Struggling to cope with our grieving daughter


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. I feel very hurt, as she has built up a brick wall around her and will not allow anyone in. 

The main issue is that five years ago I invested £10,000 in premium bonds, for her benefit when she reaches her 18th birthday. 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. She responded by calling me and her father hurtful names. 

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 to join the gym a sign of criticism and rejection, particularly at a time when she was grieving the tragic death of her friend. She is clearly overwhelmed with emotion, hence the comfort eating, and in desperate need of some tender loving care. 

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, and 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 greatly from bereavement counselling, which would help her come to terms with her loss and improve her self worth. Once she feels better she will find it much easier to reconnect with friends, which could make a huge difference to the loneliness she is suffering. I believe that she is not deliberately lashing out at you, as when in a dark place it’s not surprising to overreact and rebel, particularly to our nearest and dearest. I suggest that you choose a calm time to sit down together, and explain how very important it is to you to get your relationship back on track. Acknowledge how difficult the past few months must have been for her, and that when she is ready to talk about anything she would like to share, you will be there for her. She could draw comfort from your understanding which could prove invaluable, and 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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