DEAR FIONA: My daughter is making my life a misery
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective for a mother whose teenage daughter experiencing mood swings and a woman who is in a relationship with a drunken, aggressive man.
QUESTION: For the last six months, my 14-year-old daughter has been making my life a misery.
One moment she seems fine and the next she’s accusing me of being nasty to her, particularly when I ask her to do something around the house.
A few weeks ago, I agreed that she could stay over with a friend, but only if she tidied her room. When she didn’t bother cleaning up but asked again if she could stay with a friend, I refused.
She got angry and said I was being unfair, especially as her younger sister has had several friends to stay recently.
When I tried to point out that her sister kept her room tidy and that her friends don’t stay overnight, she flew into a rage and stormed out of the house saying that I loved her sister more than her.
Hearing this really hurt because, of course, it’s not true. To make matters worse, she’s barely said a word to me for several days.
I’m worried that this time I’ve done something terribly wrong and may have damaged our relationship permanently.
FIONA SAYS: I’m sure you’ve done nothing seriously wrong and that your daughter will eventually come around.
In the meantime, try not to take what she said too personally – she’s going through her teenage years and some powerful hormonal and physical changes.
These days, young people face increasing peer pressure and a growing need to express their independence. Typically, they lack the experience to deal with these aspects of growing into adulthood and their frustration boils over.
In these situations, as you have found, parents are an easy target – especially when trying to set some boundaries.
It’s perfectly natural that you become more anxious as your daughter starts asserting her independence. She still needs boundaries though, and it will be easier for her to accept these if you can agree them together.
When this particular storm has blown over, choose a quiet moment to have a chat with her. Try to begin to see that you’re talking to a young woman, rather than a child.
Explain that you understand why she is upset and acknowledge the strong and painful feelings you know she’s been experiencing. Make this your starting point to understand her, rather than try to win any arguments.
Listen carefully to what she has to say and help her to understand that you both have a lot to cope with, and so everyone in the family must do their share.
I can’t promise that taking time to talk to her like this will solve all of your problems, so you might find it useful to have somewhere else to turn. Family Lives has a whole advice section on dealing with teenagers and if things get really fraught, they have a helpline too.
QUESTION: I’ve never liked or trusted the guy my friend is going out with but I’ve kept my feelings to myself.
However, I found out from one of my colleagues that he’s been bragging in the pub about ‘using three birds at once’.
I’m wondering if the time has come to tell my friend. What do you think?
FIONA SAYS: I can understand why you want to protect your friend, but it’s not that simple.
How certain are you that this information is true? It’s possible that other people don’t like your friend’s boyfriend either and made this up to hurt him. It’s also possible that he said it while drunk to try and impress his drinking buddies.
It could be true, but can you really risk hurting your friend and her relationship based on someone else’s story? If you find anything that proves he’s cheating, that’s different. In the meantime, please think carefully before saying something.
If you want to tackle anyone about it, ask him directly if he’s cheating on your friend. If he admits he is, then you have the evidence you need but you’ll still have to tread carefully – She may not choose to believe you and might see it as an attempt to break up her relationship.
QUESTION: When I told my boyfriend I was pregnant, he left me. We’d been together for nearly two years.
I really loved him and had always hoped we would get married, but obviously he didn’t feel the same way. My daughter is wonderful and everything I have ever wanted, but trying to find a new relationship is difficult because I can’t seem to trust people any more.
If things look like they’re getting serious or the conversation turns to sex, I freeze and back off. I got quite close to one guy, but when he started talking about the three of us setting up a home together, I dumped him.
What’s wrong with me?
FIONA SAYS: I’ve no doubt you were deeply hurt when your boyfriend abandoned you, so it’s not surprising that you are wary of new relationships.
When you’re dating someone, you now have to think of your daughter as well as yourself and it could be that your instincts are correct – you perhaps haven’t met the right partner yet.
Your daughter is only two and I can’t help wondering if you’re trying to do too much, too soon. Give yourself more time to come to terms with your break-up and with being a new parent. It’s a lot to take on.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out and have some fun occasionally, assuming you have someone to babysit your daughter.
Develop new interests, meet new people and in time, you’ll become more comfortable with the idea of a serious relationship.
QUESTION: My husband has been a drunk for the past nine years. In that time, he has made my life, and that of our two children, a misery.
He’s frequently aggressive or violent and I live in fear that one of these days, he’s going to really hurt one of the children.
Most of the time his aggression is directed at me – more so recently, as I have asked him to leave. His response to that was to really lose his temper. He also says that as he pays the mortgage, the house is his so I’d be the one to leave.
I can’t afford to move out, so what should I do?I’ve no family to turn to and I don’t have a job, as he always wanted me to be home with the children.
I’m a complete nervous wreck and feel depressed all of the time. Please help.
FIONA SAYS: I don’t often suggest that people give up on a relationship, but I think that’s all you can really do here.
I don’t know what contracts and deeds your husband has drawn up but in most normal circumstances, you would be entitled to a share of the family home, whatever he says.
Who paid the mortgage instalments is only part of what would be considered – your contribution of bringing up the family and looking after the home would also be taken into account too.
I believe that, with the violence you are experiencing and the terror you are living under, you need to get out as soon as possible. Please contact Women’s Aid– its national domestic violence helpline on 08457 023 468 will help you find shelter for you and your children. While it might not be like your family home, you will be safe.
I also think you should see a solicitor that specialises in divorce and separation. Once you are away from your husband and in a shelter, Women’s Aid will help you.
I know things must look bleak at the moment, but please don’t think the situation is hopeless. Other women and their children, in situations just as desperate as yours, have come through this.
Write to Fiona Caine c/o Elise Brewerton, 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, Portsmouth PO6 3EN or [email protected]. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence, nor pass letters on to other readers.