Q. My daughter was given her GCSE grades without exams like other students in this time of Covid. She was reasonably happy with the results. She was already stressed and anxious before the lockdown – she worked until late every evening, including weekends, doing coursework, revision and test papers, and survived on chips and coke. She was so anxious and stressed about not absorbing enough and feared getting it wrong on the day of the exams.
I was relieved when schools closed and exams were cancelled. I thought it would give her the opportunity to relax and ease the pressure. It didn’t. Her anxiety has gone through the roof. She does nothing around the house to help but is happy to dish out demands. She will only eat certain food, insists on total silence in the house for large chunks of the day (difficult with 2 boisterous boys, a dog and 2 adults working from home). She likes routine and insists on set times for dinner, showers, walks and TV. She’s very specific how her clothes should be washed or ironed – the list is endless. When we comply to help her feel more settled until she spots something that isn’t to her specification. I thought it would change once she was back at school and unfortunately it hasn’t. I hardly recognise our daughter. We are all treading on eggshells and don’t know what to do, can you help?
A. For someone prone to stress and anxiety this is a tough time. But I feel there’s something else going on with your daughter. You mention she was already stressed and anxious before the pandemic. From how you describe her attitude towards her schoolwork, study schedule and her need for order and routine, I suspect there’s an underlying feeling that whatever she does it will never be good enough. Her controlling behaviour and her eating pattern is her way of trying to create some stability, continuity, security and safety in a world where she believes she has no control.
Do you help her notice her strengths and qualities or do you focus on what she gets wrong?
Do you allow her to make her own mistakes without judgement or criticism or are you quick to point them out?
Make sure you recognise what she does well and let her know what you’ve noticed/seen. Ask her to help you create a spread-sheet with all the household chores for the week and weekends, including meal options; organise a family meeting and invite everyone (all 5) to pick the chores they will commit to doing; agree on a deadline for each task; negotiate consequences if anyone fails to do their part. Discuss dinner, laundry and bathroom routines, and negotiate times with everyone. Although you’re engaging your daughter in the preparation and set-up, this is not her show, she doesn’t get to boss everyone around or get preferential treatment. You’re all in it together.
Invite your daughter to explore different foods, including ‘brain-food’ (foods that stimulate learning and brain activity); suggest you try out different recipes, prepare a meal together, even if it’s only beans on toast. Take the dog out for a walk together, chat and listen. Let her express her fears without judgement and without stepping in with a fix.
Sometimes all we want is to be heard.
Make time for your daughter even if she’s a little resistant at first.
If you have a question for Carla please email firstname.lastname@example.org and enter – YQA – in the subject line.
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Psychotherapy delves deep into the root causes of your symptoms. Psychotherapy in Solihull, encompasses a multitude of approaches, each offering a wide range of tools that help different people.
Dickens Heath Clinic Three Acres Lane Dickens Heath Solihull B90 1NZ Monday – Thursday 8:00-18:00
Carla Devereux uses a combined therapeutic approach of psychotherapy and hypnotherapy to support clients work through their presenting issues and achieve their desired outcome. Therapy Clinics in Solihull and Warwickshire.