Daughter Out of Control

Q: I am an older mother of an adopted daughter. Everything was fine until she turned 15, then she changed into a different person. She started fighting with me and cursing, skipped school, started smoking weed, hanging out with bad kids, and running away from home. She was in a drug intervention program that didn't seem to help much and had weekly counseling until her therapist took another job far away last month. Things seemed to be improving somewhat for awhile with the therapist, but now I think my daughter is smoking again because of physical signs and because she refuses to take a drug test. Also, now she is flunking out of 9th grade because she just doesn't want to do the work even though her teachers say she can do it if she wants to. My husband and I have done everything we can to try to turn her around. What now? -- Debbie, 62

Dr. Susan: I know it feels as though you've tried everything, but sometimes we have to try the same things again, a little differently, or for longer. First, find another therapist quickly. If you even saw the slightest improvement when your daughter was in therapy, and she was willing to participate, then don't close that door just because her therapist left. In fact, her therapist's leaving may have set your daughter back, feeling to her as a kind of betrayal. None of this necessarily has to do with your being an older mother, or due to her being adopted. Many teens go through similar rebellions, and most of them come out okay eventually, with help. One thought is to get her a thorough medical and psychological workup, as plenty of young people (and adults) self-medicate with drugs to deal with their anxiety and depression. Also, have you looked into other schooling alternatives? Meanwhile, set reasonable boundaries, and above all, don't give your daughter the impression that you're about to give up on her.

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