June 26, 2023

Kathryn Part 1 of 5: When Parenting Your Teen Feels Like a Rollercoaster

This is the first episode in a five part series with Kathryn. She’s been struggling to deal with the roller coaster ride of parenting her 17 year old daughter, Bridgette.

C9:06  Raising our children will challenge us in ways that give us the opportunity to grow as people

16:22 Begin where your child is

16:55 An example of nonjudgmental language to open lines of communication.  Say what you see

18:30  Be the curious alien – zoom out, zoom in depending on what you are dealing with.

23:22  Parenting by the Paradox – Giving children the room to make mistakes

27:06  Parenting is so much about the FIT between the parent and the child

28:53 When does it work, when does it not work – A way to look at those qualities that drive you nuts

Bridgette has been making what most parents might consider risky choices. Her choices surrounding sex and drugs has her mother extremely concerned and feeling unsure of how to best to parent her. She is afraid for her daughter’s safety and is feeling overwhelmed and panicked. This episode unpacks the complex issues underlying Bridgette’s behavior. Leslie looks at how effective communication can support their relationship and will focus on questions such as: How do you establish a judgment-free line of communication with your teen? How do you parent a child whose personality is unlike your own? How do you help your child navigate decision-making without imposing your own beliefs and judgements? Look for the answers to these questions and more in this episode of Is My Child A Monster?

LESLIE-ISM: The best insurance against life’s hardships for your child is the quality of your relationship.

Book reference: 

Kathryn spoke about a book that she was reading:  Girls & Sex:  Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, sexual assaults  or other mental health issues there are resources available for you. 

  • National Sexual assault hotline 800-656-HOPE (4763)
  • National Substance Abuse Hotline 866-210-1303
  • Substance abuse and mental health administration 1-800-662-HELP  (4357)
  • National Alliance of Mental Illness 212-684-3264

Show Note Links:

Credits: Is My Child a Monster is produced by Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, and Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Theme music is by L-Ray Music. Public relations is handled by Tink Media. Graphics and Website Design by Brien O’Reilly. by Eric Rubury. A special thanks to everyone who contributes their wisdom and support to make this possible.


[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

0:07  Kathryn:  It feels like she wants to just check all these things off of her list…like she’s running as fast as she can toward a cliff, before her wings have formed.

0:24  Leslie Cohen-Rubury:  This is, Is My Child A Monster?, a parenting therapy podcast, where you get to listen in as real parents and caregivers share their trials and tribulations in therapy sessions recorded live. I’m your host, Leslie Cohen-Rubury, and I’m a parent and a therapist with 37 years of experience helping families navigate this question. So, the last few episodes have been about younger children. But today we meet Kathryn, who’s looking for help parenting her 17-year-old daughter, Bridget. If you don’t have a teen now, what an advantage it is that you get to start practicing communication skills early with your child, and not have to wait until the tumultuous teenage years. The skills we talk about today are applicable at any age. 

So let’s get back to Kathryn. She’s concerned about Bridget’s risky choices, especially around drugs, alcohol, and sex. She is afraid for her daughter’s safety, and is feeling overwhelmed and panicked. In this episode, we unpack the complex issues underlying Bridget’s behavior. And we look at how effective communication can support their relationship. This is the first part in a five part series, where we explore the following questions: How do you establish a judgment-free line of communication with your teen? How do you parent a child whose personality is unlike your own? And how do you repair a relationship with your teenager after a breach of trust? Just a heads up. This episode has a lot of mature themes and contains adult language that may not be suitable for all audiences. And as a reminder, all names and identifying information have been changed. And finally, this show is for informational purposes only, and not a substitute for therapeutic intervention. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started.

Leslie:  Hi, Kathryn. How are you today?

2:50  Kathryn:  A bit at wit’s end. It’s kind of a roller coaster. And it’s been a roller coaster for a while. But most recently, it’s been one of those…I’ve graduated to an even bigger roller coaster.

3:02  Leslie:  You have your daughter who is 17-years-old, that you’re concerned about? And there have been ups and downs before. So give me a little bit of the story.

