Black and Blue?

10 Oct

Dear LetterBalm: My happy, active 13-year old daughter has abruptly changed. Since school started last month, she has begun to wear all black, all the time. She wears black lipstick and black nail polish. She’s even put a black rinse in her hair. (She wanted to dye it, but I gently put my foot down.) I don’t know if this is a passing thing or if she is getting into something deeper. So far, her usual personality and school habits are intact, but who knows? How can I reach out to her and get to the truth without alienating her? 

–Not a Goth Mom 

Another joy of parenthood – figuring out the dark phase. Is it just a phase? Or is it something more? Your daughter’s new taste in black could reflect rebellion against the herd mentality in teen years (a good thing) or a more serious problem, even depression. You say you’ve noticed no change in her schoolwork or personality. But you need to observe how she interacts with family, friends, her peers and adults. If she becomes moody and isolated, if she rejects current friendships, if she begins hanging out – in-person or online – with those who are encouraging her to act this way, then you must take action. If you see these signs, take steps to engage therapy for her because she may be depressed. To help sort things out, you need to talk with your daughter, even as you observe her in action. Ms. L.B. suggests you keep it brief and open-ended – you’re merely curious, not judgmental, and you want to start a dialogue, even if it is sporadic:

Morticia, I’m curious about your new look. It’s a major change for you, and your dad and I are wondering what made you decide to change your style. What do your friends and teachers say? I’ve noticed that Tuesday and Katelyn aren’t doing it, which makes you kind of a cool leader, right?

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