My daughter is depressed

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Dear Patricia Marie

My 17 year old daughter and I have always been close, but she changed drastically after her best friend died in a car accident a few months ago, refusing to talk about it, stopping her social life, and spending most of the time in her bedroom, eating sweets. Recently, her father offered to pay for her gym membership as she has put on so much weight, and I agreed it was a good idea, but she turned the offer down. She seems to gain pleasure from giving me as much stress as possible, and is causing such an atmosphere in what has always been a happy household. The situation has become so bad, that now she wants nothing to do with us.

The main issue is that five years ago I invested £10,000 in premium bonds, for her benefit when she reaches her 18thbirthday. I have now told her that I am not letting her have access to the money until I believe she will spend it wisely, as, not only is she being difficult, but I think she'd fritter it away, instead of using it for university as I had presumed.

Am I breaking both a legal and emotional law by withholding it from her?

Patricia Marie says....

I feel the most important issue here is the problem between you, your husband and your daughter. It sounds as if she may have found her father's offer a sign of criticism and rejection, particularly at a time when she was grieving for the loss of her friend. She is clearly overwhelmed with emotion, hence the comfort eating, and in much need of some tender loving care. Perhaps it would have been far better if you had acknowledged that she wasn’t ready to talk about her friend's death, whilst gently asking her if she had any concerns about herself, and if there was anything you could do to help.

You are being unethical to suggest withdrawing the gift, and if the premium bonds are in her name, you cannot legally restrict her access to the funds. Try to separate the issue of the money from her emotional pain, and tell her that, as promised, on her 18th birthday it will become hers, but that you had intended it to be used towards her university fees. Nevertheless, bear in mind that when you made the decision to give her these bonds, you also gave her the right to spend the money however she chooses.

I feel that your daughter could benefit from some counselling, where she would be able to express her feelings which could help her come to terms with her loss.  Therapy should also improve her self worth and hopefully encourage her to rebuild friendships. The understanding of friends can be invaluable at times like these. I don’t feel that she is deliberately lashing out at you, as when in a dark place we can often overreact and rebel, particularly to our nearest and dearest. I suggest that you choose a calm time to sit down together, apologise for upsetting her, and explain how very important it is to you to get your relationship with her back on track. She could draw comfort from your understanding which may be the first step to regaining the closeness you used to share. 

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP): 01455 883300

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