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I am running on fumes....

Hi Mark,

I know you hear from so many parents, you probably would not remember my story, but I emailed you a while ago about my daughter. She left home, telling people she was kicked out, and has moved in with her 21 yr old boyfriend (that she only met Christmas past). He has his own problems ....unemployed, recovering drug addict, etc.

Well, my daughter is gone almost a month now. I have tried to be supportive, telling her that this will always be her home, if things are not what she thought they would be or she just needs a break from her boyfriend, that the door is open. I tried to keep the lines of communication open, which is hard, because I do not condone what she has done. I still find it hard to believe that she has done this with no consideration whatsoever for her father or me. She is barely 17.

To get to my point, my daughter appears or certainly acts like she could care less if she ever sees me. She has called a few times, but not to ask how I am or chat, but to ask if I saw her sweater, or some stupid thing. When she left, she told everyone that we threw her out and she had nowhere to go. She told me to go f**** myself. I have been sick about this, and I am trying so hard to deal with this. But I am running on fumes.

I don't call my daughter anymore, at least in the past 2 weeks, because I just feel like I need to distance myself from her. I just feel I can't take this much more. What am I supposed to do? By distancing myself, am I doing the wrong thing? Should I just keep trying to maintain contact even though I feel rejection each time? Between trying to work and appear normal, and keep a normal atmosphere at home for the sake of my 11 yr old, plus other commitments, I just feel worn out and so defeated. I apologize for going on and on, it is just that I need to know if I am making things worse by distancing myself from my daughter. The wounds, at least for me, are so fresh. I never saw this coming. I feel like this is a bad dream. Thanks so much for your help.

A Sad Mom


Hi Sad Mom,

Several points:

When she tells people she was kicked-out, she is attempting to garner their sympathy. I’m guessing she has done a great job of pulling this one over on you too. Do you feel guilty? Do you occasionally – or frequently – feel sorry for her? Do you “beat up on herself” sometimes because of the mother-daughter conflict? If so, then she has successfully manipulated your emotions. If she is like the other juveniles I work with, she is an expert manipulator. This doesn’t make her a “bad kid,” she’s just a good ‘con artist’ (which is a strength or a weakness depending on how she uses it).

You said that your daughter “acts like she could care less if she ever sees” you. The operative word here is “acts.” I’m sure she is “acting” like she doesn’t care. This too is a manipulation that apparently you have fallen for. She DOES care; she’s just attempting to push your “abandonment” buttons (i.e., she wants you to feel bad/rejected because she’s mad).

You SHOULD “distant yourself” from her. And she should distant herself from you. I’m talking about ‘healthy detachment’ here. This is O.K. This is a good thing, because she needs to separate in order to grow. I know this is painful for you at some level, but when she feels fully emancipated, she’ll be done with the business of trying to make you feel miserable. There is light at the end of this tunnel whether you see it or not.

I would let some time go by before you contact your daughter again (maybe a month). You really have only one job now, and that is to ‘check-in’ with her every month or two to say, “I was thinking about you …how are things going.” And it doesn’t matter how she responds. Let me repeat this: It doesn’t matter how she responds.

With occasional “check-ins,” you will be sending a clear verbal message that (a) you will not be manipulated into feeling sorry for her, (b) you will not allow her to push your guilt or anger or rejection buttons, and (c) you have not returned the disfavor by rejecting/abandoning her.

Hang in there …you are doing fine in spite of your opinion about the present circumstances.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This letter could've been written by myself except my daughter has only just turned 15. I always expected she would live at home and go to University before leaving in her mid twenties. She use to get top marks at school and teach Sunday school. Instead she decided to move out with her father against my wishes at 13 who has a mental illness which she now has clear indicators of the same but refuses. As dad has now been found unfit due to negligence and physical violence she has started living in a refuge. She wanted to come home (as I also desperately wanted) but having violent temper tantrums around her toddler siblings meant she needed to show she could control these or accept help before she came home. She refuses to see counsellors, psychiatrist and even doctors or take birth control. She is often in trouble with police. Now she has decided to move in with boyfriend at just 15 and we have been told by refuge that nobody can stop her. She behaves towards me like the daughter in this article. I am at the end of my rope! Is it right to distance in this situation or should I act differently as she is so young? What can I do?


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