In May of this year, my (then) 17 year old daughter ran away overnight after an argument with her father and myself. After contacting the police, calling everyone we knew, looking for her into the wee hours of the morning and crying my eyes out, she showed up at school the next morning. We picked her up from school and sat down and talked to her about what happened. She claimed she was just frustrated from the fight and left. She has ADD and has a very low threshold for frustration but has refused to take medication for it for several years.
About a month later she ran away again, has not returned, although we know where she has been. During this time she turned 18 and quit school (she would be in her senior year). She lived with several different families during this time (including my sister which created a huge rift in the family because my sister contradicted everything we tried to do with our daughter including purchasing cigarettes for her, letting her boyfriend spend the night and helped her break into our home to take some of her things). She was also homeless at certain points. She recently confided to me that she was doing drugs and drinking the whole time. She also told me that she really wanted "cool" parents - you know the ones who will smoke pot with you or buy you alcohol - which was the reason she chose the families she stayed with.
She met her current boyfriend (who is 19) at a party and they took off together. They are currently living with his family and our daughter is now pregnant. Both of the kids FINALLY are working but only part time. Oh, and did I mention that her boyfriend has a one year old from a previous relationship???? And our daughters pregnancy was planned????
I have tried to get her to counseling - she has gone twice and refuses to go again. The first counselor diagnosed her as depressed. My husband is beside himself and says he wants nothing to do with the baby. He thinks we need to let her "fall".
I don't know what to do............
Unfortunately at age eighteen your daughter has the right to do whatever she pleases, even if it's to shatter her life as she has apparently chosen to do. The best you can do is to sit back and bide your time while your daughter painfully learns that adult parents who acts as she wants them to are "adult" parents who are fellow children, not true grown-ups. In time she will likely end up reaching out to you and you guys must be ready for that moment.
Sit down with your husband to figure out what your response will be then, and what conditions you will put in place for her return (therapy, rehab if needed, school/employment, and so on). In the interim, keep sending your girl messages that you love her and will always be there to help her put her life back together when she is ready. But say that you cannot support her current choices since you love her far too much to "be cool" with things that will hurt her terribly. Be sure to decide in advance if you want any contact with your daughter's future child since once you bond with that baby your girl might use that attachment to coerce you into accepting things you otherwise wouldn't. Finally, if the opportunity ever avails itself, be sure to remind your daughter of the adoption option, a wonderfully loving way of handling ill-advised pregnancies.
I'm sorry I don't have better options for you but your goal now must be to define your new parenting goals to be to be ready for when things spiral into crisis for your daughter (which they likely will). As scary as that sounds, those crises also become windows of opportunity to reconnect with an out-of-control child who suddenly reaches out for help after learning the critical difference between "adults" and "grown-ups."
Dr. Mike Bradley
Things have gotten somewhat better with my daughter. She has been spending more time with our family and she calls and/or texts me several times a day.
The one thing I didn't mention in my first post was that between the times she ran away, we took her to a psychologist who diagnosed her as depressed (anxiety and depression run in my family). At the time she refused treatment and after she ran away I was unable to get her back to the doctor. However, now that she's pregnant, she is regularly seeing her OBGYN who is planning to address the depression issue in her second trimester. My daughter apparently discussed it with her doctor during her first visit. And she is now talking openly to me about being depressed and how she felt when she ran away.
She also told me that several times during the past year she felt like killing herself. My fear in this situation is that if something should happen between my daughter and her boyfriend (ie: they split up) she will "run" again or worse. I'm hoping that before anything like that happens the doctor is able to get her on some meds. Is it safe to take antidepressants during preganancy?
Don't give up
I just wanted to let everyone know that the other day my daughter was talking about how she intends to raise her child (she's due in August). Her father and I had to bite our tongues the entire time she was talking. She went on and on about how children need structure and rules and that she is going to know when her kids are up to something because she has "done it all". She also told us that if one of her kids run away, she will let them know that she went through that stage also and its not as easy as it looks. She said that she would monitor them from a distance (like I did when she ran away) to make sure they're ok. There was more but I think the shock of what she was saying made me black out for a minute!
The values and logic that we tried to teach her, that she rebelled against are surfacing! Apparently, they were there the whole time, laying in wait - WHO KNEW????
I know her struggles are not over; we still need to address the depression issue. I know there will be more life lessons for all of us but I feel like I have my child back. Not the same one she was before she ran away but a new, more grown up version. I feel like she's going to be ok. I feel like our family is going to be ok. I feel like I have my life back. My heart is healing.
To all parents - please know that it does get better - don't give up hope and don't give up on your child.
Amen to that! We can never give up on our children.
I had a similar experience where my son and his girlfriend had her sister stay with them for a short time. He told me that they had set a curfew for her and that if she wasn't in on time, she was out! I could not believe my ears and still laugh whenever I think about it.
There is no greater thing that can happen, than to have your child back. I recently got mine back and same as with you, it's my child again, but different in a more mature way. I find that healing my heart is taking awhile, but I know now that in time, it will. My joy in having him back and in every easy conversation as well as in feeling that strong loving connection again.....well, there's just no greater gift. It is so hard to hold onto hope when we are down in the trenches and it goes on and on, but I guess we're living proof that eventually it does turn around and life makes sense again. Thanks for posting thoughts that so many of us have shared. It's so good to know that both you and your daughter will be ok.
We now have a new issue - My daughters younger sister D (who is 16) is now using the issues with her sister as an arguing chip to get her way. For example, when she continually called me at work the other day because she wanted to go shopping. I told her to stop calling so she starting texting me. If I don't answer her, she will either call or text until I do (which is difficult because I don't answer the phone at the office, our receptionist does so it becomes frustrating for the receptionist as well). I decided I had enough and grounded her for the weekend because she wouldn't stop and was being inconsiderate. Her response was "you act like I'm the bad child - maybe I should just run away or get pregnant". AHHHHHH. How do I handle the crazy teenage sibling of the crazier older teenager?
Thanks for your help!
First, relax a bit. Your kid is just testing out a new strategy to get what she wants. With these kinds of behaviors don't use punishments ("That's it! You're grounded!") but rather use consequences which put the power to determine the future in your kid's hands: "Honey, know that my answer will not change regardless of how often you call. So if you continue to call, that's harassment, a behavior that will tell me that you're not ready for the freedom of going out this weekend. So you decide. Sorry this didn't work out for you."
If she threatens to run away or get pregnant, sidestep those threats: "If you did either of those things, I would be devastated, but I can't let threats change my decisions about what I believe is best for you. I know you disagree about what's best, but I love you too much to allow you to do things I think might bad for you. Sorry."
Conversely, if she stays calm and argues her points respectfully, try to always reinforce that behavior by giving her as much as you can.
Dr. Mike Bradley