Mother Worries Too Much About Daughter

Our expert agrees with a mother that she should be concerned about her excessive worrying over her daughter.
I have a tendency to worry too much about my 15-year-old daughter, even though she's a good kid. It's driving her crazy. The few times she's come home late without calling I've been very upset and imagined all kinds of things that could have happened to her. When she confides in me about her friends' problems, I begin to wonder if my daughter is involved in some of that stuff, too. I often question her about this, even though she isn't showing any signs of problems. I know that she would seek out my help if she needed it, and that's why I'm frustrated by my worrying. Any advice?
You are wise to be concerned about your excessive worrying over your daughter. The anxiety you show her might have three primary negative effects:

  • She will internalize your anxiety about her and begin to take on unnecessary worry herself.
  • She will be reluctant to share more of her life with you for fear that you will become unduly anxious.
  • Your relationship with her will become less intimate because it will be more and more infused with your growing anxiety as she moves through her later adolescence.

You don't have to "let go" of her. The worst approach to your problem would be for you to back off and to let her be the initiator of all contact and discussions. The "I'm here if you want me" stance is not what teens need. Your daughter needs you to stay connected to her now more than ever, and she needs your guidance and support.

Your daughter may be discussing some of her own concerns as she tells you about the problems of her friends. She probably figures that's a safer way to bring up certain topics with you. Instead of responding to her by repeatedly asking her if they are her problems too, accept the fact that she is more comfortable raising some issues with you in this manner and stop the follow-up personal questions.

She knows that you love her. She also knows that you worry far too much about her. It might be a good idea to seek some short-term professional counseling to gain more insight, advice, and support regarding how to minimize your exaggerated concerns while remaining connected to your daughter. Thanks for writing.

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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