17 year old daughter with history of self injury refusing to attend school

by Mary
(NJ )

Hi Sara, I am a single mom of a 17 year old daughter. Her father was killed in an accident when she turned 13, and she has received a ton of counseling since. She has cut herself in the past; quite severely; and is now refusing to get up in the morning. I begin each day in a panic praying she'll get up and get going. I am often late for work. We live in an affluent area, and the high school is a high pressure environment. This is her junior year, and all the college searching/prep packs are closing in on us. Please help. Thanks so much

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Wake Up!
by: From Sara :)

Hi Mary!

Lots on your plate!

First...breathe. I am guessing you haven't been.

I don't have enough info here to know quite what's going on, so I'm going to give you some things to consider, for your daughter, and her future education.

First up, your daughter: What's going on right now? Is anything different, are there any new people in her life, does she have a particularly difficult class, etc. Basically I am asking, "Did something change?" If yes, then you need a plan to address that; and if "No" then we'll keep moving.

Do you think she's depressed or anxious, or do you think she just doesn't want to get up? Is she getting to bed on time, is she sleeping well at night? Could she just be tired by morning?

Sounds like you are pretty in tune with her. Do you have the sense something is wrong, or do you think she wants attention or just plain doesn't want to go to school.

The answers to these questions will help you determine next steps. Those next steps might include a visit with the doc, a visit with a counselor, a chat with the school, an earlier bedtime, reward for getting up/punishment for not getting up.

Have you considered an online high school program? This might be an option to explore.

Now for school: Don't sweat college, etc. Worst case scenario she goes to a community college until she gets going. The extra support might be the best option.

Just because "everybody else" is going off to college, doesn't mean it's the best choice for your daughter. And with the insane cost of college these days, you will be surprised at the number of kids doing 2 years at the community school and 2 years away.

It sounds like you both need to get the social pressures off your back, and figure out what works best for your daughter. Her timeline might not be the typical timeline. If she's not ready, she won't be successful.

And these pressures could be the very reason she doesn't want to get up and go to school.

Start with a serious heart to heart. As parents we understand the deadlines and their impact. Sometimes we shove, encourage, or race to the finish line, but we don't listen.

How is she really feeling about life right now? How strong does she feel in her recovery? How does she feel about "going off to college"? Is she excited, hopeful, scared, worried, ready, not ready?

Back up a little and make sure the goals you are pursuing the right goals.

Good luck!


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