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    #143162 - 11/20/12 11:17 AM adolescent girl and social problems
    HowlerKarma Offline

    Registered: 02/05/11
    Posts: 5181
    Not sure what to title this one. It seems to be a female-specific thing, in a lot of ways.

    I'm kind of stumped, and while usually DH and I can, between the two of us (both HG+ and vastly different from one another in terms of experience/disposition) come up with answers for parenting issues/developmental challenges with our 13yo PG DD; this is a tough one for both of us.

    Problem is this; we do not live in a large area. We like where we live, don't get me wrong. It leaves DD without much of a peer group, however.

    She has friends. A few, I mean. She's fairly selective, and she's just genuinely NICE, which means that she doesn't go in for all of the typical backbiting girl gossip and drama at this age.

    DD is now beginning to be interested in the opposite sex--- in "that" way. They are very clearly interested in HER, too. At least superficially, and if they notice that she's a girl to begin with... since she's one of those geek girls that hides in plain sight while they are all "just a bunch of guys." She's definitely a "pretty" girl, and she's socially like a candle flame, in that EVERYONE likes her. This grants her a social power which she never abuses; honestly, I'd say that she's nearly incapable of doing it-- even when provoked pretty severely. She's very quietly charismatic. Unfortunately, in a young teen, this combination of things is a pretty intimidating package.

    She loves books and music and theater... and math and science...and social justice... and political science... and she enjoys talking to other people who "get" those things, too. Frequently, this is the adults running youth activities...

    Her problem is threefold:

    a) most of her intellectual peers are MG- HG kids 3-5yrs her senior. At 13, this is obviously a HUGE problem, and she really doesn't find typical agemates anything like a "match" for herself. Oh, she likes most people well enough to be friendly, and in fact, she's socially good enough that even those that she actively DISLIKES would say that she "likes" them at least casually... but most of them would say that they are "good friends" with her and she wouldn't characterize things that way, if that makes sense.

    b) even the handful of kids that she finds meet her standards for a romantic interest or close friendship (which usually means HG+, 2-4 years older, and with a certain set of quirky interests and sense of humor)... all too frequently wind up "intimidated" by her to the point that they engage in one-upsmanship and passive-aggression with her when she lets them get close-- which is problematic of course since that also means that she's given them enough emotional capital to HURT her with it.

    c) her emotional needs for friendship are in a different league than many of her peers-- either intellectual peers or (most especially) agemates. She's in the market for safe-havens/soulmates. Shallow isn't going to cut it for her-- while she's not looking to "get serious" about anyone and recognizes the limitations of being 13, she's also not interested in most of the typical teen social interactions. She wants someone that can hang with her altruism and social awareness... and she keeps coming up empty-empty-empty.

    This has mostly been a problem with boyfriends. But it's also more than occasionally a problem with friend-friends, too. The older kids like her very well as long as she's willing to adopt a socially subservient position (pet/mascot). The younger kids like her fine, too-- but not in "that way" because she presents to most of them as really unattainable (and she is pretty emotionally unavailable since they don't interest her much).

    DH doesn't really "get" what is happening here. I'm not sure that he CAN get it, honestly-- because his experience as a teen was as a bright and 'included' (jock) guy. He didn't NEED to be "not quite as bright" as his love interests at this age. Nobody cared if he was smart, and it didn't carry a price socially. He's also just not as "nice" as DD is... heck, I am not that nice, either. whistle

    My gut says that this is a matter of-- well, you know that tee shirt that says "Please let me be the person that my dog THINKS I am?" Well, it's like my DD has the problem that she is the dog, there. Only she can talk and people therefore feel that they have to "answer" for their sins to her. frown It doesn't matter that she isn't judgmental about it-- in fact, if anything, that seems to make it worse.

    DD is so exasperated by this.

    Every boy she's interested in figures out that she's WAY smarter than they are... and then plays games with her or drops her because she's threatening, even when she isn't DOING anything to be that way... I mean, what is she supposed to do?? Pretend that she's "struggling" with AP Lit, too?? Play the damsel in distress? Do something nasty or passive-aggressive to a peer? She finds that ridiculously disingenuous, and she isn't willing to do it. This has become a problem even with the HG kids, I'm sad to say; they think that it will be fine... but then they seem to realize that she's really that person-- there's no exaggeration, no pretense... she really IS that smart, pretty, nice, etc. She really does feel "too good" for them. At least that is what I think. Maybe I'm wrong and there's something that I'm missing, but I don't think so.

    Naturally, she's deeply stung by these social rejections... and as often as not, bitterly disappointed in those peers who can't live up to-- well, whatever. She doesn't even get ANGRY (which, IMO, would be natural, since much of the time this kind of rejection is a bit socially humiliating); just sad/disappointed and hurt.

    She sees herself as unlikable and unworthy in this respect, which I think is an unhealthy self-image to cultivate since I'm not convinced that it is her. There's only so many "it was him, not me" that someone can find plausible-- and she's definitely reached that limit, and this has become "it MUST be me, since I'm what all of these situations have in common."

