Ask the Play Therapist: Teenage Daughter Growing Up too Early

Dear Anthony,

My daughter is 15 years old going on 21. When she was younger we had such a great relationship! We would go shopping together and went to the movies once a month for a mother-daughter date. Now she spends all of her free time with her friends, on her phone, or in her room. She always walks in front of me when we are at the mall. All of our conversations are short. I miss my child and the bond we shared when she was younger! How do I go about rekindling what we had?

NY Mom -

Dear NY Mom,

This is a story that is not at all uncommon in many households. As children grow into their teen years a major developmental goal for them is to find their individual identity. Slowly separating from parental figures is part of how teens work through and achieve this developmental goal. With that being said, it can be hard as a parent for that distancing to occur! My recommendation is to allow her to have some space, while continuing to emphasize the importance of time spent with family.

"Yes you can go to the Starbucks with your friends, but you also have to be home to have dinner with the family."

You mentioned that the old ways of connecting with her, such as mother-daughter movie dates, no longer interest her. Ask her what she WOULD be interested in. Maybe pedicures and brunch in the city are cool for a teenage girl instead of a movie date?

Find those moments where she lets down those teenage walls and emphasize the qualities that you notice. "It makes me smile when you crack jokes.", "I like seeing you and your little brother all curled up reading a book together."

Designate family-only times, such as at the dinner table, where telephones are not allowed.

While she may feel grown up, she is still your 15 year old child. If you meet her where she is at, while setting appropriate structure and boundaries for her age, connection with her can happen. It may just look a little different than it used to.

Anthony Dimitrion -