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How to encourage emotional resilience in DD 19(13 Posts)
Sorry in advance for the long post. I’ve n/c for this, as I feel a bit uncomfortable discussing my dd behind her back, so to speak. She is 19, home from uni for the summer and really, really low. She’s had quite a roller coaster of a year, lots of going out and I think a fair few (very) casual relationships, which she has always maintained is all she wants. At the end of term she’d met someone she liked and they were chatting by text, which made her happy. He doesn’t live far from us so they arranged to get together. All went well and a second date ensued, then a third.
Great news, except that in between she’s fixated on the texts. If he doesn’t reply for a few hours she gets more and more tense, and then when he eventually does she feels she can’t reply for the same amount of time because she’ll look ‘needy’ and more keen than he is. She over-analyses everything, as if a relationship will only develop if she obeys some complicated set of counter-intuitive rules. She works evening shifts so has daytimes free, and her time is spent checking her phone, or consciously NOT checking it. She is absolutely like an addict trying not to give in to a fix.
Obviously this isn’t right and it’s no way to live. We talk a lot and she acknowledges that she has a problem with phone addiction – she’s currently reading the ‘How to break up with your phone’ book. She’s finding it helpful, but I think the phone is only part of the problem, which is a total lack of emotional resilience and rock bottom self esteem (which I believe has come from growing up right at the start of that social media age and being immersed in it at a really crucial developmental time.) If he texts, I know that the relief is only temporary and the whole cycle will begin again after she has replied. She has admitted that she really does want a relationship, but pretends to be happy with one night stands as at least that way she avoids disappointment.
A few times in the past the same issue has been apparent, but with other boys, so I know it’s not that she’s fallen madly in love with The One. A family event was overshadowed at Easter because the boy of the time hadn’t texted, so she was withdrawn and miserable, and she was in despair a few weeks before the end of term when a guy she liked didn’t text. Compared to myself at the same age, and her sister who is 5 years older, she has very few life skills or offline interests. She couldn’t be persuaded to have driving lessons so has limited independence and has never shown any interest in the things her sister likes to do, like baking and messing around with the sewing machine and reading. This leaves her with little to fall back on for distraction and few sources of happiness and satisfaction.
I’m doing my best to help her, but I really don’t know how to give her what she really needs, which is resilience and self-esteem and inner strength. And also interests! If anyone has any advice or experience for how to go about building these things in a 19 year old I’d be very grateful to hear it. (I can see lots of threads about building emotional resilience in younger children – but she seemed to be absolutely fine back in those simpler, pre-social media and smartphone days!)
If you got this far, a big thank you for reading!
I would heavily encourage a hobby or volunteer work...is she interested in art at all? This sort of thing often fades (obsessions) when we're busy with something else.
Honestly, she sounds like she needs a therapist. Ultimately it doesn't matter how many bits love her if she can't love herself. She needs to sort out her self esteem issues before persiibg a relationship. At the moment she is a prime target for abuse. It is incredibly important for her sake (and also for the sake of ever being able to have a healthy relationship) that she sorts herself out.
I'm a similar age to your DD and just finished my second year - our lives aren't very similar but I also used to struggle with emotional resilience and still definitely have a phone addiction. Don't have much advice for the phone because I'm still addicted to mine - but it's probably linked to feeling insecure about these relationships rather than being to do with the phone itself. If she had a steady and respectful long term partner, she'd probably feel more safe/comfortable in just texting him as and when she wants to.
What really helped me to avoid the summer slump in first year was focusing on my end goals for my degree. Get her to think about what career she wants, what she can do to achieve it, or if that's too much just do some prep work for next year's modules. Encourage her to find an exercise/sport that she really likes doing too. She needs to find ways of boosting her own health and happiness without relying on these short term relationships to do it for her - and then she can go back to having short term casual relationships if she wants to, just in a healthier way.
I was pretty handy with a sewing machine and good in the kitchen at her age, but I'm sure I sat by the telephone wondering if it would ring. You seem to be attributing her ills to the social media age. I'm sure social media makes things worse for young adults now, but actually, she sounds pretty normal. She's working in the evenings so understandably a bit bored during the day. You could suggest that she catches up with school friends, but to be honest, she's 19, it's really up to her. If you want to pay for her to do something SHE wants to do then that might be a suggestion. But really, not everyone fills their time fruitfully and at least she has a part-time job for the summer.
Ime phone addiction(or boyfriend addiction, for that matter, which was hardly unheard of when I was young 40 years ago) is something that happens when people are feeling a bit generally vulnerable and insecure.
Try to build her up- and don't spend time (even in your own thoughts) comparing what you were like or what her sister is like. Focus on the positives: she is doing a degree, she is working in the summer, she is (we assume) a lovely person, you are proud of her.
My db, who is now in his sixties, was very similar at this age: completely fixated with one love affair after another. It wore off after he became more secure in himself, though he still has a slight tendency to overshare. When I was younger, I think I saw it as some terrible character defect (being the silent stoic type myself); now I have more come to accept that we are just different people but neither of us has made a terrible mess of our lives.