3:14  Kathryn:  She’s always been hot and cold and very emotional. And I’m just going to put it out there: lacking in empathy, not really understanding empathy, and can be really mean, but also super loving. So there’s, it’s like, it’s hot and cold. So sometimes we have the greatest time together. And it’s so much fun. And then other times, it’ll be…I don’t know how to interact with her and she wants to fight all the time and yell and scream and slam doors. And I understood that that was probably going to happen as a teenager, but sometimes it’s just pretty over the top. And then since she was 13, things progressively got more dramatic and more volatile. And later, I found out some of the reasons why and what was going on, on a personal level, that she was dealing with all by herself without anybody to talk to. And that was, I think, some of the behavior issues. 

And now we’re living part time in a city. And she’s started a new school, which is an art school. And it’s an awesome school and she’s doing great and her grades are fine, but she’s making decisions about drugs and alcohol and sexual activity that… I feel lucky that she’s talking to me about it. But I also feel like there are decisions that I disagree with, like really strongly disagree with. And she’s really pushing back really hard, because she’s with friends with kids who are also doing what she’s doing. And so she’s seeing it as kind of the norm of this new school. Whereas it’s not the norms that we feel we would like her to live by. And so, I feel like, what I’m trying to do is discern with my own judgment and shame…and super ego attacks, you know, attacking myself for feeling like I failed her in some way. And then what is actual behavior that is dangerous, and how to help her make and discern and make better decisions, especially given that she’s in a big city now. She has grown up in a rural area; she’s in a big city with a lot more opportunity to be in super dangerous situations. So yeah, we’re just trying to navigate it and wanting to…really, like moving mountains, to make it so that she can have this opportunity at this art school, where she’s thriving, and she’s really good and really talented. 

And I think part of what makes her so good is that she’s willing to go to those edges, and teeter off to the side and see where she lands. And it’s terrifying as a parent to know what some of the consequences are from those actions, when she just kind of is like blase about it. Or like, “Oh, it’s not gonna happen to me,” or, “It’s not a problem,” or, “Why so up in my face about it?” And I’m just like, “Well, because you could die, you could get pregnant, you could get raped, you could get kidnapped”—all these things where I go. So anyway, it’s trying to discern between what’s my stuff and own that and work with that; and how can I hold her and get her through to the other side, and not have a crash landing? I want her to live.

6:37  Leslie:  Yeah. You describe that feeling of getting caught in the middle, of not knowing which way to go–and we’re going to look at it all. We’re going to take a look at each of those sides. Because there’s truth in every perspective—there is absolutely truth in the idea that as a parent, you might be dealing with your own fears. And that you may be dealing with your own insecurity—”Am I failing her?” And that comes up because we need to grow as adults as well as our teens need to grow. We need to keep growing, we want to be vibrant, healthy people. And in order to do that, we want to keep asking ourselves: What’s my part? So I think it’s a great question you’re asking. Interesting that you identified your own shame of failing your daughter—has that always been an insecurity?

7:33  Kathryn:  Yeah, so there’s definitely shame. I think it’s mostly around sexuality. So there’s my own shame around sexuality and how I’ve honored or not honored my own body. And in past relationships, like not making good decisions for myself. And so there’s shame there; and then wanting to have her have enough confidence and the feelings of self-worth, that she didn’t have to…she didn’t make the same decisions that I did. But the thing is, I think she makes decisions in a different way than I did. So that’s where there’s the confusion. And that I’m carrying stuff from my own sexual history that’s still there. I feel like I’ve worked on it a lot. But with a daughter, all of a sudden, it’s like, stuff that I hadn’t…I thought that I’d done is like resurfacing again. And I’m like, “Oh, wow, I really thought that…she was held in such a different way that she could make different decisions that I would want her to make.” And instead, she was held in such a way that she made decisions in such a way that I totally disagree with and wish she hadn’t made. And yeah, she’s like, “It’s fine. I don’t feel bad about it. I feel like you know, lessons learned, blah, blah, blah.” What? No! [Laughter] What’s my societal, patriarchal bullshit that I have, in my own structure, that I’m overlaying on her and her decision making.

