At my wit's end, tearful and feeling guilty because I feel cheated!(30 Posts)
Not really sure what I expect to get from this probably very garbled post, but I need to get it all down somewhere!
Basically, I have a 'nearly 13' daughter and I don't know what to do with her! Her Dad and I divorced some years back and she lives with me, my partner and her younger brother (same Dad). She started having problems about 5 years ago when she was bullied at primary school and she then had play therapy with a counsellor, which seemed to help. Further bullying ensued from another source and she now seems to be a magnet to this. Anyway, this history has changed her over the years and she seems to be on a constant spiral downwards.
She finds it hard to 'fit in', especially with girls as she is not in to what most girls her age are interested in (fashion, make up, nails, hairstyles etc). Because she prefers to wear sports clothes and trainers and couldn't care less what she looks like, this gets her a fair bit of negative attention. She is, and always has been, incredibly bright and was always in the top percentage of her class for most subjects at primary, but truly believes she is a 'dunce'and nothing convinces her otherwise! She is in Yr 7 at the moment and seems to be constantly picked on. She walks with her head down and seems to have no zest left! She has been seeing a counsellor for the last 4 months as she decided to stop seeing her Father some time ago and it brought everything to a head. It seems to help a little, but nothing drastic.
I really am at my wit's end and feel so detached from her. We had such a fantastic Mum/child relationship for so long and she was the most popular child in her class for a few years in primary school. I can see she is just basically unhappy. She says she hates herself and has also said she wishes she had never been born. She did scratch her arm with a compass a few weeks ago and I also read a text she had sent a 'friend'saying she had self-harmed! This in itself just breaks my heart. Her early childhood was so happy and I put so much in to her, she was such a joyful child and I feel like she has gone and been replaced. There is also a part of me that feels massively guilty, because I feel cheated of the person I always thought she was going to be. I know that is selfish, but I can't help it. Life just feels so damn hard at the moment, like firefighting or trying to bail out the water quick enough to stay afloat. I think of her earlier years and it just makes me cry. I just don't know what I did wrong and feel like I can never get the good back.
Thanks for reading this epic, like I said, not sure where it will get me, but at least I have put it down now.
It's not my experience that most girls her age are interested in (fashion, make up, nails, hairstyles etc).
Neither of my two were, nor their friends.
Maybe you need to help her join something where she meets other like minded dc - sports, scouts, drama, martial arts, outdoor ed., driving karts or bikes, etc.,etc. Find her fellow relaxed dressers, and maybe find something she just loves doing, and then a wider group of people she can meet friends from.
I could've written this post about my then 12 y/o DS. In fact I did! My threads will still be on here somewhere.
I took him to Camhs for an assessment (they were great). Then I just didn't LOADS of time with him, made a fuss of him, spoiled him rotten on his 13th birthday. He seems (touch everything wooden) to have come out the other side.
That should say I just spent loads of time with him.
Thank you for reading!
BackforGood - Great to hear you have a more diverse group of girls wherever you are; not being into the fashion, make up etc certainly makes a girl the exception to the rule where we live/go to school. My daughter has several clubs that she is a part of including riding and football as she likes to be outside and covered in dirt! It is the rest of the time, when she is not participating in activities, that we have the problems.
WhatsGoingOnEh - Thank you, I will see if I can find your thread! I tried going through my GP to get a referral for Camhs, but she said my daughter wouldn't meet the criteria. I really think we need some Mental health input now as it has gone on for so long and seems to be getting worse. We ended up going for private counselling, which I am not sure is the right choice for her. I think I will have to go back to the GP again.
Have you considered HE? Is that something that would interest you and her?
Do you know why she went nc with her father? Was he not reliable? Or were you negative about him/made it difficult for her? Sorry to say this but it's not about you and your feelings. This could be part of the problem that you aren't really accepting her as she is. Lots of girls are more interested in sports than in hair and make up at twelve years old. Is there part of you that would like her to be more interested in that stuff? Do you go to her sports events? Do you show an interest in her hobbies and interests. Do you go out together to do things that she is interested in? I'm not saying this is the reason she feels that way, being excluded by others is a horrendous assault on your self esteem, but the most important thing you can do is to help her feel that you think she's important, interesting, valuable. You obviously care about her because you're posting about it here but maybe you could show it to her in a way that would make her feel better about herself.
I was like her. I hated secondary school. My friends came from clubs and activities rather than school where I just didn't fit in. I wanted to move schools desperately but never felt confident enough to tell my parents. Is there another school she could get to worth a try? Home Ed?
