Very sensitive teenage dd(9 Posts)
I would appreciate some advice and opinions . My dd is 16 and is attending a performing arts school for past 3 months where she’s also doing A Levels.
She’s very motivated and works very hard but her course is physically very tough and she’s exhausted at present as she’s getting used to a very different learning environment requiring very tough physical activity for 6 hrs per day plus academics.
Despite being very tough and feisty at home , she has always been quiet and unassertive when dealing with people of her own age . Interestingly enough , she comes across as very mature and confident when talking to and dealing with adults like teachers or on work experience etc.
For the last few years, she has often mentioned people being mean to her eg: saying unkind things and excluding her . At the time , I put it down to normal teenage behaviour and chatted to her about how to be more assertive .
Lately though , she seems very tired and stressed . She has mentioned about 5 different students who
“ have something against her”. Now the issues have related to comments made to her. The comments sound like normal teenage banter or perhaps people being short to her but not insulting or bullying as such. I’ve tried to explore the issue with her but she gets very defensive and accuses me of not taking her side .
I feel that she does not accept criticism or even the slightest negative comment well. Nothing is ever her fault .It is always the teacher, her friend or another student or sibling who is responsible . I don’t accept this at all.
I feel that she needs to learn strategies to deal with conflict/ criticism as she wants to go into an industry where she will be subjected to criticism /rejection on a daily basis .
She got very angry and tearful at my dh and I when we suggested this and feels that we’re not taking her side and blaming her and that seeking help would be a sign of weakness. She doesn’t seem to accept that you cannot change the behaviour of others but you can learn to manage your own reactions to them.
My dh and I were thinking of just supporting her to finish out the term and then broaching the subject over the holidays once she’s well rested.
Despite her exhaustion, she seems motivated and is actively planning her future . She gets stressed and anxious at times but doesn’t appear to be depressed .
I’m trying to balance supporting her while at the same time trying to put across another view of the situation .
My dh and I have told her that we cannot continue to support her in studying performing arts if she refuses to accept help to deal with stress and conflict .She’s going to think about it.
I would welcome any suggestions as it’s really starting to stress me out and I’m having trouble sleeping due to worrying about her.
Maybe I’m over involved . My own parents were never interested in my teenage problems which were pretty miserable at the time so I might be overcompensating. I’m glad she tells us how she’s feeling as I know that some teenagers don’t confide in anyone and end up self harming etc.
OP I haven't time to write a long answer right now but, having dealt with a DD, now 23, who had similar difficulties, one thing that I've learnt (the hard way!) is that when she complained about people being nasty to her, she wasn't looking for solutions from me, just sympathy. Of course as her parents you will tie yourself into knots trying to brainstorm tactics for her, but perhaps that's not what she wants, hence the anger and defensiveness. Try a different tack - lots of agreeing with her, sympathetic noises, "that must feel dreadful", etc., etc., and let any ideas come from her.
It's difficult to tell without knowing what the 5 or so students have said, but I would say don't necessarily assume this is ok banter - be open to the possibility that it is indeed insulting/bullying. It is a very fine line between friendly banter and bullying - and if dd's quiet and unassertive yes some students will take advantage of that.
As I say it's difficult to tell without examples but do not underestimate the potential for deliberate unkindness - there is sometimes a general view that students all become pleasant to each other once they get into 6th form but sadly this is not always the case!
I agree with pp suggestion about letting ideas come from dd - maybe explore what dd might do 'what do you think you could reply to that if they say it again'? Sometimes though a concrete suggestion may be useful if you're trying to encourage a dc to be more assertive!
This might apply. Or it might not.
There are two things here that spring to mind. One is, as twinjocks suggests, that she may just be trying to unwind by ranting. As we all do, not necessarily looking for, or wanting, solutions.
The other is the very specific situation of her aiming at a career in performing arts. I have a dd a little bit older who is now at grown-up drama school, so have some experience of this situation. Imo you are right in making this connection and in seeing it as something absolutely essential to get right if she is to survive where she is and continue along this path. Where I think you are going wrong, perhaps, is in phrasing it negatively: we can't support you if you don't manage X. Could it be turned round the other way instead: yes, these are situations which you will find yourself in if you continue in performing arts so let's see about getting an arsenal of techniques together for dealing with it? If you can master X it will really improve your chances for the future.
The first is the recognition that everybody is under stress and worrying about their own adequacy in this kind of place, so people are going to say things they don't necessarily mean. Accepting that it probably isn't about you but about their own inner tension is a good first step.
Secondly, that the most essential part of being an actor is being able to take direction, which to her is going to sound like criticism. That it is very likely that when she comes to audition the panel will say something that sounds like criticism to her in order to see how she responds. That taking that as a learning opportunity is a trick that can be learnt; you just need to keep practising.
When my dd was doing her mock audition, the teacher said to her "What would you say if I were to tell you that you have absolutely no talent and that I think you should be looking at some different career?" It wasn't that he meant it: he just wanted to see if she could stand up under pressure. (She came back with "Thank you. I would say that of course I respect your opinion, but all the same this is something I do really want and I'm going to try to see if I can".)
Thirdly, that performing arts is about learning to get on as a group and that that is what you will be judged on in audition (they observe you from the moment you enter the building- if you don't interact pleasantly with reception staff or other interviewees they won't consider you; group exercises are almost always part of the audition process), Again, it's something that you can learn but it gets easier with practice. Every time you turn a difficult group situation into something positive, by refusing to rise to any baits and by focusing on the work, you are practising for the future, just as much as if you were doing stretching exercise or reciting iambic pentameters.
Thirdly, that relaxation techniques can help enormously here and she should get used to doing them every day, whether she feels she needs them or not. You can find them online.
So basically what you are already thinking - just phrased in a positive way.
That’s very helpful Coreythatwas. Thank you very much
It's a tricky one OP. If you've heard what these other students have said to her and you feel it's normal banter rather than bullying then I've no reason to doubt your judgement.
I know a family of four girls who are very sensitive and always found socialising with their peers very difficult for this reason and tended to stick together. They never really got used to the rough and tumble of ordinary interaction of young people and took offence where none was intended.
I think not taking criticism well and tending to blame others is a tricky mindset in a performing arts environment. I think you're right to be concerned.
Thanks Ridingwindhorses. Yes, the conversations as relayed to me sound like normal banter . Something that she’s certainly well able to give to her sister etc but does not like it when she’s on the receiving end .
I’ve taken all advice on board and she has agreed to chat with a youth worker about teenage issues . She had a good rest over the last few days and was in much better form in school
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