How can I make my daughter be more motivated and independant?
October 11, 2011 9:46 AM   Subscribe

How can I make my daughter be more motivated and independant?

I have a 19 year old daughter who lives at home with me and my wife after dropping out of college halfway through her freshman year. I know she is depressed. Often times in high school I would hear her crying as she blow-dried her hair in the morning, I guess thinking the dryer masked the noise. When she told us she was failing her classes at college, wasn't ready and wanted to come home, I was very suprised because she had been telling us she was doing well. After she moved back home she worked for about 9 months before starting school again at community college. She then lost her job and has been very wishy washy about finding a new one. She doesn't seem to know what she wants to study. She says she is interested in nursing, but I don't know if she will just quit once again. She is very dependent on us and I don't think she knows how to function well in the adult world. I think the best thing for her would be for her to find a job and become financially independant, maybe move out. She needs to learn the value of hard work and that she can't just quit. My wife says I'm being insensitive and that she still needs our support.

I love my daughter and I want her to be able to support herself. How can I encourage her to be more independant?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Is she getting therapy and/or medication?
posted by jeather at 9:51 AM on October 11, 2011 [14 favorites]

Have you tried taking her to a doctor to get treatment for her illness? What did you do when you heard her crying and trying to mask it with the hairdryer? You mention that so casually but don't mention getting her any sort of help...
Maybe I'm wrong but you do come across (to me at least) as really insensitive. You have a daughter who has been depressed (pretty badly by the sounds of it) for years and you want to throw her in the deep end of adult-hood - which is hard enough for completely healthy, "normal" 19 year olds.
posted by missmagenta at 9:54 AM on October 11, 2011 [26 favorites]

One of the concerns that I have from reading your post is that this may just not be that she is "depressed," but could she also be diagnosed with depression, which is entirely different. Has she seen a psychiatrist and/or psychologist? Have they recommended treatment and is she following this? If not, I think that should step 1.Either you or your wife could delicately suggest she see someone (and support her economically if she needs this -- let her get well first before going to steps 2 and 3). If it is mental illness, there are resources for you, too -- such as National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (and families). Find the best resources andsupport

Although I do believe either going to college and/or becoming financially independent are great steps at that age, I'm not sure it is for her and we really don't have enough background here (especially if there are underlying mental illness problems). I think that it could be understandable to say 1) get a job and chip in for rent OR 2) go to school (anything), perhaps work part-time-- but I do wonder what the underlying problems may be.
posted by Wolfster at 9:55 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

"How can I encourage her to be more independent?"

Do you cover all of her expenses? Stop. I don't mean to start charging her rent and threaten to kick her out if she doesn't pay, but you could tell her she has to cover her own cell phone bill, or her own car insurance/gas, or her own clothes. You could even say you'll cover these things again as long as she's getting passing grades in school. Slowly make it less clearly beneficial for her to be living with you, and she'll eventually become more self reliant.

I do not have any 19-year-old children, but I was 19 once and am now a successful adult.

I am specifically not dealing with her emotional state. Maybe you want to do that, maybe not, I am answering the question that was asked.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:57 AM on October 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

I spent my early adult life repeatedly trying that 'Learn it in the deep end!' strategy. It emphatically did not work for me, because I was ignoring the fact that I had a bad illness (depression/anxiety.)

If you stipulate to her that she must move out, find her path, and that's the only way, you run a pretty alarming risk of sending her depression meter into the stratosphere.

Take care of your daughter by taking her to a psychiatrist and making sure you understand her disease, either by reading on the internet, reading books, talking to her doctor ,whatever you have to do.

In fact, you being older and ostensibly more mature, might be better at understanding the ins and outs of depression and then helping her to understand. I don't think it would have penetrated my skull at her age---I could have used some help.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:06 AM on October 11, 2011 [17 favorites]

(And my deep ends weren't even all that deep.)
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:07 AM on October 11, 2011

Does she have depression, as diagnosed by a medical professional? Or is she sad and/or unhappy?

I'd first get a medical workup--thyroid screening, PCOS, etc., and then see a mental health type. Then, if any medications are needed, get those squared away.

