Should I be concerned about my 11 year old daughter’s sudden change in behavior and drop in grades?

Dear Stop It Now!
In the past few months, my daughter’s grades went from A honor roll to barely B's. She has recently wet the bed twice that I know of. She has not done that since she was two. Her attitude is hateful at best, especially towards her step dad, dad, and little brother. She spends every other weekend with her dad and constantly expresses that she hates it there - does NOT want to go. When she comes home, it seems like we spend days getting her back on track. I have tried asking her questions, and so far she has not said anything is going on. I don't know what to do and am mostly concerned about the sudden bed wetting
 

Dear Concerned Mom
Whenever our children show significant changes in their behavior and attitude, parents do need to pay attention - as you are doing. 

Warning Signs
Yes, your daughter does appear to be showing some warning signs, but often these signs are the same signs of other stressors – school related, bullying, peer issues, family concerns, etc.  Either way, it does sound like your daughter is distressed by something in her life.

Seeking Professional Help
When concerning new or regressive behaviors occur, consulting with your daughter’s doctor may be a helpful step.  Certainly, the bedwetting should at least be examined to rule out any physiological causes.

As a next step, since  you are noticing more extreme changes in your daughter, have you considered seeking professional help – a therapist who specializes in working with children.  It’s great that you’ve asked your daughter about her behaviors and what may be causing them, but sometimes a specialist can help children talk about what’s bothering them in different ways than parents.  To help you find appropriate support, here are a couple of resources and I also suggest you check with your insurance carrier and physician for assistance in getting a therapist for your daughter:

Addressing Concerns with her Father
It sounds like you are wondering whether your daughter is safe when visiting her father’s. Do you or have you had any concerns regarding her father? Look over our warning tip sheets:  Behaviors to Watch for When Adults Are With Children or Signs That an Adult May Be At-Risk to Harm a Child? Are you seeing any of these signs?  Or are there other adults or youth who are present during your daughter’s time with her dad that may be concerning?

Is it a possibility to talk to your daughter’s father?  If you feel that a conversation with your daughter’s father would be safe, and perhaps if you have a support person to join you – could you talk to him about your daughter’s behaviors and attitudes.  You don’t have to “blame” him but rather just describe the behaviors and ask him if he has any thoughts about them. 

For example, “(Mary) told me that she doesn’t want to visit you this weekend.  She came home two weekends ago and ignored several rules in our house, and has been name-calling and rude to everyone in the home.  She also had an incident of bed wetting after she returned from visiting you last time.  I’m concerned for her, as I know you must be too.  Do you have any idea what may be going on or what may be bothering her?”  By keeping the focus on your daughter’s needs, and asking her father to partner with you to help keep her safe, your conversation may be more productive. 

If you have identified any risk behaviors on his part, you can again decide, based on how safe you feel, whether you want to include observations about his behaviors.  To learn more about having this difficult kind of situation, and under what kinds of circumstances it might be helpful, take a look at our guidebook, “Let’s Talk”.

Remain Observant and Available
As you seek to get some support and determine how you want to approach her father, continue to focus on letting your daughter know that you will remain available to her if she wants to talk about anything at all that is concerning her – with no judgment.  Focus on how you can keep your daughter’s environment safe at home. 

I hope this information is helpful, and please do not hesitate to contact us back with further concerns or questions. 

Take care,
Stop It Now!

 

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Last edited on: September 4th, 2013