My mostly happy teenager has many periods of sadness where she hates her life. How do I help her?

My 13-year-old daughter is struggling with some issues. Although she seems happy most of the time, she sometimes says she hates her life. She is very active, laughs and jokes easily and seems to enjoy lots of what life has to offer. I do know she longs for a “best” friend and doesn’t have one. Although he has lots of casual friends, she doesn’t spend a lot of one-on-one time with them. I think she is well liked and accepted. She is very intelligent, and sometimes can’t deal with teenage girl nonsense (gossiping, etc.), but sometimes longs to be a part of it (this is my take on it). She agrees when I tell her that she has so much great stuff in her life, but says that often, something always happens, even during the good stuff, to make her feel sad. I want to acknowledge that she feels the way she does, but I also really want her to realize that her life (and the way she lives it…she’s a really great kid!) is pretty great. Any suggestions?

The most important thing you can do is listen. Listen without judgement. Listen without telling her anything. Just listen and show that you are listening. You are most valuable as a sounding board.

By listening, you will allow her to fully express how she feels. This may not always be the happy carefree teen.

If you offer solutions, you may short-circuit the discussion and her exploration of the issues.

I am sure she already knows that you think she is a talented, wonderful, incredible person who will do well. Don’t stop telling her these things but let her express her doubts and her fears without reassurance. She will figure out the solutions. Indeed her figuring out the solutions is the only way she will implement them.

Reassurance is a very funny thing. In most situations it doesn’t work well. Telling a child a needle won’t hurt, makes the pain worse. Telling anyone that what they fear won’t be so bad, makes it worse.

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