Does she exercise, do yoga, dance, anything physical? If not, she should start.
Does she have responsibilities in your house--if not, she needs some. When my son dropped out of community college, I paid his car insurance and gas while he lived at home with the understanding that he either got a job or was the family housekeeper, errand runner, lackey, and so on. No job too small. He shopped for groceries, made dinner, hauled trash, washed cars, walked dog, paid bills, and so on. This went on for about 8 months, and then he got a job, and now is in business school in Europe.

She can't just hang out. But learning to be self-sufficient takes a while, and in someways, better she learn how to do this at home. She needs to be part of the family team.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:14 AM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

Get her depression treated and find out what kind of birth control she's on and whether she's discussed this situation with the prescribing doctor. A physical with bloodwork including full thyroid panel might be a good idea as well.

I nearly didn't make it out of that period alive. My mom tried to make me more "independent" by informing me I was fat and begrudgingly giving me money for therapy but making me pay in cash because if I used a check it would be on some permanent record somewhere that I was mentally ill and I'd never get a job or insurance. I will never forget her support during that difficult time.

Per your timeline, she's been suffering for years with no assistance. Help her get help. Then help her take on the kinds of responsibilities that will help her get herself back on her feet.

I think it is endocrinologically really goddamn hard to be 17-19, which is right when girls either roll off their parents' insurance or are making their own healthcare decisions and don't really know yet that being miserable isn't normal (and it's hard to see the forest for the trees when you're depressed anyway). Help her be healthy and you will probably find that she figures out the rest.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:15 AM on October 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

I agree that she is probably in need of support to tackle depression. But I would disagree with the people who say she cannot be expected to take on some responsibility for her own wellbeing.

What I mean by that is actively participating in the following:
- seeking a diagnosis to see what really is going on to allow her to get treatment and participate in treatment
- researching student welfare services at her college to find out what counselling might be available to her there to help her work out what to do about her studies
- making her pay a share of her own expenses - her mobile phone, a notional amount of board to recognise that she can't have a reasonable expectation that her parents feed and house her free of charge for ever- my family charged me something that probably did not even cover the additional food and electricity costs of my living in their house but it is symbolic, a recognition of the fact that she cannot support herself financially at this point (so you are willing to help her) but that also recognition of the fact that you cannot be expected to foot all the bills like you used to when she was growing up.
- researching careers support available to her locally, any kind of short term work experience and volunteering she could explore to allow her to work out if she enjoys doing and a few hrs of regular work a week to allow her to make the above contribution.

If she is suffering from depression and is as lost as she appears to be from your description she will need hand holding and coaxing throughout this, i.e. a lot of support. But I do not think it would be wrong to expect her to actively be involved in the process and to take on responsibility for making herself better.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:17 AM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, I can't really tell from your description about your daughter as to whether she is depressed or has actual "depression". I agree that it's a good idea to take her to a psychiatrist. Although, I'd start with a psychologist first. Avoid medication at least in the start. If the psychologist thinks your daughter needs meds, they can refer her to a psychiatrist. But that being said, it doesn't sound like your daughter's situation is that uncommon. And it's probably more so just a young lady who is struggling to start a transition from being a kid to being an adult. Make no's a hard transition to make especially in today's economy. First, I think you could help by sitting down with your daughter and having a conversation about what she thinks she might wanna be when she grows up. As silly as it may sound, it's worth a shot. I would encourage you to do it in a casual way. Be direct but don't be pushy. She's 19...very much still capable of teenage rage and "you don't know what's best for me". Now of course, it doesn't help that she counts on you for pretty much all financial and household needs. Eventually you're going to have to give her an altimatum. Go back to school full time, or get a job full time and move out. Although if you push her to move out, I still think you should start off by giving her some money so that she can get on her feet. When I graduated from college and moved cross country, my dad gave me a nice chunk of change so that I would have some time to find a job and get settled. It made all the difference in the world. Finally, just know that it may be many years before your daughter becomes truly independent. Your job is to help her succeed. If you're thinking, "ok she's out of high school and no longer my responsibility"...think again. Now more then ever she needs your help in order to survive in the real world. Your wife seems to have good intentions but while you might be a bit insensitive, I think you're right in that your daughter will eventually need to be independent. You and your wife need to be in agreement on that and how you can help her to get there. Good luck.
posted by ljs30 at 10:18 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

if she enjoys = what she enjoys
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:18 AM on October 11, 2011

