that made all the difference in her level of happiness.  She's now a junior in college, still with a small circle of friends, but she is very fulfilled by those she does have.

You also say that you "don't think she'd do therapy" -- I'm sorry, but a fourteen-year old girl should not have enough power to make such a decision.  She is still a child, with a child's brain, and you are the parent.  (We don't get our true "adult brains" until we're in our early twenties, and those whose brains are wired differently [ADHD, etc.] in our LATE twenties.)

Perhaps you're right that she doesn't need therapy, but I beg you not to let your daughter be the boss of her own life at this point.  Kids this age believe they know what they want (and they are "SURE" they know what they don't want), but they do not yet have the maturity or life experiences to truly make the best decisions for themselves.   

I'm sorry your daughter had a tough day and is having a hard time connecting with peers. The high school years are hard! 

The description of your daughter is similar to how I would describe mine, less the dyslexia. My daughter is quite gifted in certain academic areas and cares deeply about school which adds to her feeling different. My daughter is now a junior in a large public HS, having come from a small, private K-8 as the only one in her class to attend the HS. Freshman year was difficult. In retrospect, I would call the entire year a transition year. She was eventually able to connect with a very small group of 3 other kind-hearted girls. They ended up eating lunch together every day, and did very little (if anything that year) outside of school. That was enough for her. She needed lots of time by herself.

During the summer, my daughter attended an academic camp where she lived in a dorm for 2 weeks with like-minded people (kind, creative, academically focused). It was the first time she was ever in a group with so many people so much like her. She liked it so much, she returned the following summer. This experience gave her a sense that there is a community of like-minded people out there with whom she can connect, she just has to seek it out. It's focusing her college search while she makes the best of her remaining high school years.

Fast forward to junior year, friendship groups have shifted, 2 of the original 3 remain, while others have been recently added. She has more social opportunities offered than she cares to accept - things like making gingerbread houses while watching "Rudolf"! Gotta love these kind-hearted girls. She's learned to be true to herself and surrounds herself with the small number of people with whom she feels comfortable and safe. She's even attended a couple of the high school dances. She's learned to be quick to distance herself from people who make her feel uncomfortable in a no-drama, respectful way.

I'd encourage you to follow your gut in supporting her. Let her lead, and let her know you're there to listen and help when she asks. It's really hard, but avoid giving suggestions or advice unless she asks for it (you can say, "may I offer a suggestion? and drop it if she says no.) Let her figure out her friendships on her own terms with confidence that she will find her people (unless you notice something potentially damaging or abusive, then step in). Mostly, let her know it's healthy to feel ups and downs, happiness and sadness, joy and frustration. Celebrate all that is wonderful in her, and if she'll let you, hold her when she needs to cry, and give her space if she needs to explode in frustration.

Your daughter may be interested in a teen girls group through My daughter has been part of one of the groups for nearly three years and it has been an incredibly meaningful experience for her. Emily Frost and Quetzal Francois lead the groups and are fabulous with teen girls!


Looking back at my own teenager son ( now 28) he would had totally benefitted from therapy at that age. Maybe therapy is not the right word but counseling, support. We could all use this specific time with a caring but objective person who can give us insight on our live.

I can recommend Dr Frank Davis in Berkeley, he was great for all our family. You are smart and are seeing a situation that is not a crisis yet, but could turn into one... Just tell your daughter to give it a try for 3 sessions and if she does not like it she does not have to keep going. Probably at that moment she would realized how great it is to have a support at this strange moment in her life.

I have a daughter who is a junior in high school. From what you describe I don't think that your daughter needs therapy. High school is hard, freshman year is a huge transition. You will be amazed how much your daughter changes in the next few years. She is becoming a young adult and the growing pains can be intense. My daughter has always had lots of friends and is very active and outgoing and she has had LOTS of ups and downs the last few years. But she is getting better at weathering the storms and moving on. Kids don't hang out like they used to. Part of it is geography, kids live all over the place so it makes it more difficult when you can't just walk over to your friend's house. Kids are also so busy with school work and activities. My daughter and I were just talking this morning about how high school isn't that fun anymore because of the stress and competition to get into college is so intense that it trickles down, but that is another topic. It sounds like your daughter is going through normal stuff and the best thing you can do for her is to be there for her and just listen and be encouraging, as you are already doing.

I have been in your shoes -- our daughter is similar, and did not know a soul in Berkeley High when she started in her freshman year. I understand your anxiety, and the pain you feel for your child. The good news -- she will be fine. Time definitely does help. My daughter drifted in and out of friendships and groups her freshman year, some painful and some just fizzled. She got more confident, understood the dynamics of the school, teachers and students better, and found her way -- slowly but surely. I don't advise trying to interfere with her socially -- but be there for her. Ask about her day, all her classes, teachers, get to know the kids' names. Let her hang out after school with friends, especially on Fridays. Trust her judgement. Let her make mistakes. Be prepared to pick her up from downtown when she hangs with some kids for Boba some afternoons. The school social environment is relaxed and casual. Not all the kids suck. Many, many kids do not -- and would make great friends for her. My kid made a lot of friends on the same bus route. If she can, let her take the bus with her peers. Just be a loving aware parent and she will be fine. My daughter has great friends now, and is a Junior. Good luck. You sound like a caring parent.

I want to offer another perspective from that of the parent who said "You also say that you "don't think she'd do therapy" -- I'm sorry, but a fourteen-year old girl should not have enough power to make such a decision." Yes, you are the parent, but that doesn't mean much in this context. When our child was in middle school we got them a therapist. They didn't especially want to do therapy (though now, at 22, they see the value of it), and told us "you can make me go, but beyond a certain point I just won't tell the therapist anything private." Even when we explained that discussions with the therapist would not make their way back to us, our kid stood firm. When our child and the therapist reached the boundaries of what our kid felt was too private to share, they stopped sharing. Period. We talked to the therapist, who felt that continuing with our child would not benefit them and would simply be an expense for us, so we stopped asking them to go. With our kids, all we can do is provide opportunity; we can't make them become active participants. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink.