By Joyce Oglesby
Q: “We discovered a message on the phone of our 13-year-old daughter that was somewhat disturbing. She was sharing with someone in a chat room about how terrible her world is. It broke our hearts. We have done everything to provide a very good life for her. We inquired and she says she doesn’t know why she said what she did, that she is fine. We haven’t noticed any unusual behavior, but it was painful that she would be sharing something of this nature. Do we have cause for concern, or is this something that all kids go through?”
Joyce: Yes, and no. There is, indeed, cause for concern, and this is not a “stage” for all kids. There are different levels of concern you should be looking at. A chat room is not restricted to people she knows. She could be chatting with someone who has less-than-noble intentions. This needs to be closely monitored, if not forbidden. Danger lurks in all forms. Secondly, her “world is terrible” is a red flag. If nothing else, she is seeking attention. She is at a formidable age. Her hormones will send her whirling, and sharp tongues will cause her to doubt her security. There is a balance for parents to offer some growing liberties, but make sure you’re not giving her more than she is capable of handling. She is, after all, still a very young girl. Keep active in her life. Know her circle of friends. Watch her demeanor closely. Have meaningful conversations with her about development and what to expect with her changing body. Give her space, but make sure you’re included in a good bit of it. She has a lot more years under your authority. If you suspect deeper issues, seek professional help.