Her emotional state is pretty central to the question. I went through the same thing at age 19, and while I kept my head above water and stayed in college, only barely and because I went to an institution willing to indulge their well-paying students' nervous breakdowns. When you have serious depression (the kind that makes you cry in the morning under the sound of the hair dryer), the smallest things can be nearly impossible. I spent weeks completely unable to wake up in the morning and deeply loathing myself for it on top of the depression that was causing me to sleep 12-13 hours a day in the first place. It's really not a choice. (Though it probably feels to her like a moral failing.)

Nudging her slightly, like asking her to cover small bills, might help her to tend her garden a little. But expecting this to evolve into total independence without treatment for her depression is pretty reliably wrong and you might end up pushing her too hard. Try to get her treatment. Anxiety and depression make it very difficult to manage the full spectrum of responsibilities in adult life.

There were periods of time where I was almost proud that I was managing one or two of my four classes at a time, because it was such a massive improvement over sleeping and crying all day, but taking all four classes seriously was just beyond my mental capacity as limited by anxiety and depression. I read once about the small things about both illnesses that most people think of as personality flaws-- bad time management skills, clinginess, neediness, &c. They result from an inability to see into the future without panic, and therefore a complete inability to plan, because you can't imagine a few hours into the future without catastrophe, and you no longer see yourself as a reliable agent.

Exercise does often help, as well as a good diet and regular sleep schedule. A therapist or psychiatrist will probably recommend all of this, but you can ask her about this now. On preview, koahiatamadl is right, she needs to participate in her own treatment, but as she is young it might take her awhile to come around to it honestly (which is the only way it will work). Definitely try to support her, though. I ended up getting kicked out of my university mental health program because I missed so many appointments, because it was so overwhelming and I had anxiety in the first place and that all could have been prevented by having someone to help me make it to the office on time (I live quite a ways away from my family).
posted by stoneandstar at 10:22 AM on October 11, 2011 [9 favorites]

I don't understand. She's been depressed since high school and hasn't been treated for it? Hasn't even been evaluated by her doctor or a therapist to screen out the possibility of depression? If she's used to feeling depressed, and used to dealing with her depression alone (i.e., crying into her hair dryer rather than seeing a therapist or taking medication), then she probably doesn't know what she can or should do in order to feel better and take charge of her life--or doesn't realize that what she's feeling is depression.

I think the thing to do is to sit down with her and say something along the lines of:

"It seems like you've been depressed for a really long time, and it's ok if you're not able to pull yourself out of that on your own. I'd like to talk about ways we can help you feel better and make progress. Would you be willing to have some bloodwork done and discuss this with your physician? Are you open to finding a therapist who specializes in depression?"

And if she balks at the idea of therapy, reassure her that you're not telling her she's crazy or broken. Explain that depression is an illness, and it can be a strong, bold move in a positive direction to seek treatment for it.

I'm not saying you need to pay her expenses indefinitely, or have no right to expect her to get a job--but I do think that you have a responsibility to make certain that she has been properly evaluated and, if necessary, is getting treatment for her illness before you start blaming her "wishy washy" attitude for her lack of motivation.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:22 AM on October 11, 2011 [28 favorites]

When I was going through something similar 20 years ago, it would have made a big difference for someone to talk to me like they gave a shit about what's going on, rather than just pumping me for information in order to figure out when exactly I would be achieving the life goals A, B and C.

On preview, what Meg Murry says.
posted by rhizome at 10:29 AM on October 11, 2011 [12 favorites]

I think the best thing for her would be for her to find a job and become financially independant, maybe move out. She needs to learn the value of hard work and that she can't just quit.

But, don't you think she would love this too? To be independent and happy and able to hold down a good job?

Are you sure she doesn't understand the value of hard work? Could it be that she *has* been working much harder than you even realize to keep it together, and she has an illness that's weighing her down? Could it be that she actually has to work much harder than most people to have even made it half a year through college?