9:05  Leslie:  Parenting is this process where it’s layered. And as we offer our children things that we may not ourselves felt that we had, then all of a sudden, it sort of comes back to challenge us even further. So I don’t think parenting ever stops challenging us. So instead of turning it on the side of, “Oh, you must be a bad parent because it didn’t work out the way you expected,” what if we flip that coin over? And it’s just an opportunity for you to grow? The fact that she’s got this way of being in the world, maybe with her own sexuality and with people is again challenging you. You have two sides of the coin. You can see it as, “Somehow, I must have failed,” which I think you’d have to really work hard to prove that to me or convincing…Or turning it around and saying, “Okay, this is challenging me to grow in an area once again that I thought I’d actually really worked on. I’m going to work once again on my…” whatever it is, the comfort, the awareness, the openness of sexuality…”Can I keep growing in this area?” So that’s staying relevant, that’s staying healthy, that’s healing your old wounds. These are all opportunities, especially when our kids become teenagers. 

Kathryn:  Yeah. 

Leslie:  The other thing that I want to go back to, I heard you say something about raising her to be confident. Well, the irony is, she sounds really confident.

10:42  Kathryn:  She’s super-confident.

10:44  Leslie:  She’s super confident. So here you are, on this roller coaster, scared about what’s happening. And I don’t hear her feeling ungrounded. I am just getting the sense, please correct me if I’m wrong, I’m getting the sense that she feels grounded, she feels centered. Now, teenagers also have this entitlement and this grandiosity, that nothing can happen to them and that they’re great and that they’re the—but not all kids carry around that level of confidence. And it sounds like it’s genuinely there. I don’t think it sounds artificial. Correct me if I’m wrong—what do you think?

11:19  Kathryn:  Yeah, I think mostly she’s pretty confident. And  I’m glad you said the entitlement because she definitely has a lot of entitlement, like, unbelievable amount entitlement. But I also think she’s impulsive. Yeah, she’s super impulsive. But most of the time, she’s pretty confident, puts herself out there in really big ways. But her impulsivity is that it feels like she wants to just check all these things off of her list. Like she’s running as fast as she can toward a cliff, before her wings have formed. And so I’m concerned that she’s going to get to the edge of the cliff and still be running and the wings won’t sprout, you know, because she’s just trying so hard to check all these different experiences off her list. 

So in some ways, I think that she’s grounded and confident. And in other ways, I feel like she’s not that embodied about…like, she’ll have this experience, like sexual experience, and it’s almost like she’s not there. Because she’s just checking it off her list. And so that’s where it’s just like, “Well, how can I help her come back to her body so that she really acknowledges that she’s having these experiences, rather than having it feel like it’s something that she needs to check off her list?” Does that make sense?

12:37  Leslie:  It does make sense. I’m really curious about it. Because I’m curious if it’s your interpretation of the events or her interpretation of the events. If I were to make a hypothesis—again, tell me if I’m wrong—maybe your version of having a sexual experience is involved with being with a caring person, being more committed. It might be related to the norms that you grew up with. And she’s acting in a way that might be more casual. Platonic, like your interpretation of platonic sex might be: she’s not embodied, she’s not experiencing the qualities and the experience on a deeper level. But is that not your interpretation?