She should be able to find like minded friends with horse riding - let her volunteer at the stables if they do that or join their pony club or similar. Horsey friends are great and she will fit in perfectly! With a group of good out of school friends, school will be more bearable. I have sharers for my ponies and they have formed a lovely little friendship group. The horses give them comfort too - animals are very therapeutic!
I couldn't be more positive with DD than I already am. I constantly affirm with her that it is ok to be different, that diversity makes us more interesting and wouldn't dream of saying anything negative about what she chooses to wear etc. I have spent time one to one with her and show an interest in all her activities and am always there on the sidelines watching and encouraging.
I know this is not about me, I appreciate in my post I said about how I feel, but that is because I wanted to be honest. I would never let her see that.
midnightlurker I have spoken to her about changing schools, but her fear of having to start all over again is just as great as her not fitting in at the current school. Her confidence is just rock bottom and I think the pressure of trying to fit in somewhere leaves her exhausted. She is like me and puts a brave face on to the outside world, the saddest thing is, her true personality is, in itself, just lovely! So hard to watch.
I didn't fit into secondary either. But had a great time once I'd left school and am now working in exactly the kind of job I wanted to do- which of course also means I am spending my days with people who don't think I am weird because they are as weird as me.
I sometimes wish I could go back to my 13yo self and tell me that "this is not forever, there is a wider world out there waiting and it's full of people like you, And btw those people who seem so all-powerful now, in 10 years time you won't even remember their names; that's how important they are in your life".
One thing that did help me at the time was having the support and acceptance of my family, so you may want to work a bit on that. Knowing they were proud of the person I was helped me to get through the day.
It can be a bit difficult if your child is very different to what you expected, but that is part of a parent's job: finding common ground, even if it means developing new interests yourself. I was a bit surprised, perhaps even disappointed, when both my children turned out to hate the big outdoors (dh and I are more mountain rambling types) and to not be interested in history and languages (our passions), but I've got over it, there is so much to them that I enjoy and feel proud of that it would be silly to get hung up over those few things.
We have also been through some tough times (dd made a couple of suicide attempts in her mid-teens), but feel we have come through them together, as a family.
The better the communication the more you will be able to help your dd through this difficult patch, and the way to improve communication is to let her feel that you appreciate the person she is. That is the first step. Then see if you can help her in practical ways.
sorry cross-posted about being positive about her: can see now that you are already working on it. which is a very good first step. I would perhaps lay less stress on "it is ok to be different" and more on "you only seem different because of the small selection of people you are currently at school with; that is not forever".
I was bullied from the age of 5 (racial stuff..im.mixed race it was the 80s) and chose to go a different secondary school to everyone else when we all left primary school (until then it'd been the same kids from playschool to infants to juniors.)
I was tall, skinny, buck toothed, wore glasses, had frizzy hair and was academically very bright. I couldnt get the trousers and things that they wore in a really small waist or a longer length. I couldn't gain weight and my df wouldnt let me relax my hair, so I just couldnt do anything to look like them. I was like a beacon to bullies, especially the girls, but often the boys too.
I tried to keep my head down (literally I walked with my head down) and to say as little as possible to attempt to fly under the radar, but once someone popular has it in for you thats it, as people will join in the bullying just to keep in with that person. The teachers also made things worse as I would always get the highest mark ever in school history, and 100% scores (this isnt a stealth boast) I was genuinely mortified as there was nothing worse than being a "boffin". The teachers would "out" me as thought it wasn't obvious that telling a class full of kids that dont like you that you're amazing is going to endear you to anyone. It made me look as though I thought that I was better than everyone else. And I didnt, I desperately wanted to be liked by them and purposefully did bad on some tests just to avoid attention.
I resented my dm because I felt that she didnt understand. In junior school my df had always encouraged me to stand up for myself (as he had to in the 50s) but I was too shy and scared. Dm's approach would be to go mental and march up the school. I couldnt bare the thought of that in secondary school so I told parents very little about the bullying. I resented dm, she would say things like "I hope you dont swear like those girls that were outside the gates today". I just used to think 'Surely she must know that those girls wouldnt be friends with me in a million years. Looking at the state of me.'
I think that even if dm didnt catch onto the fact that I was being bullied she realised that I didnt go to friends' houses, or parties or have people over so she knew I was pretty lonely. She forced, I do mean forced, me to go to camp one summer and I met some girls who went to the local girls' school and boys who were at the boys' school and I made life long friends. That got me through school, I knew I'd see those kids Friday night and most of the weekend. I had my own life outside of school and my dm, looking back, went out of her way to facillitate that, she didn't mind me having 10 people over at once she was over the moon that I had friends.