*Why* was she crying in the shower? *Why* did she fail her classes? *Why* can't she function well in the adult world? Those are the questions to be concerned about, and to solve that will lead to her being happier and able to function better. Not in a demanding way like, "Why are you such a screw up" but instead like "What is underlying all of this and what is the path towards resolving it?"
posted by Ashley801 at 10:38 AM on October 11, 2011 [31 favorites]

I teach at a community college and see a lot of young people like your daughter, and a lot of them 10 years on too. IN GENERAL the ones who, at 19ish, have a lot of parental support when they're floundering get their shit together faster; the ones whose parents decide to go the "throw them into the deep end of life" usually come back to community college around 30, having spend most of their 20s floundering. Either way it DOES usually work out, but at 19, if there aren't drugs involved, most straighten out faster with parental help.

The first step should definitely be dealing with her depression in conjunction with appropriate professionals. A lot of my students who struggle cut back to taking one class at a time, basically to "keep a hand in" while straightening out their lives instead of dropping out completely. (Also gives at least some structure to their week.)

Also, if you do go the route of having her pay some nominal rent while living at home (which many parents do), a generous thing is to put that in a savings account and present her with a lump sum when she moves out for real. Helps with a security deposit or getting a used car or furnishing a kitchen the first time.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:43 AM on October 11, 2011 [13 favorites]

Meg_Murry is right. I would add and repeat the phrase: You do NOT have to feel this way.

Right now she thinks it is her lot to be miserable.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:44 AM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've been through this. At that age I was severely depressed and completely incapable of surviving on my own, if my parents had put me in that position. I dropped out of school a couple of times and wasnt really able to hold a job. Just because our culture arbitrarilly states that at 18 you are an adult an should be able to survive on your own doesn't make it true.

Your daughter has stated she's not ready. That probably means she isn't. I needed mental health treatment, but what I needed most was time. It took several years, but I went back to school, got a job, and live on my own now. And it's still not easy, and in this economy it's easy to be hopeless about the future.

Get your daughter treatment, and give her support, and time. She's only 19, there's no hurry for her to grow up and become a real, self-sufficient adult just yet. Let her mature a little more and relax. High School is stressful, College is stressful. Working a minimum wage job is stressful. These things can exacerbate depression and anxiety to an incredible extent. I couldn't even imagine what it felt like to be somewhat hopeful and functioning until I had a significant break from that constant pressure I had been under since I was a child.

Don't expect her to get better while you are putting more pressure on her to do something she doesn't feel equipped to do right now, and making her feel like a failure. Give her a chance to get better then her own. Don't assume because she isn't ready to go to school, Right This Minute, that now it's too late and it will never happen. My mother let my live at home and didn't bother me much. She gave me my space, I ate the food in the house and was left to my own devices for anything else I wanted. That's reasonable. You don't need to be paying all of her bills and buying her whatever she wants, but don't offer her ultimatums or shove her out the door either. It will help nobody in the end. Talk to her, address the depression, and talk about options that won't seem so overwhelming to her, like maybe going to community college part time, or volunteer work. Her whole future isn't going to be decided at the age of 19, and OF COURSE she doesn't really know what she wants to do yet.
posted by catatethebird at 10:44 AM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Another thing, anonymous, is that if she's not ready/able to stand on her own 2 feet right now, and you withdraw support, she may start seeking support in men, and if that happens, she might not ever become independent.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:50 AM on October 11, 2011 [13 favorites]

It sounds like she's depressed. A tough love get-her-to-pull-her-own-weight tactic (as mentioned above) might not be of any help to your daughter at this juncture. If you give her a set time period where there well defined rules and expectations (such as she must attend therapy) and, for that duration, it's understood that she take real steps toward becoming responsible for herself (whatever that may be)--she could go use that time to begin to go to therapy, get a foot hold, and have some space to think about what she actually wants to do with her life. And, most importantly, deal with her depression (if that is the case). Consider allowing her to take work or school (or both) off the table for that time period. Call it a gap year (gap six months, gap quarter--whatever). I suggest this because that is what she clearly needs and has caused to happen. I want to add that I wish someone had taken me aside when I was 19 and said, 'you know, it's okay if you to take some time off school and just work for a while and sort things out', because, really, I had no idea that that was 'okay'. I can see how someone might let everything fall apart so that they have to come home rather than deciding they need to come home and then discussing it with you as a temporary solution. When I was a freshman in college the pressure of moving forward/keeping up with my peers combined with being that young, unprepared, overwhelmed and seriously depressed (and not yet knowing that I was seriously depressed) was incredible. IMO? Your daughter needs to get beyond whatever it is that is causing her distress before she can become motivated and independent. I hope this helps.
posted by marimeko at 10:51 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was kind of your daughter for a little while, albeit a little older (22). After I graduated college I didn't know what to do with myself, and lacking a certain faith in my own agency to do whatever I wanted, I moved back in with my dad, instead of across the country with friends.

