Need help breaking free from addiction?
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Who Answers?

Helping My Almost 19 Year Old Daughter Face The Real World


Hi Doctor, I am the father of 4 children one girl and 4 boys. My wife and I have been going through hard financial times for the past 5 years so there has been a lot of stress in the family but one cause of more stress if my daughter. She is turning 19 and our oldest. She started in college but decided that early classes were too tough. She did not follow through on financial aid (even though we reminded her time after time) so she has a bill due the college on this friday. We keep reminding her she needs a job so she can meet her commitments but she refuses to take the responsability. She has called places, gotton an interview and no follow through. She has landed a short term job and refused to go to it. Then she complains that she has more work to do than her younger brothers even though they are in school and one is also working, and in drivers ed. I asked her this morning what was up and as usual I got ‘nothing’ ‘I don’t know’ ‘why are you bothering me’ and so on. After a a few loud words she did say that she did not want to grow up or mature. I told her that wether she wanted it or not she was growing up. What else can I do? How can we get her to take the responsabilities? She has so much potential I would love to see her use it. Thanks for any help Mike

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.

Dear Mike,

You have made a "Freudian Slip" in your E. Mail question because you said you are the father of 4 children: one daughter and 4 boys! If my arithmetic is correct, you are the father of 5 children, one of whom is your daughter. In my office I have a jar that is titled "Freudian Slips" and I invite my patients to place their "slips" metaphorically in the jar. Of course, the jar is bursting. In fact, a few of my own "slips" are in there. Please know that the reason for your "slip" is very understandable. In fact, your plea for help represents countless numbers of mothers and fathers across our vast land. Now, to get serious:

I happen to know (privately) of a young 19 year old man who failed all of his classes in his first semester of college. He is very bright so that his failure was not a matter of ability but rather of will. He learned that his parents were very willful when he failed to promise to repay the tuition money they had borrowed for him to go to school. They told him, in no uncertain terms that he was to get a job and pay them rent or he could not live with them. When he refused to either get a job or pay rent they put him out of the house…permanently. He now has a job and he pays rent… for an apartment he shares with three other guys! I know him because he is a waiter in a restaurant we frequent in our area of the world. He is a fine young man, really works hard and is learning a good lesson about life.

You and your wife need to ask yourselves whether or not you can take the hard line approach described above and if it is even desirable. Naturally you are correct when you remind your daughter that she must grow up whether she wants to or not. However, it is not so easy for her. Also, she is different from the young man I just described. For example, this young man is strong and capable and is doing quite well in the world of work. It is not easy but he is doing it and proving how capable he really is. He has also traveled the world and lived in other countries. I am not sure that what his parents did is the best possible approach to most adolescents including your daughter.

Why does your daughter not want to grow up? It is common for young people at her age to experience lots of anxiety about leaving home and facing the world. If she is experiencing separation anxiety and depression it may account for unwillingness to move on with her life. I guess I am leading to the possibility of psychotherapy for her so that she can overcome whatever is stalling her progress and move on with her life.

It is not unusual for students to do poorly in their first semester of college. In fact, many continue to have difficulty during the entire first year. There is lots of anxiety, there is distance from home if college is away, there is separation anxiety, there are classes that may be more difficult than was true at High School and there is the loss of old friends.

The worst thing you can do is get into shouting matches with your daughter. Once you lose your temper you prove to her that she has succeeded in enraging you and that empowers her in a way that she does not need. You need to be patient but firm in encouraging her to go to therapy and to find work. You need to talk quietly with her to understand what is going on with her. Talking means that you must listen to what she is saying. Ask her why she does not want to mature? Ask her what you can do to help her.

My guess is that she is depressed and is truly unable to tell you what is really bothering her. I do want to encourage a psychotherapy approach. In fact, I would recommend therapy for her along with family therapy for all of you. The entire family is facing one of those life transitions that are difficult for most of us to negotiate. She is your oldest child and the first to face adulthood. For the other children there is the loss of a sister and for you and your wife, there is the loss of you first born. As much as you want her to mature I am sure that you and your wife have ambivalent feelings about her impending adulthood and independence. In other words, her difficulties, at the moment, are the difficulties of the entire family.

It’s a scary world today for our children. Be patient with her. Encourage her and all of you to go to therapy. The family needs help at this critical time. With the proper help and guidance I believe that all of you can get through this transition period successfully.

Good Luck

More "Ask Dr. Schwartz" View Columnists

  • Lee

    Wow!!! If I believed in the supernatural, I'd have to say this was an answered prayer! But, I'm thinking, it's a common problem. My husband and I have been AGONIZING over similar problems with our 19-year-old daughter. It has been HELL! Thank you soooooooo much for this article! Now, I can see some hope!

    Also, wanted to say that I have a friend who, also, had a great deal of problems with her daughter when she was about the same age. I'm thinking there is probably a pretty big market for a self-help book on the subject. I'd buy one, if there were one. If there is one already, please, let me know.

    Lee F, Ohio

  • Anonymous-1

    I am currently going through a similar situation with my 19yr old daughter. She, cheats, lies and steals. In 1 year she has had 3 jobs. She has taken our credit cards and charged on them and I have even caught her with some of my checks that she has forged. I am at my wits end. If I do not get some help I will be going to jail for slapping some sense into her head. I remember growing up when my mother would give us good wiping. We had respect for her--not to mention we were also afraid to do anything wrong.

    I have never hit my daughter because I have always felt that talking to her was better, but it does not work with her. I want to put her out so bad but it would be very difficult for her to survive her--the cost of living is so expensive my husband and I find it difficult to live comfortably. I don't know what to do. I feel helpless. She says that she does not want to talk to a psychologist because they do not know anything. She said that she would rather die before she talks to another one. Sometimes I wish that she would get end up in jail just so that she could learn a lesson.


  • Single Southern Mom

    Separation anxiety, intimidation, confusion, all of these were issues my son has faced having to become a man. This apparently is not unusual. My son has never been away from me, I've raised him as a single parent with the morales, values and the love that I had when I was young. He also had problems the first two semesters of college. A very bright young man who did well in High school. Had a couple of menial jobs and lost them, out of work for a while with me on a fixed income attempting to pay bills that included a student loan. After sitting him down to listen to him we both agreed he just had to do it because Mom wasn't always going to be around to have his back and that if he didn't do it nobody could do it for him. I put my house on the market, moved in with a friend for financial support, rented a moving truck after giving him all my furniture, loaded it and sent him to another state to live with a cousin in the same age range who recently got out of the military, got his resume together, went on line to job seeker site, he was called for an interview, we had a mock job interview, got his professional dress attire together, mapped out and located the place of employement and now he has the tools and recognizes that he's had them all along, calls daily to let me know how he's doing.

  • Anonymous-2

    last time I checked children were under 18 so no slip. My 19 yr old doesnt have high school diploma, or work, stays up all nite. sleeps all day wont take depression meds, tells me I am horrible mom to her 2 younger brothers both a b students who volunteer and have after school activities she wont get drivers liscense either. I wont throw her out. 100 yrs ago women were not expected to do more than marry, she is a christian virgin no cigaretts etoh or drugs, so it could be worse, I just want whats best for her.


Call the Helpline Toll-FREE

To Get Treatment Options Now.

1-888-993-3112 Who Answers? 100% Confidential

Get Help For You or a Loved One Here...

Click Here for More Info.


Call The Toll-FREE Helpline 24/7 To Get Treatment Options Now.

100% Confidential
Get Treatment Options From Your Phone... Tap to Expand