Is my teenager depressed or an attention seeker?

Jodie - posted on 02/13/2011 ( 22 moms have responded )

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I have recently discovered that my 13 year old daughter made a mark on her wrist with a coat hanger, and has been confiding this with at least 3 of older girls. (I knew something was up and asked one of the girls who told me what had happened)

She is very unhappy at school as she is bullied and teased a lot. I have spoken many times with the school to manage this but she is still unhappy. Do I change schools?

And do I confront her about what she did with the coat hanger? I truly believe she only did it to gain sympathy and attention from these other girls as she is so unhappy and has very few friends.

The question is, what do I do about it? Do I confront her? She doesnt know that I've discovered this.

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Iridescent - posted on 02/13/2011

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Switching schools likely won't change the problem, with the exception of home schooling as you are thinking. Part of the problem is simply how she feels about herself, how she interprets what is going on, and the image she portrays. This isn't to say it's her fault! It is saying that she expects to be treated a certain way right now, and expectations lead to their fulfillment. I know this from experience. It will follow her from school to school until she learns how to change her view of herself and her expectations from others.

She needs counseling. She needs to build a positive self image, and to learn that she is important. She does need this now, rather than later.

Laura - posted on 02/13/2011

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As someone who worked with teens in a residential treatment center, I can tell you in no uncertain terms to get your daughter to a therapist that specializes in adolescent behavior. The self-mutilation IS a cry for help. This behavior is BOTH attention-seeking and a sign of possible depression. Do not down play the severity of this behavior! Only a trained professional will be able to effectively help your daughter deal with her emotions and help her learn how to cope with the bullying. Bullies target those kids that are either different or have low self-esteem. A therapist can help teach your daughter methods of raising her self-esteem.

As for dealing with the bullying, yes, you can change schools to help solve the immediate problem. That is no guarantee that the bullying issue won't arise at the new school. I am not one who favors running away from a problem but rather confronting it head on. Continue to work with the school during this as your efforts may also help other kids experiencing similar behavior. This is especially important as your school does seem to have anti-bullying policies in place.

In the meantime I suggest enrolling your daughter in a martial arts class. The martial arts, besides being good excercise, teaches self-discipline that can raise her self-esteem. As her skills improve, she will begin to have more confidence in herself. Self-defense of martial arts teaches the student how to disarm bullying behavior VERBALLY as well as physically. The more confidence your daughter gains, the less likely she is to be picked on, too. These classes will also allow your daughter to make new friends that aren't neccessarily associated with her school. My nephew was experiencing some bullying; he's quite small for his age and a bit "odd". He is 12 and now has his black belt! He no longer gets picked on and has a self-confidence that really shines through. While this can pose an expense, check around as many dojos often have family rates, specials, or even "scholarships". It may be an excellent compliment to the therapy, too! Hope this helps and best of luck to you!

Jennifer - posted on 02/13/2011

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i completely agree with Jennifer Tofflemire.



even if this is just "attention seeking" behavior, it needs to be addressed. i self injured a lot when i was in middle and high school and while it was something i was extremely secretive about i do know that self injury snowballs and only gets worse as time goes on. you don't necessarily need to confront her about the self injury, but the issues that would lead her to it definitely need to be talked about.



i also would look into changing schools. bullying needs to be taken very seriously and if her current school isn't willing to help, find a new one.

Jenni - posted on 02/13/2011

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I'm so sorry. This must be a very difficult time for you and your daughter. Bullying does so much damage to a young girl's esteem. Especially at such a sensitive age as 13.

I think it's definitely both. But the real issue is the depression. As a young adult, my best friend and a close friend of mine (after suffering from depression since childhood) commited suicide. It started as a small cry for help. a superfiscial attempt and with each attempt after they became more and more "brave". It's definitely not an issue to take lightly. My best friend would brag about each attempt and relish in the attention it brought her because instead of people picking on her, they felt sorry for her.

I'm not sure how you should approach this but I do know you need to address the issue and possibly seek counselling for her. Not just because of this incident but because she is being bullied and she needs help coping.

If the school is not taking this seriously then I would consider changing schools. Not to escape the bullying but to find a school that won't take matters like this lightly.

It's so sad that schools can't do more to prevent this... I know you can't completely control bullying but some kids are just tormented to no end.

If it were me (considering what I have experienced in my life) I would probably homeschool my daughter and involve her in alternative social activities. To me it just wouldn't be worth the risk. I'd want to do everything I can to just get my daughter past this volunerable age without incident. I'd want to find ways to build up her self-esteem and confidence.

