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13 year old isolating herself

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

My dd has always been a loner. Even as a toddler she played by herself for long stretches. But for the last year she has been isolating herself more and more, to the point that she hardly talks to anybody at all. This wouldn't worry me as much if she had friends that she was talking to, and just ignoring her family, but she doesn't. She goes to a tiny school, so she doesn't have a lot of social opportunities, but honestly if she did she probably wouldn't take them. She literally stares at the floor if anyone talks to her. In a social situation she finds something to do by herself.

 

The other aspect to this that is a red flag to me is that she doesn't have any involvement in activities. She used to be so active and creative- her nickname is "idea girl" because she is so inventive. Now she doesn't do anything. She plays on an online website, listens to music (her collection of music never grows or changes, she's been listening to the same songs for months). She has an imaginary world she calls her "mind world". She used to talk about it, all the characters and their adventures could fill a library. But she doesn't talk about that anymore, she's not interested in writing, drawing, or recording her stories in any way. This whole thing just shouts to me that she is overwhelmed by life and is trying to hide from living.

 

We have a large family, and she's the oldest, so it seemed natural when she started spending a lot of time in her room.

I've checked in with her a lot to see if she seems depressed, and for a long time she didn't, but in the past couple of months she has seemed more grouchy. She's 13, so I'm sure a lot of that is age appropriate. I hated it when my mom interrupted me at that age!

 

I am going to have her sign up for a couple of classes, and try some day camps this summer. I'm thinking about getting some counseling for her, but we are on medicaid and our choices here are very dismal. Plus, in order to make these kinds of changes, the person herself has to want them, right? When I try to tell her that what she's doing doesn't seem healthy to me, she says she doesn't want to think about it, and she's sure I'm going to just end up lecturing her. I feel like talking about it is not helping- she's getting the idea that I want to fix her. I just want her to find her passion and engage in life again.

 

 

 

 

post #2 of 12

I haven't read this book in, I dunno, 20 years? But your post reminded me of Reviving Ophelia. I think it addresses what you've described.

post #3 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post

I haven't read this book in, I dunno, 20 years? But your post reminded me of Reviving Ophelia. I think it addresses what you've described.



I really liked "Reviving Ophelia." It's a good cautionary tale for those with younger children looking ahead but it doesn't offer much in the way of tools to help situations like these. Still, I second the reading just because they are interesting case studies and do encourage you to evaluate your handling of girls early on.

 

As to the OP, middle school can really be a wasteland for girls like your DD. During that time, kids think it's cool not to care. Being the "idea girl" is not something her peers would value and it's very likely she's been harassed about. Most go underground... DEEP underground. Middle school kids are really, really good at making passionate classmates feel like something must be wrong with them. It's likely your DD has found a lot of emptiness in peer interaction right now. At a time when so many are obsessed with boys, appearance and pop-culture, a girl who's obsessions are reading, writing and creating can find little to connect too. It's lonely.

 

If your DD loved to write in the past, try finding some sort of writing class just to get her with kids who WANT her ideas. Google "young playwrites" in your area. These sorts of writing programs are starting to pop-up in a lot of areas. Be careful when choosing camps. I'd stay away from rec/ymca type camps... those are really great for younger kids but in the teen years, those with particular passions are going to more specialized programs through museums, universities and the like. It may not be the same in your area, but in ours, the rec camps available to teens are too generalized and more a holding tank for parents who don't want their kids unsupervised than for those wanting to delve deeper into personal interests.

 

You may have to "force" it. She may be reluctant to attend believing she'll be faced with more "school" sorts of attitudes. However, it could make a real difference. Honestly, I don't know how my DD could have survived middle school with her spirit intact had it not been for her theatre and music groups that were filled with kids clinging to their passion for dear life.

 

Hugs to you. It's really hard to see a child lose something that was such a huge part of their personality!

 

 

post #4 of 12

She sounds similar to my older DD 14, who was always very introverted and shy, never the type to instigate any social situation, often quiet and pensive and serious for a child. She always had her nose in a book and preferred being alone in her room. She was homeschooled through 3rd grade but still went to a HS Co-op one day a week and took theater or other classes/sports other days, and then she went to a small school with maybe 8 other kids in her grade (2 year split) for a year and then moved onto a bigger charter school for her last couple of years of elementary. Most of this decision was based on her social skills, knowing she is the type of person who needs as many social interactions as possible to find the people she "clicks" with or else she will stay to herself. Now, in 8th grade, she is a social butterfly, class president, and still very active in theater. She goes to an academic magnet school, which was probably the best choice for her: she needs peers who are positive, motivated in their education, and "above the influence" or whatever that slogan is, for the most part at least. I'm sure at a smaller school or one where kids are less motivated, she wouldn't have blossomed like she has, and I think it was the best decision we ever made regarding her education. I know adults who were homeschooled in middle school and feel like they missed out on some important parts of social development at this age, one of whom is a mid twenties man who is still a virgin because he never learned how to talk to girls and has anxiety about it. Not all kids need to be thrown into the depths of middle school hell, but I think casting a wider social net at this time is crucial. If you meet people who are like you and interested in activities you enjoy, you're more likely to do them. I don't think DD would have stuck through three years of orchestra if she didn't have so many friends there, and I know in a smaller school setting it's hard to feel motivated to do activities if you have nothing in common with the people you're doing them with. Is there a Girl's Rock Camp in your city? Both my DDs have done it and it is an amazing, empowering experience where you meet all sorts of other girls from every background. I hope you find something that will get her out of her shell a little more. Maybe try to do something together, just the two of you, that you haven't tried before?

post #5 of 12

That sounds a lot like me at that age. I know now that I had undiagnosed depression. Hopefully that is not the case with your daughter. You sound like a loving, interested mom, and I wish I'd had that. Your love and interest in her is the best place to start. Let her know you love her no matter what... read all you can and get her help if you can and if she will accept it. That's such a hard age.

