Dr. Darcy on raising teenagers…

Ask Mental Health Professional Dr. Darcy Smith

Dear Dr. Darcy:

Fifteen years ago, my partner and I made the decision to adopt a little girl. For the past three years she has been in adolescent hell, objecting to every rule, questioning decisions and using her intelligence to manipulatively talk circles around adults. Ironically, we can’t blame her friends because they are lovely, well-mannered and obedient. We have raised her to be a strong independent young woman but she seems to be on a quest to alienate herself from those who love her the most. How do we let her know that she’s the child and we’re the parents, and that “no” simply means NO?

Sounds like you’re in adolescent hell, not your daughter. Without going into a litany about the adolescent stage of development (you can Google it), let’s oversimplify it and say that it’s a time in a person’s life when she is supposed to question her world, not blindly accept it. Add to that the variables of being the adopted child of two mothers and I’d say she sounds fairly on track. You say you raised her to be a strong young woman? You can’t have it both ways. If she’s strong-spirited in the world she’s not going to become complacent when she’s with the two people she feels safest with.

Our world progresses because young people see things and ask “why,” when adults have been conditioned to repeat societal mantras. What you call “manipulative” another might call “persuasive.” She sounds like a leader, not a follower, which you confirm in your description of her friends, who frankly, sound sadly domesticated if you ask me. Clearly there are other aspects of her that I don’t have data on, such as school, drug usage and legal compliance, but I’m guessing if those were issues you would have mentioned them.

The adolescents who are sometimes most challenging to raise are those with analytic minds. They require explanations and conversations that can be exhausting. Nonetheless, this is the child you were blessed with and as burdensome as it may feel, you are obliged to nurture her mind and spirit, not to tame either. It sounds like you’re doing a terrific job. It’s not easy raising the next Audre Lorde.

Email questions to dr.darcysmith@gmail.com or call 212-604-0144

*By submitting questions, the writer acknowledges that she has no rights of confidentiality and that her question or a version thereof may be printed in GO Magazine. Correspondence between Dr. Darcy Smith and a writer does not constitute a therapeutic relationship and such a relationship and the rights/privileges associated with such can only be established through a scheduled, in-person session.

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