13:33  Kathryn:  Yeah, it could be I’m listening to this book called Girls And Sex right now by Peggy Orenstein. And I’m so triggered by the book, because I see so much truth in it, and so much truth that has happened in my life, and then how much more girls are having to deal with now. And that there is a level of casualness about it. But the way that she talks about it, and the way that I’ve talked with my daughter about it, it doesn’t sound like she’s doing it, because she’s expecting pleasure, you know, that it’s a pleasurable experience. I mean, less even, like, emotionally connected, or the spiritual depth that you can have with your partner that’s loving, who she’s doing it for. And I don’t really know the answer, because she…we’re not able to talk about that as much because it’s embarrassing, I think, for both of us. And she just doesn’t want to share. I mean, I’m impressed with how much she shared and now she doesn’t want to share with me anymore, because she feels like we’ve kind of had to bring her back down to earth a little bit. But it felt like she was just going 100 miles an hour and kind of not sleeping and just goes a little bit into the manic phase. I don’t think she’s bipolar. But she has those, you know, manic phases and then goes into more depressed and manic. And so she was in this manic phase where things were just like, Go Go, go, go, go, go, go, go go. And that’s when some of these most recent decisions happened. She’s an actor, and so she tends to take on roles; and so when she was 13, she was like, kind of a slutty emo role. And she was kind of doing the makeup and the clothes and she had sex with this boy she doesn’t even know, that didn’t even like it, you know, like at 13, which was really shocking to me. And, that I find out about till she was almost 15, when she told me. And then she went into like this uber-Christian conservative Catholic mode where she’s like, worked for church dresses and dated this guy who was kind of like, almost a Nazi in terms of his political beliefs. And now she’s at this art school. And so she’s gone from a rural conservative area to an area that’s really liberal. And so now she’s kind of put on the role of, I’m a sexual being, and I’m with girls and I’m with guys, and, and I can just do whatever I want. And she’s doing things with her body, with drugs and alcohol and sex that can have a long term consequence on her body. Meanwhile, I feel like it’s…more like it’s a role that she’s taking on, and that she wants to fully embody this role. And so it’s like, where is she? Where is she in all of that, and that’s the one I want to hold and, and support. So that one is the one making decisions about what roles she’s taking on and how far she goes in that role.

16:22  Leslie:  I have a little mantra that helps me, whether it’s parenting, or when I’m working with a client, and that is: begin where your child is. And if your child, if your daughter is acting in a role, whether it’s the conservative, whether it’s the sexual experimenter, whatever the role that she is playing, I would meet her there, not because it’s okay what she’s doing, but because that’s where she is. And if we come to our children and say, “Why are you doing this,” or, “You shouldn’t be doing this”, then they’re not going to connect to you. Because you’re starting off with this shame of, “You’re not doing what you should be doing, you’re not acting like yourself.” Well, of course, they think they’re acting like their selves, because that’s who they are, in that moment. That is who they are. 

So I like to start there. And I like to really validate, and give my child the awareness of what I’m seeing from the outside. And one of my phrases is, I say, “Okay, I noticed that you have started dressing conservatively, you actually got three new outfits, I noticed that they are in stark contrast to what you were wearing before, before I saw a midriff shirt or a short shirt, and now you’re wearing these long skirts over your knees, I’m sort of curious where that change came from and where you are.” So you make a connection by naming what you see and getting her to talk about that. And with that language, the hope is that you come across non-judgmentally. So you keep the line of communication open. As you said, she started to shut down—that’s where we get a little bit more into trouble. Kids will, teenagers especially, will often shut down; and we want to give them an opportunity to find someone that they feel that they can talk to. But we do want to try to keep that open. And one way to keep that open is: begin where they are. Notice what you see, say what you see, what you are observing. And then with curiosity, I call it being the curious alien, explore: “Where did that change come from? How did you make the decision to go more conservative? How does it feel? What’s working for you? What’s not working for you about this? What is exciting about the change?” Or you might even say, “Well, I noticed that you make changes every six months.” So you might zoom out or zoom in, depending on what you’re seeing.

[Music: Flowerpot by Olexy]

Leslie: How do you talk to her about these, what you’re calling manic phases? How do you communicate that with her, if you do at all?

19:20  Kathryn:  You know, I’m not sure. I think we generally have had a pretty good communication and that that she tells us stuff. And I think she does a lot of things that she wants to tell an adult about. And she’s asked for a therapist before and then when we get something set up, then she decides she doesn’t want a therapist. And so she kind of goes back and forth on that. I think up until recently our conversations were pretty good and holding her in this place and talking about, “Oh, I see that you’re taking on this role now. You were in that role before. It seems like you’re experimenting a lot.” It’s like really talking and that got stuff open. 