Joleen - posted on 02/16/2011

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She needs support and love but at her age confronting her is going to push her farther away. My suggestion is to make more time for her 1 on 1 doing things she likes. The more she feels she has support from you and is busy the happier she will become. Feeling love helps to create open communication and when you see she is starting to open up that is when I would suggest to introduce some coping stratigies. As for the school, with support from her family she will learn to overcome those challenges too. There is no quick fix in my opinion. Sorry!

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Doris - posted on 02/16/2011

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Always say something. You will hate yourself later if you didn't and something worse happens. If this was just for attention she needs to know its inappropriate behavior. If its a cry for help, then be there for her.

Michelle - posted on 02/15/2011

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If you decide to confront her DO NOT tell her how you found out if you tell on her friend she wont confide in anyone, She probably is depressed im 19 and remember how harsh teenage high school girls are. ask her if shed like to change schools maybe? I dont think she is doing it for attention. and let her know you are there for her try doing an activity together once a week I hear Zomba is fun. If she doesnt want to go out in public with you (as teenagers do) try do a chick flick night and send the guys out. I remember walking in on a girl slitting her wrists in the school toilet, so I would be concerned. As I said I dont think it is for attention

Tina - posted on 02/15/2011

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I think the important thing is that she knows she can come to you if she needs to without being judged. Even if she's trying to seek attention think about how she's going about it. Somethings wrong.

Elizabeth - posted on 02/15/2011

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Hi Jodie,

Can I just ask if you think this is normal behavior for a child seeking attention? If she wanted attention or sympathy from her friends, do you think that perhaps she could have gone about it a different way? I ask this because usually, the answer lies within us, it's just sometimes hard for us to admit it. This is not normal behavior for a teenager, or an adult. Normal behavior for a teenager includes forming bonds with peers and not with parents usually because "parents don't understand and friends can." Normal teenager behavior might include thinking that they are the center of attention, everybody is so concerned about them, when really their not. Things like this, not cutting your wrist for attention from your friends. Also, if she needs to cut her wrist to gain attention or sympathy from her friends, I would be concerned with the type of friends she is hanging out with and whether or not this is normal behavior for her group of friends. Normally when children want to "fit" in a group or gain some sort of acceptance from a group, they do what the group does.....the idea is to fit in and not be the outcast.

I certainly think you need to consider taking it a step further if the bullying does not stop, especially considering how far the bullying is actually going. It is NOT okay for another child to put their hands on your child, or even harass your child, there are laws against that. Don't listen to the "it's just kids being kids" cop-out.

I certainly think you need to talk to her and not confront her with anger, or tones of disappointment, but talk to her with compassion and empathize with her. It might even be necessary to seek counseling.

Another thing, try doing things to boost her self-esteem, allow her to participate in things outside of school that might help her appreciate herself, just as she is. Keeping your discovery a secret will not help her and it especially won't help her if she is successful the next time she tries to do something like this. We pray that she wasn't attempting to actually harm herself, but you just don't know and depression is nothing to take lightly. You may even want to ask her what she would like to see done about her situation in school. Make her feel like her feelings do matter and you really do have her best interest at hand.

[deleted account]

Do not underestimate the signs of depression. Bullying in schools has gained a great amount of attention lately, and it should be taken seriously. Yes, teens can be dramatic and self absorbed, but it seems your daughter is going through a rough emotional time. Family therapy might be in order, and by all means insist that her school address this problem. Don't give up!

Tyrae - posted on 02/14/2011

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I was the same way when I was younger, except I was more secretive about it, hardly anyone knew except for my closest friend. It does get worse if you don't try and help soon. I would suggest councilling. I ended up going to a councillor and it helped a lot to be able to get everything out in the open and be taught how to cope with situations appropriately.

She is most likely doing it out of both. I was in a really rough part of my life when it happened and I wanted my mom's attention and I wanted to have some control over my life, and at the time hurting myself seemed my only control, I could do it or I couldn't, it was completely up to me.

Please please try and talk to her or get her some help. Don't accuse her of anything, and don't start the conversation in a rough or angry tone of voice. Let her know that you are there for her. It's really hard to be a teen these days and sometimes parents just don't understand what the world is doing to us girls. It's a lot different than 20 years ago in highschool. Be understanding, and try not to "judge". She may not realize that she has someone so close she can confide in.

I hope this helps. Good luck. :hugs:

Megan - posted on 02/14/2011

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I am going through something similar with my almost 13 year old son. I chose to seek outside help ... it will surprise you what is in the community to help kids. My son is now seeing an art-therapist and I have noticed a change already. Get her involved in outside of the school activities such as swim lessons or soccer or activities that you can get grant for through programs such as jump start. Call your local CRC, or talk to your doctor. Also remind your daughter that children are horrible to each other and life will get better once she has graduated high school. remind her that different is okay once you are an adult. I wish you well.