Then I spent six listless months being depressed, flirting with the idea of various grad programs (all rejected on the account that I just didn't feel too interested in anything in particular, much less something that would require me to demonstrate a lifelong commitment to learning), all while time slipped away. I applied, half-heartedly, to various shitty jobs, very few of which resulted in interviews and none of which resulted in employment.

Eventually, I found a job in a restaurant that was soon to consume all of my time (and a lot of my sanity) and a month or two later, was able to move out of my dad's house and into a shared apartment with Craigslist roommates.

From my dad's perspective, I think this was all well and good and long overdue. But to be honest, I could have used a lot of help at the time that I didn't get. Like you, my father seemed to wonder why I couldn't just deal with myself and go through the motions of responsible adulthood. But I was depressed, and even if I wasn't crying every morning, I was miserable and unhappy and I could have used a supportive ear or whatever. I only had one family member, in a different state, who demonstrated any compassion or willingness to help me, and even what little she could do meant a lot. My father's "get over yourself" attitude didn't help me one bit because it wasn't as though I wanted to be where I was either- I felt like a failure, but I didn't even know how to begin to feel differently.

It's worth noting that getting a job and moving out didn't really help me either. I was relieved to no longer feel like a pain in my dad's ass, but I was still depressed, just without any kind of supervision or accountability to anyone but myself. I was financially independent, but I was also lonely, sad, and felt like it didn't really matter what I did with myself as long as I didn't bother anyone else with my problems.

What helped me finally get over this unhappy period in my life wasn't further financial or career success (I'm more or less in the same position now, although with a little more focus and planning) but rather, extending to myself the same kindness and patience that I wish my family had shown me when I needed it. It made me really miserable knowing that my family knew I was unhappy (I flat out told my father on numerous occasions that I was depressed, and was having trouble finding motivation to do anything but go through one day at a time) and so being treated like this terrible feeling was a luxury I was indulging myself with, felt really awful.

If I were you, I would have a conversation with your daughter and acknowledge her unhappiness and ask her what she needs from you and just try in general to be proactive about supporting her. You can't fix her problems, but you can help her be in a position to tackle them by giving her support, encouragement, and taking seriously whatever is currently ailing her. Overcoming problems does build character, but suffering needlessly does not. I'm glad I made it out of that stage of my life, but I don't feel that I would have lost out on any good life experience if I had had the help to pull myself out sooner.
posted by Aubergine at 10:52 AM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

I don't know your daughter, but I would guess that she might be hyper-aware of your concerns and that she wants to be independent just as much as you want her to be. You phrased your question in terms of her lacking motivation or appropriate value judgements, but it is possible that she values hard work yet is too overwhelmed to accomplish what you all wish she could. If this is the case, then you risk adding to her "paralysis" by "teaching" her to value hard work more (i.e. you would be adding to the guilt and shame over not having accomplished enough, which would keep her even more upset and stuck). If that is the case, you can still help! Getting out of a rut can be kickstarted by an "upward spiral" of small successes feeding into larger ones. If you and your wife can help her choose goals appropriate to her current level of performance and then give her lots of positive feedback, she will probably be able to use the relief she feels from attaining these as energy for feeling better and accomplishing more in the long run. I would suggest a two part conversation with her to start: 1) Let her talk and just rephrase/summarize her feelings back to her until you feel that you really understand where she is coming from. No fatherly advice allowed! 2) Ask her what small steps she thinks she could take to feel better today. If she can't think of anything, ask her what she might suggest to a close friend in a similar situation. The idea here is to come up with some really easy and quick to accomplish tasks that she could do to feel better (e.g. clean out a messy room; empty her email inbox). If she goes straight to potentially overwhelming stuff (e.g. get a job), it can be your role to help her break those tasks down into more manageable stuff (e.g. search for 10 job postings today, then respond to at least one of them tomorrow, etc.).