But it was a couple of weeks ago; we left her by herself in the apartment. And she went beyond what I was able…and then she told me about it. And she made me…she told me at the beginning, “If I tell you this, you can’t tell dad about it.” And I was like, “Well, okay.” And then she told all the stuff to me that just felt like, I didn’t…I couldn’t hold all of it. It was really kind of stunning. And so II had every intention of telling my husband about it. And I don’t feel like I promised that I wouldn’t tell. Plus, I don’t want to promise that I wouldn’t tell because it just creates a whole dynamic. He’s my husband, and I want to be able to talk to him about what’s going on with our daughter. And what happened was, he was staying with her, and I was back at our house in the country. And I was telling him about what she told me. And he didn’t know, but she had decided not to go to school that day, but didn’t want to get caught and was hiding in the closet in her room and so overheard the whole conversation and ended up staying in the closet for, like, eight hours. Because she was waiting for my husband to leave the apartment. 

And he never left the apartment so that she could sneak out and then come back and like, “Oh, yeah, school was great.” There was this whole thing. And so it’s created this kind of rift. But all of this stuff that she decided to do on the weekend that we left her alone; it’s like, she knows what an edge that is for us and for her. And then she made decisions that were, like, she’s not mature enough to be able to stay by herself. And now we know that, right? But she’s like, “Now I’m not going to tell you anything, because now I’m going to be punished. And I heard what you had to say about me, so I know what you think.” And so she’s just really kind of hot about it. And so when I first contacted you, all of that was happening. And we’ve had a break now where there’s been grounding at home and—she’s not grounded, but grounding at home—I feel like she gets super scattered, and her energy is just out there. And so we’ve had an opportunity to kind of bring things back to center again. And so she’s gone back to school again. So it’s like, “Okay, how’s that going to impact her in terms of her decision-making?” And so we’re going to have to change how we do it, where it’s like, we’re not going to be able to be at home, on the weekends with each other, my husband and me, because one of us is going to have to stay with her in the city. So it’s impacting our relationship and feeling like, just a complete lack of understanding, like that entitlement. And maybe there’s the guilt that it’s like, I don’t know how to talk about it with her, but we’re really moving mountains, literally moving mountains to, to support her in this dream that she has. And it’s like, these decisions are what she does in return? It’s like that. And so I know that there’s a shame there. There’s a lot of shame that I’m like, but it’s just like, I felt like we had expanded, expanded, expanded, we’re holding it, and then it just bubbled over like, like a…yeah.

23:13  Leslie:  Well, there are a few things I want to talk about. One is, it sounds like that’s really scary. And in an odd way, sometimes parenting by the paradox makes more sense than logic. What I mean by that is, if we don’t give our children opportunities to make small mistakes, and create a home where they have room to make mistakes, they don’t actually grow up knowing how to make mistakes and recover, or what is the safe mistake versus a dangerous mistake and learn the consequences of it. So, I don’t want to go into right now what the history was of giving your kids the opportunity to make safe mistakes. And that is going outside and getting hurt by themselves. Or it might be trying to pour milk and spilling the milk. When kids are little, it’s easy to see, “Oh, here’s a mistake.” But the problem is if they haven’t practiced making mistakes when they’re little, then when they get older, the mistakes get bigger and scarier.

24:17  Kathryn:  I think with her, she learns by doing and so she was the one that when the food would be all over her…. So she’s very much experiential. And so she learns in that way. And so there’s always been that going to the edge from the very beginning. So that’s just kind of how she is.

24:38  Leslie:  Exactly; which is such an important fact that this is who she is. So yeah, I would have said if I had spoken to you five years ago: put your seatbelt on, get ready. Put your seatbelt on because it’s not going to be any different if she did it when she was three and four. It’s going to happen again as an adolescent and it’s actually quite nice to hear you say she learns from doing. Now, some kids don’t learn from doing. You want to take that piece of information into consideration because I would want to know: what is her version of what happened that weekend? You gave her room, you put her in a paddock that was a little wide for her and she got to make a mistake. She screwed up. I haven’t even gone into the details with you. But I imagine it would have been what I expect; sex, drugs, and rock and roll, right?

25:29  Kathryn:  It was pretty much yeah, yeah.

