my daughter is 18 now

by Denise
(Syracuse, New York )

My daughter is 18 now and I always had difficulties with her attitude and behavior towards me. My husband and I separated when she was 4. I moved back to my home town for family support. My ex husband had visitation every other weekend and drove two hours to take her. He died in a car crash(drunk) 6 years ago. My daughter doesn't want to talk about his death and never really grieved out loud about it.

She has had many mood swings. My family physician prescribed her for anxiety medicine. She has mood swings with me. One minute she is kind and caring and then the next hour she is picking apart everything I do. I chew my food wrong....I get yelled at if I itch my leg... if I fiddle with a button on my coat...she gets upset....
She is very focused on her future of being a Physician's assistant and studies at college very hard. She had a 3.9 in her first semester.
Do you think this is a kind of bi-polar disorder?
Some days it seems that everything I do bothers her.

I don't see her much now that she is in college. She comes home on holiday weekends and during breaks.

I just wish I could help her to get over the things that bother her.

Can you help me?

Thanks for reading my letter.

Dear mom:

First let me say how sorry I am that you are having difficulty with your daughter. Symptoms of irritability and moodiness can result from alot of things. There is nothing in here that you are describing that would rise to the

level of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but the process of diagnosis is complex.

It certainly seems from your description, that your daughter is behaving in a way that suggests she is angry. Also, not processing her dad's death is concerning, because grief doesn't go away, but lays dormant waiting to be triggered.

You must be so proud of her achievements academically and her dedication to pursue her future as a physician's assistant.

I would suggest, however, that if your daughter is speaking to you in a way that is disrespectful which is does sound like she is doing, that you set some boundaries with her and let her know that you won't be spoken to in that way. To some extent, it is not uncommon for adolescents to be moody and irritable, nor is it for them to be disrespectful and complaining to their parent. However, if it starts to impact your relationship negatively, and it often does, calling her out on this behavior is required. You can do this in the context of concern as well.

For example " The way you are acting towards me is not acceptable, and I am concerned about how angry you are or seem."

You can be there for her or encourage her to get the help she needs, but should not have to tolerate this aggressive behavior.

If there is a history of bipolar disorder in the family, or there are clear symptoms that seem to suggest to you something more serious is going on, you may need to encourage her more forcefully to go get some help.

Good luck to you!

Kristen McClure

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