Daugh­ter lacks em­pa­thy

Los Angeles Times - - POP & HISS - Send ques­tions to Amy Dickinson by email to askamy@ tri­bune. com.

Dear Amy: My daugh­ter is 17 and is off to col­lege in Au­gust. She has man­aged to alien­ate her­self from her two clos­est child­hood friends and has only one friend left.

She is opin­ion­ated ( e. g. tells peo­ple how to run their lives), self­ish ( e. g. doesn’t go to see her friend’s mu­si­cal per­for­mances), crit­i­cal and ar­gu­men­ta­tive.

She doesn’t take any re­spon­si­bil­ity for her own ac­tions and feels jus­ti­fied in what she has said or done. She’s had ther­apy but re­fused to open up ( the ther­a­pist said, “come back when you are ready”). She is tak­ing med­i­ca­tion for ADD, but she doesn’t like the way it makes her feel. She smokes pot to come down from it.

How do we help her see be­yond her own feel­ings and needs? How can she de­velop em­pa­thy? I worry she will be lonely and in pain for­ever.

Wor­ried Mother

Dear Wor­ried: Some of your daugh­ter’s be­hav­ior is fairly nor­mal for a teen who has one foot out the door as she is headed into the next phase of her life.

It’s not pleas­ant — for any­one — but it is some­what age- ap­pro­pri­ate.

If she is on med­i­ca­tion and doesn’t like the side ef­fects, you should help her to ex­plore al­ter­na­tives. There might be another med­i­ca­tion that would work bet­ter for her — or no med­i­ca­tion at all ( med­i­ta­tion and/ or ex­er­cise might help). Smok­ing pot is NOT the an­swer. She is self- med­i­cat­ing with­out knowl­edge of what she is med­i­cat­ing for.

In ad­di­tion to the phys­i­cal ef­fects of pot on her brain func­tion and at­ti­tude, it is illegal for some­one her age. Where does she get it? How does she af­ford it?

You can­not force your daugh­ter to be a bet­ter friend — or a “bet­ter” daugh­ter. She is al­ready see­ing the con­se­quences of her be­hav­ior ( lost friends and lost ap­proval from you). In­stead of blam­ing and pun­ish­ing her, en­cour­age her to take more adult re­spon­si­bil­ity to get to the bot­tom of what is re­ally go­ing on with HER. This jour­ney should start at the doc­tor’s of­fice, with a re­view of her med­i­ca­tion and a men­tal health screen­ing.


Dear Amy: What do you think about a for­merly solid group of women — who have known each other for many years, cared for each other’s chil­dren and borne wit­ness to life’s ups and downs — which has now be­come ex- clu­sion­ary?

Un­der­stand­ably some peo­ple within the group have de­vel­oped closer friend­ships with the peo­ple of their choice, but the idea was for us all to be there for each other and in­clude each other in mile­stone events.

Re­cently two women have sys­tem­at­i­cally been ex­cluded from some life­time events — twice by the same per­son. They are hurt and some of us have dis­cussed this with the ex­cluder, but she doesn’t seem to care.

This has caused dis­cord and dis­com­fort among what were easy­go­ing and en­joy­able gath­er­ings for us all.

What sug­ges­tions would you of­fer for this sit­u­a­tion?

Up­set Friend

Dear Up­set: You are in charge of your own be­hav­ior and re­sul­tant re­la­tion­ships. You are not in any po­si­tion to con­trol some­one else’s choices — but you should re­act to her choices hon­estly.

You can­not ex­pect a group of adults to toe the friend­ship line and be­have as a mono­lithic friend­ship group — all the way through life. And so you will have to ad­just to this change.

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