Communication, Perception, Reality

We just got back from our weekly therapy with our youngest daughter. She’s currently at another community based treatment center. So it’s a different type of therapy than what my youngest is used to. We noticed tonight that she was ready to show the center’s therapist her true side of how she struggles to maintain attachment and closeness to us.

It all started so innocently. We played a fairly quiet game of Pictionary Junior. She showed us how meticulous of a drawer she can be when playing the game. I showed how poor of an artist I am and how I believe writing and reading are more of my forte. When the therapist had to step out for a second, we talked about the two major issues in the house that seem to be bothering her: taking showers and clothes.

The first issue took about 10 minutes of time. Where we lived in our old apartment, the bathroom was in the center of the apartment off the kitchen. She always heard people walking and talking back and forth in the apartment, so there was no fear that she wouldn’t be heard. Where we live now, the bathrooms are at either end of the apartment- thus she doesn’t feel completely safe. If it makes her feel more comfortable to have my wife in the bedroom when she’s taking a shower in the bathroom, we will accommodate her.

The second issue about clothes took 45 minutes and we were going in circles. Along with typical 12 year old issues of wanting to fit in and having the coolest clothes, both sides battle over the fact that she wants to wear inappropriate clothing based on who she is and her previous trauma. I felt like we were beating our heads against the wall. She kept saying, “I know but…” which after the 5th interruption told me one thing- she doesn’t want to budge on her feelings, that she wants 100% control over this issue and she’s unwilling to compromise.

The therapist believes that we should set up a budget and let her buy what she wants. She doesn’t realize that some of the places she wants to get clothes from, she would only get 2-3 items of clothing compared to other retail outlets where she could get 3-4 complete outfits. I’m willing to play along- as long as she understands the rules of what takes place. We aren’t willing to supplement the budget. She wanted to know if she could ask for help- which we are also willing to do, as long as it doesn’t turn into full blown arguments.

What is this all about? I think my youngest is having a tough time understanding how to communicate her wants and needs effectively. She’s living in a struggle between perceptions and realities. Everything is an all or nothing proposition. All of her school friends wear Aeropostale. We have no idea how clothes in school effect you as a person. We never got picked on as people.

How do my wife and I handle this? A strong sense of humor, great communication skills ourselves, and the realization that she will survive as will we. We just have to know what battles are worth forging and which ones that we will let her make her own choices, handle the consequences, and pick up the pieces from there. As my oldest daughter is prone to say, “two rights just make a left.” There’s no sense in battling over who’s right and who’s wrong- if you aren’t on the same page, find a way to compromise and if you can’t, plan out as much as you can in advance to set up the best win-win situation that you can agree to and my daughter can agree to.

We know when she returns home, a realistic goal would be one tantrum a week. My youngest wants to stop them forever, but when you have 7-10 a week going cold turkey in my opinion is a recipe for failure. I’ll keep you posted on the progress, stay strong and thanks again for all your help and support.

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