    My fear here is that she'll eventually hit upon the solution that I know (from experience) works at least some of the time-- that if you're willing to play certain games ( shocked ) , (some of) those older boys WILL stay interested in you.

    I'm interested in the experiences/perspectives of others who have either lived through this themselves (because hey-- maybe my experience was unusually bad or something, I dunno)... or have parented/are parenting a girl through this stage.

    I'd love to know what to say to her.

    So far, I've been trying to get her to view each relationship as a 'learning experience' and getting her to recognize 'healthy' versus 'unhealthy' relationship dynamics. It's just that it's starting to seem to her as though ALL of these relationships drift into the latter territory, and then it becomes a matter of "when to say that enough is enough" to abuse. I just hurt for her, truly. She hears a lot of "yeah, my feelings for you have kind of... evolved..." whistle (Meaning, it seems, that "I thought that I could handle it, but that was when I also thought that nobody is REALLY that nice/smart/compassionate/unselfish; NOW, I'm just looking for ways to make you pay for how you make me feel about myself...")

    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.

    #143163 - 11/20/12 11:28 AM Re: adolescent girl and social problems [Re: HowlerKarma]
    HowlerKarma Offline

    Registered: 02/05/11
    Posts: 5181
    I realize that a lot of this is a matter not of telling DD how to "change" to suit her peers...

    but of her needing to wait it out until a few of them catch up to her.

    I'd just like to know what to say about that, I guess.
    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.

    #143313 - 11/24/12 08:23 AM Re: adolescent girl and social problems [Re: HowlerKarma]
    eldertree Offline

    Registered: 02/25/10
    Posts: 224
    Loc: Gulf coast
    Thirteen is a hideous age, socially, because most kids are asynchronous at this point. Add in a reason for more asynchrony and it's a complete mess.

    I've been through it now with four kids, three EG, 1 PG/2e. The first simply had low standards and would get crushes on the most skeevy, unsuitable boys available. (Not that I'm suggesting this as an option, more of a "thank your lucky stars".) Dd#2 was a jock, and ended up dating relatively bright boys who could also carry on an intelligent conversation about the relative merits of Kentucky vs UNC. With #3-4 (who are almost 15), honestly, we've discouraged pairing off simply because, while they're bright, they're also socially on the younger end of things. And dating at a young age doesn't seem to have contributed anything particularly positive to their siblings' lives. One is like your daughter, with a few friends she mostly hangs with, and the other moves in a large herd of kids involved in the same (extremely time-consuming) extra-curricular. Many of them pair off (and change pairings as frequently as socks), but he just stays with the herd and is happy with doing so.

    So insofar as being helpful with the dating advice, I'm probably not. But I thought it should be noted that, in general, the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing at this age isn't necessarily a given.
    "I love it when you two impersonate earthlings."

    #143318 - 11/24/12 10:13 AM Re: adolescent girl and social problems [Re: eldertree]
    W'sMama Offline

    Registered: 04/09/12
    Posts: 188
    Loc: CO
    Originally Posted By: eldertree
    dating at a young age doesn't seem to have contributed anything particularly positive to their siblings' lives.

    Originally Posted By: eldertree
    in general, the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing at this age isn't necessarily a given.

    Couldn't agree more with this.

    Originally Posted By: HowlerKarma

    She sees herself as unlikable and unworthy in this respect, which I think is an unhealthy self-image to cultivate since I'm not convinced that it is her. ............

    I'd love to know what to say to her.

    So far, I've been trying to get her to view each relationship as a 'learning experience' and getting her to recognize 'healthy' versus 'unhealthy' relationship dynamics.

    I think the best thing for a girl this age to know is that it's NOT necessarily healthy or even normative to have had multiple romantic entanglements by the age of 13 (or 15, 16... maybe even older!)

    It's good that you're trying to help her approach her breakups as learning experiences, but what is she actually learning here? Sounds from what you've said that her self-image is taking a beating, the relationships she ends up in are "unhealthy", and you even used the word "abuse"!

    While it's totally normal for a 13-yo to become interested in the opposite sex, it's also reasonable and (IMO) most appropriate for parents of young teens to just disallow dating at this age. Honestly as far as learning about relationships, there's not much good that can come of it, and a lot of bad (as you've already related.)

    I think it would be helpful to your DD if you could gather anecdotes from gifted women who have made it through their adolescent years and come out on the other side happy, successful, and well-adjusted, having finally found a peer group they can relate to.

    If somebody could have made me understand in my early teens that it's REALLY okay to not have romantic relationships in one's teen years, I would have felt a lot more normal. (I had my first date at 18, and looking back I don't think my life would have been enriched at all by moving that particular milestone up by 5 years.)

    Wondering... I thought your DD did online school, so where is she meeting all these guys?