25:31  Leslie:  That’s what happens when 17 year olds are left alone. Right?

25:35  Kathryn:  [Laughter] Right. And it’s like us realizing, oh, that’s what she’s going to do. So it’s good to get that validation. Like, okay, well, we’re probably not going to do this until she’s older.

25:45  Leslie:  Okay, but like you said, she learns from doing. Did she learn anything?

25:52  Kathryn:  She learns that she didn’t want to tell us anymore what’s she’s doing.

25:55  Leslie:  Okay, that is normal as well. And a little dangerous as well. You don’t need her to tell you everything, you’re going to stay one step ahead of her: know that she’s a teenager, know that if she has the opportunity to do certain things she will. And in a way, there’s a danger with phones now. Because we think we can keep track of our kids. We think that that’s helpful…You don’t do that.

26:19  Kathryn:  We can’t. I mean, I feel like the phones are a whole avenue of…area that that we can’t stay on top of. We don’t even know how to stay on top of, it’s moving so fast. And stuff going on that we don’t even know about. I just found out when she was 13, she had a Tinder account. I was like, wait, what? [Laughter]

26:35  Leslie:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. As you said, there’s the fast line and slow lane, and she’s definitely in that fast lane…

26:41  Kathryn:  …fast laner. She loves the fast lane.

26:44  Leslie:  She loves the fast lane. How can she live in the fast lane and be safe? How can she live in the fast lane and take care? And this is, as parents, going to make it much more challenging, right? Because you have another child—was your son in living in the fast lane?

27:02  Kathryn:  He’s a putterer.

27:04  Leslie:  So the fit between who your daughter is and who you are, is very important. Parenting is so much about the fit between the personality of your child and the personality of the parent. And mine was the opposite. I was in the fast lane all my life. And I…my firstborn was, “I want to be a homebody. So I’ll wrap myself in a blanket and stay wrapped in a blanket all day.” That was his speed. Well, I think I traumatized him. And I say that seriously, even though I have a smile on my face, because I moved so fast. We’re very different people. And I have since asked forgiveness to say, well, I don’t know if I was as sensitive to our match as I could have been. So in hindsight, we have as adults talked about that our match wasn’t an easy one for him. So, match is very important. You said you live in the country, you already—if you live in the country—have probably a slower pace than her who’s now living in a city and probably feels energized by being in a city. I have always felt that way myself.

28:11  Kathryn:  She’s very extroverted, too. And I’m not extroverted, I’m introverted.

28:15  Leslie:  So the fit is important. And again, bring that curiosity to the differences. The differences are not the problem. It’s the curiosity or the black and white thinking that becomes the problem. “What you’re doing is not okay. What you’re doing is who you are, is a reflection of who you are. Now, can you do what feels good to you? What feeds your soul? What supports you in your way of being in this world? Can you do it and figure out when does it work for you to be in the fast lane? When does it not work for you to be in the fast lane?”  For her to start to have that awareness that every quality we have works for some of the time and doesn’t work for some of the time. So being a homebody and an introvert works for you lots of time. There’s so many beautiful qualities that come out of being an introvert and being a homebody. And then there are times it doesn’t work for you. Same thing with her. There are times that being in the fast, having impulsivity, works for you. And there are other times it doesn’t work for you. I have put my foot in my mouth more times than I can even name and I can be a leader and I can talk in front of a crowd of people because I love that—that feeds me. So we don’t want to look at qualities as good and bad. She’s not a bad kid because she’s living…

29:46  Kathryn:  No. She’s a great kid.

29:47  Leslie:  Our job as parents is to help her understand who she is and help her get out of her way and live to the fullest. So we trip over our own feet, we get in our own way, impulsivity can be a problem for me, being too much can be a problem—same with her. And I have a feeling that that weekend when she went all out, she probably felt shame. She probably knows that she disappointed you two; because I know that you guys do have this strong open communication, strong relationship, lots of connection. Well, the number one thing, even though you don’t think she’s empathetic, I’m going to disagree with you: she knows that she disappointed you guys.