Agree with t1mum3 that is all sounds pretty normal.
Thanks so much for all these responses and sorry not to have come back before now. I've been talking to DD, who is very distressed today, but has agreed to counselling. I think you've hit the nail on the head Racecardriver and she needs to sort out the lack of self-love in order to be able to make any positive steps in other areas. She's very shy and has always been adamant that she couldn't do volunteering, though it's something both our other dc have done (and benefited greatly from.)
I mentioned the point about exercise argumentativefeminis
I'm glad she has agreed to see someone though - initially she was quite resistant. I'll get her to the doctor tomorrow and take it from there, but I suspect any referral might take a long time and come through after she's gone back to uni in September. Any ideas where to start finding a counsellor/therapist privately if needs be?
In terms of finding a private counsellor I've has best results by just asking around people I know tbh! So many people have either had counselling or know someone who has, and then hopefully you can get a bit of an honest review about personality etc. and see if they sound like they'd be a good fit with DD. I had counselling and it has really helped me, even though I didn't necessarily see it at the time - but that's teenagers for you! If it does help, definitely get a plan in place for continuing with someone else when she goes back to uni - there may be a counselling service provided by her university through Student Support or some such, but they're likely to have a long waiting list so it may be worth contacting them and getting on that over the summer in preparation for next term.
I can really recommend the Down Dog app for yoga, which I find to be a very calming and accessible form of exercise even when I'm feeling crap, because you can do really short bursts and I dont have to go out. The Restorative yoga is a great place to start as it's very relaxing and slow but you're still stretching and getting active.
Hope she feels better soon 💕
It depends on your area, but Improving Access To Psychological Therapies is focused on getting people help asap. She'll be given a number to call or an online id number, and she can book herself in for a consultation pretty quickly round here. They usually only offer about 6 sessions of CBT-type therapy, but if this is just low-level anxiety/depression, that should be all she needs. They also do courses, again usually one session a week for 6 weeks, for things like stress management.
For longer term work, she needs to do a bit of digging. What type of therapy does she think would suit her best? Then look for someone who does it that she might get on with. Around here, costs are usually in the £45 per session range, but it can go a lot higher. As a pp suggested, she could contact student support services, as they will have counselling there. If she is diagnosed with anything, eg depression, anxiety, by the GP, then she can contact disabled student services, who will be able to offer further help.
If she thinks she's depressed, then would she consider meds? The right anti-depressant can really help, just by lifting the fog enough that she can take full advantage of therapy. Like you said, it's hard to see positives or make plans when you're so down. Six months or so on the right anti depressant could make the world of difference. I know there is a lot of stigma around psychiatric medication, but if she had a headache, would she take an asprin? Headaches are usually a lot less dangerous than depression.
At this point, she is clearly very vulnerable around men, and struggling to put in any boundaries with them at all. She's at risk, and I'm so glad to hear that she's not only talking to you, but actually letting you help!
I think you would do well to heed cory’s advice about not comparing her to her siblings. Before dragging her to therapy that she is telling you she doesn’t want, you might want to reflect carefully on your relationship with her. You seem to feel she is letting you down by not following in her productive siblings’ footsteps. Try to focus on what she is doing well.
Some really helpful advice - thank you. Yoga might be just the thing argumentative - thanks so much for that recommendation. I've also discovered that the uni has an online counselling portal which she can access now, which looks like a great resource. I've passed it on to her.
The info on counselling is really useful Arum. I'm reassured to know that there might be something she can access pretty quickly, and I'm also interested to get your perspective on meds, which I must admit I was wary of. Thanks for that. You're right about her vulnerability. I've been concerned for a while, but it was hard to say anything before without sounding judgey or interfering. It's hard to see it now when things are feeling so dark but it might just be a blessing in disguise that it's come to a head.
If it's any consolation, my 19 yr old is pretty similar! She's starting uni in September, but I've had similar concerns around her mental health. She's had some quite florid symptoms, so has been accessing second tier mental health services, and they're going to organise some in-depth therapy once she's at uni.
I know exactly what you mean about there being no way to broach the subject of behaviour around men without sounding as if you're judging, and thereby bashing her confidence even more. They're all out there pretending to be a hard-nosed woman of the world, just wanting to keep it casual, when you can see that they're being manipulated and used. Then when my dd did meet a reasonable guy who treated her nicely, she couldn't cope, panicked and dumped him!
Arum It is a consolation, strangely, though I'm so sorry your dd is struggling too. Total props to you for being timely in getting help for her. We've just got back from the doctor's, which - while it wasn't of much practical help as he advised that an NHS counselling appointment would take too long to come through - very definitely felt like the first step. I'm now about to start the search for private counsellors specialising in self-esteem and young people.
It's very hard standing on the sidelines and watching her navigate all the issues facing young women today. So many things that they accept as being perfectly normal make me want to run for the hills - the obvious influence of porn in their relationships with boys and their own bodies and sexuality being one of the major ones. I'm always torn between thinking that I just need to accept it's a new generation with new norms, and my core belief that young women simply deserve better.