On the other hand, part of how she sees herself as trying to be independent might be that she thinks she is sheltering you and your wife from worrying about her by not talking to you about this stuff. That's also okay, just as long as she has *someone* to talk to. Nthing therapy in either case.

Finally, it probably feels stressful and frustrating to act contrary to your instincts in this. You are a really good parent for exploring your options openly and without getting defensive. Your daughter is really lucky to have you on her side.
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 10:57 AM on October 11, 2011

I'll only speak to one part of this, though I agree about getting help for her depression.

This line stuck out: She is very dependent on us and I don't think she knows how to function well in the adult world.

At that age, whatever I thought I wanted to do as a grown-up wasn't what I ended up doing. The idea of being something was very different than the process of becoming something. So, as it was so well put, it is important for me not to surpass my capacity for responsibility.

I never learned to manage "things" well. I didn't have the capacity for much responsibility at nineteen, especially because at eighteen I jumped into a relationship that seemed better than the one I had with my parents and found a different kind of caregiver and thus avoided it even longer. This is a risk with a vulnerable young woman.

And, I struggle with it now, because of those choices then. My parents were not good examples of responsible people, to put it mildly. Any household management that they did do - bill paying, house-buying, grocery shopping - were a mysteries to me. "Things" just got done and I had no idea how. And maybe I was absent in school on those days (fine, I wasn't), but I also never learned how to study or how to get things done in an orderly fashion there either (primarily because that wasn't the interesting part). I'd come up with these great ideas for projects, papers and have the most amazing book reports in my head - but they never made it to completion or were done in one all-nighter. I was smart and tested well, but my marks often suffered from lateness. To this day, here I am "surfing the internet like an attention-deficient squirrel on PCP" when I have work to do for a deadline that got pushed until tomorrow. It was a good thing I never went to a proper college or university (my parents' spectacularly bad financial planning and ill health prevented that at the time, and my depression and poor relationship choice took care of the rest) - I would not have been able to manage it. School + work + life management all together are too much to come at once for some.

The being Polychronic in a Monochronic society thing does me no good, so I actually had to find suitable employment based on my knowledge of myself. It took me time to get there. Nineteen was not that time either, but I had a very interesting job at a drycleaner's that taught me how to break things into segments, and other parts of that job translated well into other jobs and then a career later on. My education came as part of those early jobs and later careers, it did not precede them. There is something to be said about being under-employed for a bit, because it breaks work down into manageable duties where one can be successful - and it helps you find out what you can do, not what you want to do.

I am going to suggest, that what you can do to help, not make, your daughter be more motivated and independent, is to help her learn to break everything down smaller. Action Plans, as part of Project Management, are HUGELY helpful. Once she's managing life, then there's room for education.

"Action Plans are useful, because they give you a framework for thinking about how you'll complete a project efficiently. They help you finish activities in a sensible order, and they help you ensure that you don't miss any key steps. Also, because you can see each task laid out, you can quickly decide which tasks you'll delegate or outsource, and which tasks you may be able to ignore."

If there is a course she can take that covers this, help her to go. Go with her - they're helpful even though few think they really need them. It's not just a "to-do" list - it helps you to see the big picture, the small steps, what can be ignored, and it keeps you from getting derailed. We use one for wake-up and bedtime for our seven year old daughter. I have one for how to clean her room. I'm using one for the project I'm on, and I have one for the mornings so I have the afternoons free to work. My husband uses them at work. So, it's not just "1. Get motivated. 2. Become independent." or even "1. See the doctor for Depression." It's broken down even more.