 

Does she have a teacher or counselor at school that she trusts?

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Her school is not the standard junior high in any way. It's a Sudbury school. She has never been to a regular school, I unschooled her until she was ten and then she went to sudbury. She did go to our junior high last year for three days. She had decided she wanted to go, and then was bowled over by the work, the organizational skills expected of her, and the noisy crowds. That's really where all of this began. She went to homeschool co-op classes for the rest of the term, but she refused to do any outside work, even though she liked her classes. She said she just wanted to enjoy being a kid while she had the chance.

Today I handed her the city parks and rec schedule for this summer, and told her to pick three things she thinks she might like. That will get her out a bit this summer. She's interested in computer animation, painting, and working with fabric. Can anyone suggest resources that I might not know about? Right now her attitude is looking more positive, now that she has some classes to look forward to. I would love to find a way to get her involved in something right now!
post #7 of 12

I wonder if part of the problem is that she knows she is behind her peers and therefore having major doubts about herself. Have you considered hiring a tutor to work with her and get her up to speed so she has more options?  (My kids worked with a math tutor when we transitioned from relaxed homeschooling to school -- it's not that big of a deal).

 

Since she has flags for depression, getting her into a see a counselor experienced in working with adolescents makes sense to me.

 

post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by singin'intherain View Post

Her school is not the standard junior high in any way. It's a Sudbury school. She has never been to a regular school, I unschooled her until she was ten and then she went to sudbury. She did go to our junior high last year for three days. She had decided she wanted to go, and then was bowled over by the work, the organizational skills expected of her, and the noisy crowds. That's really where all of this began. She went to homeschool co-op classes for the rest of the term, but she refused to do any outside work, even though she liked her classes. She said she just wanted to enjoy being a kid while she had the chance.
Today I handed her the city parks and rec schedule for this summer, and told her to pick three things she thinks she might like. That will get her out a bit this summer. She's interested in computer animation, painting, and working with fabric. Can anyone suggest resources that I might not know about? Right now her attitude is looking more positive, now that she has some classes to look forward to. I would love to find a way to get her involved in something right now!

 

It sounds like her confidence has taken a major hit. This is already the age they are most insecure. Finding out that she doesn't work well in a more mainstream environment could really do a number on a person. I can understand that the junior high didn't work but have you guys been working on these skills necessary for her to succeed in a similar place? I'm just thinking ahead to her maybe wanting to go to high school or to college where she will have a heavy work load, depend on strong organizational skills and an ability to work in crowds. Maybe she'd feel better if she were taking steps to master what frightened her last year.

 

Oh, and I've found that no matter what type of school it is, if it contains 11 to 14-year-olds, it can be a difficult place. It's a really tough age for kids.
 

 

post #9 of 12

I recommend a book called "Party of One".

 

http://www.amazon.com/Party-One-The-Loners-Manifesto/dp/1569245134/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334544723&sr=1-1

 

It is about our culture's social expectations and how different people can have different needs for companionship and interaction. The depression angle is well worth looking at. But as a happy loner myself, I genuinely prefer a good book to most social interaction. I am exceedingly polite and competent and can handle any typical social setting. But I would generally rather notlol.gif.

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

I'm all for solitude! Like I said, she's always played alone, even as a little toddler. But she also has always liked to have friends. Not a crowd or even a group, but she has always loved one on one time with a friend. Now I can say with confidence that she has absolutely no friends whatsoever. I don't know if she ever talks to anyone but me. It's not like her, for one, and it's so extreme!

 

Her school only has one other kid her age. It's a girl, and she tried to spend time with dd, but she said she didn't want to because the girl is "too needy". I guess she's starved for another girl her age to hang out with! But I get it, dd doesn't want to dedicate all her time to someone else. I wouldn't like that myself. And she likes her imaginary world. She does seem to genuinely enjoy thinking about it.

 

But what really worries me and makes me wonder if I need to intervene is that her imaginary world is all that she has. She doesn't like to read, she doesn't draw or paint or sew. She doesn't write- she hates to write. The only thing I get out of her is that she's spending time on a site called Tinierme (I've checked it out and it seems harmless), and listening to music. The music doesn't change, either. She has a small collection of songs that she listens to over and over. She used to love anime, and she soaked up everything she could get her hands on. I've offered to help her find some new music, but she says she's satisfied with what she has.

 

This would be a lot easier if she were keeping her nose in a book, or engrossed in art or something.

 

 

 

post #11 of 12


 I think this is very relevant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

I wonder if part of the problem is that she knows she is behind her peers and therefore having major doubts about herself. Have you considered hiring a tutor to work with her and get her up to speed so she has more options?  (My kids worked with a math tutor when we transitioned from relaxed homeschooling to school -- it's not that big of a deal).

 

Since she has flags for depression, getting her into a see a counselor experienced in working with adolescents makes sense to me.

 



 

post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by singin'intherain View Post

 I'm thinking about getting some counseling for her, but we are on medicaid and our choices here are very dismal. Plus, in order to make these kinds of changes, the person herself has to want them, right?


While it's generally true that people need to want change to change, I think teens are a bit different.  If she's depressed, she probably doesn't see that there is any way out of how she's feeling, that nothing will help; she won't have a reasonable understanding of what counseling can do for her.  Even adults underestimate the value of good counseling, and many spouses 'forced' to go by their spouses eventually find it helps.  Someone used to dealing with kids will be prepared to have a reluctant client, and most kids will grab for help once they can see that there is real help to grab for. 

 

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