30:38  Kathryn:  Yeah, she does. I mean, I think she…the reason why she wanted to tell…she couldn’t keep it all in and she felt like she needed to tell me everything that she did that weekend. And what I’m concerned about is my response at first was just like, “Okay, I’m just going to try and hold this.” And then she overheard the conversation. And as I, as I kind of sat with, and mulled over what she told me, I was just like, “Oh, my God, it’s not okay what she did—I’m really angry. I’m angry with her. So I think she told me because she was feeling like she did things that she probably shouldn’t have. And I feel like I’ve compounded that sense of shame by being so angry and frustrated with her. And so I’d like to go back to that repair process of being receptive enough. But also, like, I may not want to know all of it. I mean, it’s really hard to hear, was really hard to hear and just broke me—it broke something in me. And so it’s like, repair that in myself, you know, it’s like a hard heartedness that I feel toward her; go back to that soft place and really be able to hold her even when she’s super rejecting, can be very rejecting and mean; to be able to open up to that relationship. Again, I think that she, at some point, will want to do that, too. But right now, she still kind of feels really wounded by overhearing our conversation while she was hiding in the closet. And also because we were kind of like…we needed to process. We’re like, oh my, oh my god, oh my god, could you..I mean, she did…and this and this, and this, and oh my god, oh my god, oh my god—what are we going to do with this girl?

32:27 Leslie:  So we’re going to wrap up. But what I want to say is that we will come back to the repair for both you and for her, and how to open up that channel again of communication and how to move forward. So that both have more of that open-hearted…and that shame seems to be a theme that’s getting in the way for both of you for her. In this case, your shame may have become anger at her. And I’m going to help you learn how to take responsibility for your emotions, and not to deny that you have these feelings and to communicate with her that, “Yes, I have these feelings. And yes, I’m going to be responsible for my feelings, that’s not your job.” And so, the fact that she shared with you lets us know that it was too much for her. And I think she’s swimming in a lot of emotional waters.

33:22  Kathryn:  She’s in the deep end right now. And only knowing the dog paddle.

33:26  Leslie:  It’s good that she has the dog paddle.

[Music: Stand in the forest by Olexy]

Leslie:  I want to thank Kathryn for vulnerably sharing her parenting fears, as well as her shame about her own past with me today. It was heartfelt. 

Before I continue, I want to let you know that if you or someone you love is facing a substance use or mental health crisis there is help. Call the free, confidential hotline at 1-800-662-HELP, that’s 4-3-5-7. I’ve also got more information and resources in the show notes.

So I thought it was really interesting how Kathryn interpreted her daughter’s shutting down and oppositional behavior as a lack of empathy. But what I saw was a sensitive and overwhelmed teenager struggling to communicate. This misinterpretation reflects a tendency that I see so often, that parents have when they respond to the behavior, rather than the complex issues that are causing the behavior. 

When dealing with tough teenage behaviors, I suggest a paradigm shift: focus on the feelings and issues that are motivating the behaviors rather than just the behaviors themselves. And do this through curiosity, mutual respect, and connection. Now, something else that may have come up for you while you were listening is that you may have been concerned about Bridget’s safety. I want to note that these sessions do not include the full assessment that happens outside of the recording. These sessions were recorded some time ago, and at the end of them you’ll hear how Bridget is doing. Spoilers: she’s doing well. But these five episodes really focus on Bridget’s and Kathryn’s relationship. 

[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

I am making an assumption here that you’ll probably have a lot of thoughts about risky teenage behavior, and how parents should respond to it. So I’d love to hear your thoughts. Join the conversation in our Facebook group. Just search, Is My Child A Monster? parenting community. Join us next week where Kathryn tells us about her ineffective attempts at trying to talk with her daughter and we explore other ways that she can try to open up a line of non-judgmental communication and understanding between the two of them. Subscribe to Is My Child A Monster? wherever you get your podcasts. This episode was produced by Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, and me. Our theme music is by L-Ray Music. I’m Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Thanks so much for listening. And keep in mind: the best insurance against life’s hardships for your child is the quality of your relationship.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai edited by Eric Rubury

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