But more simply - show her how to function in the outside world just by having her do things along with you. She may have accomplished a lot of this while she was on her own, but she may have been doing things the hard way. Let her keep you and your wife company while you deal with paychecks, paying bills, scheduling car and house repairs, voting, form filling out, the works. I don't know your situation, but, all of that just magically appeared for me as a kid and teenager. When it came time to do it on my own, it just seemed insurmountable on top of all of the other grown-up stuff, instead of being a matter of course. I had no stamina - those things robbed me of it before I got to accomplish anything else. It takes a lot of energy for a depressed person to just gather the information and identification needed to fill out some paperwork, but if I'd learned to keep the basics together, that would have been half the battle. For example, it took me years to realize I could talk to various companies to change my billing dates so that they coincided with my paychecks, instead of having to scramble. Motivation can be quickly debilitated by details.

On preview, what monkeys with typewriters is saying - you have, no doubt, done your best - it's just that "hard work", though it is indeed one of the greatest and most valuable things that can happen to anybody, is still an elephant that you eat one bite at a time.
posted by peagood at 11:26 AM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think the best thing for her would be for her to find a job and become financially independant, maybe move out. She needs to learn the value of hard work and that she can't just quit.

But, don't you think she would love this too? To be independent and happy and able to hold down a good job?

No, I don't think that. Lots of people don't want that, particularly if they're 19 and living like a 10-year-old.

As someone who spent the first 25 years of his life in a severe depression and yet has been supporting himself since the age of 16, my advice to the OP is this: Stop enabling. She goes to school and performs, or she gets out.

There are mental issues that can prevent an adult from living like an adult. But the only time depression is one of these issues is when there's someone there allowing it (as you are). She should certainly be evaluated by a professional. She should certainly be treated for her depression, and there's nothing wrong with you paying for these. But she also needs to grow up.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:05 PM on October 11, 2011

>There are mental issues that can prevent an adult from living like an adult. But the only time depression is one of these issues is when there's someone there allowing it (as you are).

According to just about all the reading I've done on the subject, this statement is false and the fact that you make it indicates that you are not familiar with the current state of research on the subject. In Peter Kramer's book Against Depression, he describes research done comparing elderly patients with depression and elderly patients without depression. The patients with depression could not correctly complete a child's dot-to-dot game. When patients made errors and were corrected by the study administrators, their performance got worse (p. 175).

Depression is a disease, not a sign of weakness or poor moral character.

OP: Often times in high school I would hear her crying as she blow-dried her hair in the morning, I guess thinking the dryer masked the noise.

I'm sitting here boggling at this. "Often" you would hear her crying, under circumstances where she was clearly trying to hide it, and you didn't ask about it? Neither you nor her mother talked to her about it? You didn't get in touch with her high school advisor to see if her academic performance was suffering? You just listened to her cry and didn't do anything?

In my opinion, one of the very first steps should be your daughter getting a comprehensive evaluation for depression and other possibly related or confounding conditions, such as ADHD.

Another of the very first steps should be you getting therapy to discuss why it is that you've known for years that your daughter has been suffering but you have not bothered to do anything to try to help her until now. And why it is that once you do decide to do something, the choice you lean towards is to cut her off and kick her out without assistance.
posted by Lexica at 1:51 PM on October 11, 2011 [22 favorites]

Often times in high school I would hear her crying as she blow-dried her hair in the morning, I guess thinking the dryer masked the noise.

You know, High School can be a miserable, crushing, soul-destroying, exhausting experience. I myself went to college right after HS, at 17, and I was so happy to be out of HS and very independent at that point. (I was not yet financially independent, though.) But I could easily see how going through those four years could make a person not ready to do anything but rest and recover for a long time. (This is aside from the question of whether she has depression. I agree with everyone that you should deal with that possibility with her. But it can suck that much and take years to get over even without that.) It's fine if you have rules about her paying for her own bills or whatever. But to just kick her out or demand that she take on adult responsibilities she may well be incapable of handling seems cruel, not to mention unproductive. Some 19 year olds really just aren't that mature yet. And most of them probably don't know what they want to do with their lives. Is she still attending the CC? I would give her some amount of time (like six months to a year, maybe) to let her be aimless/figure out if she wants to study something else, or work, or travel, or what. Let her know (kindly!) that at that point you'll help her work towards that goal, but she will also have to put in some effort, whether that's working to save money, or looking for a place to live, or applying to schools, or whatever.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:22 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

If your daughter hasn't yet developed the skill set necessary to function in the adult world, than that's at least partly on her parents wouldn't you say?

