Sleepless nights, lack of appetite, bursting into tears at the mere suggestion of doing laundry—the signs were all there.
I felt like a helpless failure. How did I not notice that my daughter was struggling and what I was doing wasn’t helping?
I tried everything I could think of: writing lists for her to follow, sending her texts messages to remind her about her chores, giving her space. Nothing was working, but I assumed it was teen angst and pushing boundaries. But in reality, she was overwhelmed and wasn’t coping.
It finally came to a head in a screaming match—I’m ashamed to admit.
Looking back, I am so glad it did because daughter was in crisis. She was dealing with anxiety, and we needed to get help ASAP.
After a tearful afternoon under observation at a local hospital, my daughter and I put a plan into place that created an opportunity for us to knit our relationship together with an unbreakable bond. Here’s what we did:
1. We made a point to be present.
We agreed to a “tech fast” from 5-7 PM every weekday during dinner. We put our phones in another room, and we’re NOT chatting while simultaneously answering iMessages and Facebook posts. We are present with each other. We ask questions. We listen. We engage. I share my day and how I dealt with stressful situations and ask her questions that go beyond, “How was school today?”. I ask where she had opportunity to be kind, helpful or supportive, and I ask about her thought patterns and whether she is able to redirect the anxiety when it flares up beause anxiety is all or nothing.
2. We agreed on a code word.
She and I agreed that we might regress back into a battle of wills one day, but we also agreed that we NEVER want to go there again. As a parent, I’m focused on a solution. As a kid, she is focused on avoiding the conflict. I push. She pulls. And we end up in an argument. To avoid this ridiculous locking of horns, we implemented a code word. When either one of us uses the code word, we immediately agree to a one hour cooling off period. We cease the conversation and retreat to own figurative corners. After an hour, we come back to the table. If we need more time, we renegotiate.
3. We made the most out of one-on-one time.
The biggest thing my daughter expressed was she felt like she just kept getting thrown into the mix of the family. She didn’t ever get any one-on-one, focused time. Everything we did had a sibling tagging along. Trips to the mall or movies were always a group outing. She wanted to have time to just “be with mom” and do the things we loved to do together. She wanted to be treated like a young woman, not a kid. So we agreed that at least once a month, we would do something together—just the two of us.