Subject: Concerned about a 14 yr old
Question: Hello my name is Mariano… I am seeking some insight, yet rather some advice on a problem that my friend Ana is having with her daughter; below I am sharing an email that my friend Ana sent to me, which clearly highlights the latest problem that she is having with her daughter… I should also mention that her daughter is seeing a therapist of some sort, but I think it is something that her school is involved with.
What kind of feedback should I give her? In any case, I do plan to share with her this Allexperts website so that she can establish a relationship with someone concerning the problem with her daughter, as well as any personally issues that she may want to express herself; meanwhile though, I would like to follow up with some constructive support, but of course I want it to be effective in one way or another…
Below is the email that I received from my friend, which is about her 14 year daughter…
LAST NIGHT AFTER WE TALKED ON THE PHONE, SASHA CAME HOME…I WALKED INTO HER ROOM AND SHE WAS PUTTING ON A LONG SLEEVE SHIRT TO GO TO BED…I STOOD INFRONT OF HER AND DEMANDED THAT SHE SHOWED ME HER ARMS…AT FIRST SHE PUT HER HEAD DOWN AND SAID NO MOM, I SAID I WOULDN’T LEAVE UNTIL SHE DID…SHE PULLED HER SHIRT SLEEVE UP AND I SAW WHAT APPEARED TO BE ABOUT 20 SLICES IN HER WRIST UP TO HER ARM…I ASKED HER ABOUT THEM, I ASKED HER IF SHE WAS DOING THIS BECAUSE SOMEONE ENCOURAGED HER TO DO IT…SHE SAID NO…I ASKED IF SHE WAS USING DRUGS…SHE SAID NO…I ASKED WHAT WAS THE DAMN REASON AND SHE TOLD ME THAT WHEN SHE AND I GET INTO THESE LITTLE ARGUMENTS IT MAKE HER WANT TO HURT HERSELF TO RELIEVE THE ANGER INSIDE HER…WE BARELY ARGUE BUT I DO SCREAM AT HER IF SHE IS SLACKING IN SCHOOL…THIS MORNING I FELT HER CRAWL INTO BED WITH ME SO I COVERED HER UP WITH MY BLANKET AND KISSED HER IN HER FOREHEAD AND KEPT HER HOME FROM SCHOOL…I WILL SPEND TIME WITH HER, HELP HER WITH HER SCHOOL PROJECTS TODAY…I NEED TO TALK TO OTHER PARENTS WHO HAVE CHILDREN THAT ARE DOING THIS TO THEMSELVES…I FEEL LOST…
Answer: Dear Mariano:
The best thing you can do for your friend is to let her know you are there for her and you will listen to her without judging her or her daughter.
Next you need to know you cannot fix this for her and neither can I. Self mutilation is on the same level as eating disorders and demands intensive therapy. Her daughter needs a good therapist who specialized in teens and self mutilation. She will need to ask for a reference from her medical doctor and make sure she asks plenty of questions about their credentials and success rate with teens who self mutilate.
Anytime a parent experiences this with a teen they have a tenancy to blame themselves and often there is no answer as to they why. I believe teens who self mutilate have a hard time expressing their own anger. As adults we often give ourselves permission to experience anger and express ourselves and even raise our voices however if our children do so we consider a sign of disrespect or acting out. Yet they too often experience anger and even rage by our actions. Where are they suppose to put their anger if they cannot express it towards us? I am not saying this is what is causing this behavior, however, her e-mail says she asked her daughter and she told her mother she needs to express her anger. It sounds to me like this is they why.
This is why therapy would be important because if the daughter is experiencing rage intense enough to make her want to cut herself can you imagine what acting it out towards her mother would mean. She is actually protecting the relationship with her mom by cutting herself instead of acting out towards her mom. In a way it says her mom means so much to her she doesn’t want to jeopardize the relationship.
Remember as her friend the best gift you can give her is to LISTEN, and then LISTEN some more. She doesn’t need advice as much as she needs a shoulder to lean on.
M Kay Keller