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Sunday, 27 February 2011

My Daughter Left Home! - A Therapist's Comments

Written by  Michael Tobin

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I'm impressed and moved by how much you love your daughter. It's very scary to think about your 17-year-old daughter being out on her own without the support and closeness that you provided for her before. It's like a bird that leaves a nest before the mama bird feels it's ready to fly.

As difficult as this situation is right now, there is a silver lining in every cloud, so I'd like to focus on that silver lining. Obviously you've been able to teach your daughter a lot of independent skills if she feels confident enough to leave home and then complete her GED. I've worked with many adolescents who leave home and all they do is…nothing. Your daughter obviously wants to make something of her life. If she didn't, she wouldn't have so quickly have completed her GED after leaving school. That's a very positive sign for her future success.

The hardest thing that we parents have to deal with is letting go of our precious children. I can fully empathize with you; I have four children, all teenagers and they're constantly pushing the boundaries for more and more independence. It's always difficult to know how much independence we should give our kids and how much control we should maintain.

Your daughter seems to be saying that she needs a lot more independence in order for her to grow. It's very painful for you because it appears to you that you're losing your dearest friend and companion. The close relationship
that you once had seems to be over.

I would like to suggest that this crisis is very positive for your future relationship with your daughter. Your daughter seems to understand that in order for the two of you to grow together and separately, there needs to be space between you right now. This new space can be a growing experience for you, too.

I suspect this is not easy for her, either. She's probably dealing with very difficult feelings right now. On the one hand she feels very bad that she's hurting you, on the other hand, she understands that she can't live her life for your happiness. That may be painful for you -- as it is for all of us parents.

This situation creates a great and important challenge for you as a person. Not only are you faced with the difficult task of letting go of your daughter, you're also being forced to let go of her as your best friend and your "baby."

I'm confident that you can succeed in doing that. Why? Because it seems to me that your love for her is much stronger than your fears. You seem like a mother who absolutely wants to do the right thing for her daughter.

I suggest you do the following:

  1. Get back into your life again. Go back to work. It's not healthy for either you or your daughter for her to have so much control over your life.

    If you can succeed in doing that, your daughter will feel less afraid of being with you and less angry. It's scary for her to think she has so much control over your life and as long as she thinks she does, she'll feel like she has to stay away from you.

  2. If you feel emotionally ready to do so, tell your daughter that you would like to meet with her. Take her out to lunch or dinner. Ask how she's doing. Try to make your time together pleasant. Don't try to talk her into coming back. If you feel you will burst out crying in the restaurant - then wait.

  3. A situation like this can be very trying on a marriage. I suggest you work extra hard for you and your husband to be of one mind in how to deal with your daughter. If you're fighting with him and fighting with her, it's going to be extremely difficult for you. Take advantage of this opportunity for you and your husband to pull together, to come closer. I would encourage you also to take some time to go out with him alone.

If the situation remains very difficult for you emotionally and you find it very hard to cope, my suggestion would be for you to seek counseling. This may very well help you get through this challenging time.


Last modified on Thursday, 05 May 2011 09:37
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Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin

Dr. Michael Tobin has been a psychologist since 1974, specializing in marital and family therapy. He is the author of numerous articles on marriage and family relationships and is the founder of WholeFamily.com. He's  been married to Deborah for 38 years and is the father of four children and grandfather to five.

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