We weren't very well off but df was doing a lot of overtime and eventually took us all to the West Indies and that kind of taught me about who I was. He talked to me about academia and decided on a firm career path that needed A grades and years of study. He also made sure that I spent a lot of time with cousins and made me hugely family oriented. My best friend is one of my cousins to this day. I came back from West Indies and went into year 10 and 11 with tunnel vision, all I could see was the end goal of the career and I didnt care about the kids at school I no longer cared about being called a geek.
We didnt have a disco or prom or anything the leaving day was put back 2 days without year 11 being told, to avoid eggings. (Ie official announcement = year 11 will finish school forever on Thursday. Then pa announcement on Tuesday lunchtime = All year 11 pupils are to leave now and are not to be seen on the premises other than the exam hall) So everyone just left, a lot of people weren't taking GCSEs and there was no sixth form. So I walked out that day, did my exams, enrolled at college and never saw them again.
In hindsight I think telling the school about the bullying would have been useful, but it only would have stopped the more obvious bullying. I think it couldn't have stopped the feeling of isolation; the school couldn't have forced people to be my friend and I think the lack of friendship upset me as much as the things that were said and done. For that reason my parents putting so much time and effort into ensuring that I had this whole other life was a life saver! I'm still a bit socially awkward and 2 decades later dont like anyone to see my natural hair because I remember those kids, but I also have some great memories of being a teen. Df also built up my confidence by talking to me about what I could do with my academic achievements, until then I had genuinely only considered it a burden.
Your worries about your dd really resonated with me and I dont know whether you can take anything from my story or if its any help, but the way that my parents dealt with it worked for me.
I couldn't be more positive with DD than I already am. I constantly affirm with her that it is ok to be different, that diversity makes us more interesting and wouldn't dream of saying anything negative about what she chooses to wear etc.
I think that you think this is what you are doing, and I get that your OP is a rant in a safe space for you to talk about your feelings. But I get the feeling that you kind of blame her for the fact that she was bullied and doesn't fit in. You say she isn't into "typical" things like its a problem. Like if only she liked fashion and shopping then she wouldn't get bullied. Bullies are bullies. They will bully over anything.
You say you feel cheated and you sound like you are mourning who you thought she was going to be...that is a huge error that so many parents make. They imagine the children they want, but reality can never live up to imagination. You need to accept the daughter you have. Don't think that she doesn't pick up on this. She will know that you don't accept her for who she is. No matter how much you try to convince her, and yourself otherwise.
And yes, I agree with PP. She isn't "different". She is her. She will find her people in time.
I'm not quite clear from your post what is distressing you most. Your dd objectively seems to be doing ok, she does hobbies, riding and football, presumably has friend through those, isn't into make-up but that's ok. She doesn't seem completely isolated at all.
Is it her unhappiness? Is it that she is being bullied? Personally I think the bullying is the worst thing in her life for her, this will be making her very unhappy- so can you really tackle this on her behalf, with the school, read books like' Bullies, Big-Mouths and So-called Friends' and basically be her mother tiger in this situation?
You sound quite depressed and down yourself, could it be that you are seeing the glass half empty yourself? If this is the case, then perhaps seeking help yourself rather than ploughing more help into her (she has a counsellor, if that one doesn't suit, perhaps move her).
This is the age for moodiness, 'I hate myself' statements and so forth and it is wearing and difficult not to take personally. But I think your role is to stay steady, be the rock here, and to show her that whatever she is like and whatever happens, you are there for her. I know it's hard though!
It also sounds like you have lost your connection with her, and again, I think this is quite normal if very hard at this age, it's their age to move away from you as the source of all, and to seek the advice of friends/others. It may be worth trying love bombing- I've done it with one of mine, and it does really work, but it does also mean accepting what they want to do and where they are at, and letting go of some idealised mother-daughter relationship.
I also found the book 'Raising Girls' quite a good read, basically it talks about getting a team of supporters (other adults, relatives, older children, scout leaders, teachers) around your child so it is not all on you. This is very good advice, as they then get positive feedback from other adults about how great they are- so the football leader/riding instructor may play this role, and you can encourage others.
Exhaust your post resonated with me, I didn't find 'my people' til about sixth form. Once you find a few good friends, or have a good relationship with a relative (like your cousin) life is really different.