Sure we figure out some stuff as young adults "the hard way" but most of the kids I knew from high school that turned quickly into successful adults had parents that actively (and in a kind, supportive way) worked with their kids as they transitioned into college and then into careers. Basics like how to budget money, pay taxes, keep a clean home, follow up on job interviews, handle automobile issues, navigate difficult personalities socially and professionally, how to evaluate and make choices, how to meet deadlines - you name it and this stuff was discussed and practiced as necessary starting from early teens, or even younger

Make a list of skills she's hasn't mastered and gently start exposing her to these responsibilities. Fill her tool kit with useful skills and knowledge.

Your number one goal should be to teach your daughter to appreciate and make the best of her mistakes.

We all make mistakes, but successful people don't feel paralyzing shame when they make them.. Depression is often anger turned inward. Your daughter lacks skills to cope on many levels. She's made a lot of mistakes and likely feels very very ashamed.

Trust me when I tell you she would love to be keeping up with her peers.

I really think you and your wife should seek practical counseling and other resources so you can learn how to share your knowledge and skills of successful adulthood with your daughter.
posted by jbenben at 3:58 PM on October 11, 2011 [10 favorites]

posted by Bun Surnt at 4:38 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with Lexica. Are you trying to teach your daughter that the proper response to someone you love being in pain is to ignore them?
posted by bendy at 8:23 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

You say "I think the best thing for her would be for her to find a job and become financially independant, maybe move out. She needs to learn the value of hard work and that she can't just quit." Sorry, but as a matter of fact your opinion has very little value. Sounds hard, but it's true. Parents often - perhaps more often than not - don't understand their children very well. Maybe she does need pushing out, maybe not. I'm just pointing out that you don't really know. All you do know, for a certainty, is that she needs your love (no matter how she responds superficially). So give her love and let her know that if (IF) she wants your advice/help/thoughts/time - it's all available for her, unconditionally.
posted by nickji at 5:58 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is hard. Depression does make it extremely difficult to do even small things, and yet being able to take care of oneself and accomplish things does make one feel less crappy - so how do you encourage someone to do the things that will, in the long run, make her feel better, without just throwing her in sink or swim? I went through something very similar at 19 - I dropped out of college and moved home because life just became so overwhelming that I truly couldn't handle it. There were a lot of baby steps that had to happen to get me to where I am now (which is, to be honest, still hard - I'm still dealing with depression, but it's more under control, and I get through the days ok and have personal and professional successes, etc.). I don't know if how my parents handled my situation was the best approach or not, but here's what they did: my mom found a therapist. She went with me to the first appointment, and then after that I went alone. She found me a psychiatrist, and I got my medications straightened out a bit. When I would go on long crying jags, we would go for a walk together (I didn't usually want to go, but it usually ended up helping a little). After a month or so of letting me sit around the house doing nothing, she decided that I needed some activities to fill some of my time: she found me volunteer work at a library and an animal shelter (running around with puppies is great for depression, in my experience - no matter how much you think you suck, you know that puppies won't hate you) - none of which I really wanted to do at first, but it got easier. She signed me up for piano lessons (I would love to say this was a great creative outlet, but I am a truly atrocious pianist - I think most of the benefit was just in having something to do). I think there's some value to just having a bit of routine in your day and things to get out of bed for. And I had some (although probably not enough) responsibilities around the house - babysitting for my siblings and that sort of thing. I don't know where the point was when I turned around enough to move out and go back to school full-time (and from there on to working and being self-supporting) or what exactly made the difference, and I don't know what specific steps you should take in your daughter's situation. Be patient and be unconditionally loving, but don't treat her as too delicate to ever care for herself. Encourage her interests and instill in her a sense that you proud of her and confident in her abilities, but don't ask the impossible. It's a fine line. I do think that therapy for her and/or you would help.
posted by naoko at 10:45 PM on October 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

« Older Where to take a dog indoors?   |   Am I a ghost? Can anyone hear me? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.