Roxanne - posted on 02/14/2011

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And make sure you visit a family doctor to make sure sh/he is aware and also to check any possiblr infections from the cuts..good luck.

Anastasia - posted on 02/14/2011

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Jodie. If this were you, how would you feel? Going through puberty, emotionally confused, people or same age group looking down on you and secrets from your parents. She must feel so alone! This must be a terrible time for her. Confrontation is not a good idea. From a parent’s point of view: Understanding or try to understand why this is so terrible for her. With the matters of the soul, heart and mind no one is the same. Try to identify the characteristics of the cause and not the event (self hurt). Deal with that. To keep her in a school where she has established a certain president of her character – take her out immediately. It’s still early in the year. Our parents (in the depression time) were a bit harsh; if this would have happened to us they would have kept us in the school to fight for ourselves. Not knowing the consciousness in later life. But now there are more options available for our children. An excellent school called ‘Brain line’. They focus on each pupil individually. They address issues, we as parents do not know how to handle. Rather be the savior than the slaughter. And you will reap the rewards of a wonderful friend one day. She will be your best friend and the eternal love you have for her now – let it show!!! with my kids I do follow the rule of the deep sea diver: S.T.A= stop ,think and act. Its time to be a good partent not the judge or a juror. Give her the foundation, unkowing to her now.Remember she is still a teenager and everything is huge to her. Get commitment from her to change or try something new. Change may be a bit too sudden, but try to enhance change on a small scale. There are more issues deep within, when your child resolves to be a cutter and depression victim. This is a long road of healling. And get professional help soon, but do your homework on who's to deal with your child. You only get one change to be a good parent.

Roxanne - posted on 02/13/2011

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I have dealt with this twice in the past 2 years. My daughter is now meeting with a wonderful councelor who she absolutely loves. We have come to the conclusion there are frustrations in her life and she needed and didnt know how else, and by doing this it releases endorphines that make them feel better..even if for the moment. This is not really an attempt at attention as they usually try to cover it up. This is also not that she is wanting to die. It truley does make it easier to to cope with things.
Since seein the counselor she has been wonderful and has learned that talking to aomeone outside of the family is a much better way for her to find comfort from things bothering her.
In the meantime go through her room when she is not home and remove scissors, blades the wire hangers and anything else you think could be used to cut. something else i did till i felt that she was doing better was to tell her she needed to keep her bedroom door open. I did this so as to monitor her. And even though we were always able to talk easily, i made sure to make more conversation with her and asking her to do more things with me because as you probably know she will be starting to try hibernating in her room.
I wish you luck and be patient and always loving and understanding.

Stifler's - posted on 02/13/2011

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I think attention seeking is usually a sign of something going on anyway so regardless she needs help.

Nicole - posted on 02/13/2011

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yes please change her school! I went through something similar and they just dont stop.

Linda - posted on 02/13/2011

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Switch schools or homeschool, but get her out of that school. My middle daughter had so many problems with other girls in HS. She ended up moving across the country, stayed with a friend of ours for a few months and finally I moved out there to live with her until she was ready to come home. It was so worth it. Not everyone would do what we did, but my husband and I both agreed it was the right thing to do. By the way, she is now a college graduate, looking into masters programs. Yes, she was depressed, had started cutting, etc. For her, the move changed her life. For others, counselling is very important as well. I home school my youngest...that's a great option as well, but you do need to get her involved in home school groups so she feels a sense of belonging as well.

Amy - posted on 02/13/2011

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I would definitely look into switching schools. I would also contact an attorney and see if you have any legal recourse. I'm sure your daughter is not the only one who is being bullied and the school system can not turn a blind eye to whats going on.
I am leaving a website/story about a girl in MA who committed suicide because nothing was being done about the bullying in school. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national...

Ultimately this girl took her own life because of how she was tormented everyday. I was also bullied in school and I begged my parents to put me in a different school but they refused. Ultimately what got me through was activities I was involved in that didn't involve the school. I made some great friends in surrounding towns and I was doing something I loved.
Please get your daughter help!

Jenn - posted on 02/13/2011

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I don't know if it's one or the other or both - but either way, she needs some sort of help clearly. I would definitely confront her. I couldn't imagine one of my kids doing something like that and just ignoring it.

Jenni - posted on 02/13/2011

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If you do decide to take that route make sure you enroll her in other activities. Smaller group settings with people who share the same interests as her.
Best of luck.
My prayers are with you and your daughter.

Jodie - posted on 02/13/2011

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The school has been really good in trying to help. Disciplining the students who bully her, organising groups for her to sit with at lunch etc.. I'm starting to think Home schooling might be the go.

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