OP, I also agree with whoever said don't keep saying 'it's ok to be different', she's not that bloody different! She's a clever sporty girl who has interesting hobbies, not an alien. She will (and may already have) found people like her and who like her as she is.
exhausthasgone Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with me, there are certainly a few points there that I can identify with and a lot of it sounds like my daughter too. Hopefully she will look back and be able to say that we helped her through it, although at the moment I can't imagine that. Thank you
LizKeen I certainly do not blame DD for her being bullied! I spent years at primary school fighting her corner, which ended in going to the OFSTED CIE Team. I have always made sure that she knows it is the bullies who are the problem, I know full well that bullies will find anything to fuel their fire. Secondly, I do accept her for who she is, I can do that whilst still being upset that the young child I had has changed - life is fluid - I am just averse to change and it takes me time to adapt! That is why I am offering it here to see if others have advice on what to do. I knew putting down my personal feelings would be to my detriment, but open and honest is my way!
TheWindInThePillows Thank you for the advice and the reading list. I did look at literature available on the subjects, but without recommendations it is difficult to decide where to start. I must say, the 'bullying' is no longer coming from a particular source, more a case of; if a group of children feel like singling someone out to pick on then it is often DD at the brunt of it. I have taken the Mother Tiger role on many times, it is an ongoing battle.
I really have lost my connection with her, but won't give up trying anything to get it back. You are right, it is getting me down and I will look at addressing that so it doesn't spill over in to her problems!
Oh, and just to add; she is indeed a 'clever, sporty girl' but, the way she is at the moment is affecting her school work and her true potential just isn't able to be realused because of it. I know she isn't an alien, but her overall mood and feelings are preventing her from enjoying life at the moment. It is difficult to explain, but I can see it. I expect everybody here thinks I am some highly-strung, over anxious parent who thinks she has got it bad, but I really am not. I am just really worried that my DD can't enjoy the majority of her life and want to do what I can to help her change that.
I never fitted in at secondary school, worst years of my life. My parents never really understood my difficulties and back in the early 80's no one cared if you were bullied. My life turned around when I left home aged 19 and I've made a great life for myself a long way from where I grew up.
It can be so tough for girls if you don't 'fit in' and at the time, it seems all consuming. It's good that she does activities out of school she enjoys, just keep pushing that.
It may be worth looking at other school options with her, visiting any schools that may be viable options so she has something real and tangible to compare and think about.
You say you are very positive toward your dd but there is something sad and detached about your initial post. I'm not judging, but maybe you aren't quite so positive as you think you are.
I had a long talk last night with my own rather older dd, who has a long history of suffering from anxiety and depression. We discussed various ways of tackling and solving her current problems and then, by one of those parental flukes, I managed to say something that she actually found helpful: "You do know that you are under no obligation to feel happy every moment of the day? Life is a difficult thing and sometimes you are going to feel that. That doesn't mean you are failing in any way. Solve what you can solve but don't beat yourself up about how you feel."
In your dd's case it seems the obvious one that needs practical solving is the bullying. Put all your efforts into that but keep reminding her that this is a problem that lies outside of herself: bullying happens because there are bullies around, not because there are victims. It is wrong and it must be stopped but it is about the bullies, not about her. Remind her that these people will soon be gone out of her life and that there are fun, exciting times ahead.
And then try very hard to find a way of reconnecting to her. There must be something you can enjoy together. I am going to watch the Sweden match with my ds tonight. Always thought I hated sport- but since it's become a way of spending quality time with him I have become surprisingly fond of it.
What cory said about bullying happening because bullies are around is so true. As a victim of bullying it can feel like it is about you, there is something wrong with you. Add that to pre teen hormones and the usual difficulties of schoolgirl friendships and alliances and it makes for a really tough time for some girls. It can be hard as the parent too, constantly feeling like you are having to battle the system when in fact, you shouldn't have to.
Was there a specific reason counseling didn't help? It may be worth looking for a different counsellor. CAMHS are sadly ridiculously stretched at the moment. I think all you can do for now is just be there for her, make out of school as fun as possible and try and engage her in activities at the weekend, just the 2 of you. And keep pushing the change of schools. It's a hugely scary thing to change schools but some are so much worse at dealing with bullying and supporting children's mental health than others.
I wish you and your dd well. I have boys in Year 8 and Year 7 and the difference between their friendships and my own experiences at a school is so very marked. They just get on, none of the intensity and falling out and bullying that went on when I was at school.
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