    ETA: I got so worked up about the dating, I realize I didn't address what you said about her need for regular friendships. I imagine you've already tried seeking out other PG kids for her to interact with, but since you said you don't live in an area with much of a peer group to choose from, keep looking further afield. Have you heard of this?
    There may be more like this but I haven't seen one... or maybe you could even start a gathering of your own!
    Mostly homeschooled

    #143319 - 11/24/12 11:26 AM Re: adolescent girl and social problems [Re: HowlerKarma]
    Nerdnproud Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 08/20/12
    Posts: 43
    I don't have any advice to offer, but I am thankful for your post. My dd is only 7, so not yet at that point re the boy/girl thing, but I see the beginnings of the friendship stuff you describe. Word for word your description of your daughter's approach relationships mirrors what I am seeing happen with my own daughter. I had hoped adding a few years might help, though know from my own experiences that the gap only seems to get wider :|

    Good luck and thanks again, I look forward to seeing the replies you get.

    #143346 - 11/25/12 10:27 AM Re: adolescent girl and social problems [Re: HowlerKarma]
    HowlerKarma Offline

    Registered: 02/05/11
    Posts: 5181
    Thank you to all who have replied.

    Yes, the boy-girl stuff is new within the past six months or so... but the rest seems to just be an acceleration of several other trends that have been present a long time. She just wants to "belong" so badly-- but she also wants it to feel authentic/real. And it doesn't.

    I have to wonder if the turn toward romantic relationships isn't more about "this is a way to get the greater emotional intimacy that I'm needing" rather than true desire for romantic relationships-- because DD's boundary conditions on physicality there are REALLY hard-core and very very much on the tame side, even for 13yo's. Hand-holding is her limit.

    That is, that DD craves social interaction with peers, but it always seems to turn to ashes on her because mostly her peers just aren't (developmentally, I think?) ready for those kinds of relationships (speaking just in terms of platonic friendships, even).

    Not even the cognitive/academic peers, mostly. Those who are tend to be unwilling to see DD (3-5 years younger) in that light. DD only knows a tiny handful of other PG kids-- and doesn't really share a lot of interests with them. They identify primarily on the basis of being singularities in a social sense, which of course can be the basis of a casual friendship or cordial acquaintance, but isn't really the stuff of close friendship. KWIM?

    She has a pretty narrow group of face-to-face social experiences/people to select from by virtue of virtual schooling. It's basically just a quartet of social activities, and two of them share the same (relatively small) group of kids.

    There are also disability-related challenges which make switching/trying new activities very problematic... okay, even "harrowing" is probably not an exaggeration in some cases.

    I had to laugh a little about finding adult mentors that she can relate to. Well, this may be part of the problem; she does know quite a few HG+ adult women... and most of them are loners who have finally given up on 'normal' social interactions with the world at large and settled on an intimate partner who "gets" who they actually are and accepts them that way. Her most significant role model (me) is probably part of the problem there.

    I was hanging around with people who were 4-10 years older than I was by the time I was 15-- and eventually I married one of them at age 19, too. The problem was that while I was asynchronous... that also meant that I wasn't done maturing. It really is like being a space alien in a lot of ways.

    I've never forgotten having my first spouse wearily interrupting me during some musing with; "You're a FREAK. You know that, right?" (What?? Don't most people wonder about the pre-Raphaelites whilst forgetting to shed a lab coat when meeting their spouse--late-- for dinner at a restaurant?) I mean, sure-- in a teasing/affectionate tone, that might have been one thing. But trust me when I say that this was someone who had known me for six years at that point, and there was NO endearment intended. The tone was one of utter disgust. Yes, in retrospect, this was the moment that I should have known that nothing could save that relationship.

    Let's just say that spouse 2.0 would NEVER say that to me.

    My DH and I have acquaintances-- and we have one another. We are our best friends. That may be why her template seems to be skewed toward friendships with this additional component. Make no mistake, we're NOT allowing "dating" at this age. No way, no how. Group activities without parental supervision? Well, yes-- in limited and very public venues, yes.
    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.

    #143354 - 11/25/12 01:47 PM Re: adolescent girl and social problems [Re: HowlerKarma]
    JonLaw Offline

    Registered: 07/29/11
    Posts: 2007
    Loc: The Sub-Tropics

    You are going to need to find her a way to get her what she needs in terms of peers.

    #143358 - 11/25/12 02:54 PM Re: adolescent girl and social problems [Re: HowlerKarma]
    HowlerKarma Offline

    Registered: 02/05/11
    Posts: 5181
    Thank you, Jon. I believe that is the underlying issue feeding this, too.
    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.

    #143361 - 11/25/12 04:10 PM Re: adolescent girl and social problems [Re: HowlerKarma]
    ljoy Offline

    Registered: 05/28/11
    Posts: 269
    Well, I can't necessarily help - but I can give my own experience as a former 13-year-old, who is now relatively socially satisfied.

    13 sucks. It does get better. I was in 8th grade at a tiny rural school with no peers, really. My parents gave me a folder with a cartoon character on a mountaintop saying "It's lonely at the top." I'm sure the artist thought it was a boast, but I used to hug the folder and cry. The high school was a little bigger but no better in that way. I did find friends, if not folks that could keep up with me. I didn't have anyone close enough to consider dating them.

    Things got much better in college. I lucked out - with no one around me to help me pick a top-end school, I still found one and went there. It was barely bigger than my high school, in undergrads, but *everyone* there was close enough to my level that I had *choices*. For the first time, I met people as far beyond me as I was beyond my high school honors classmates. And they were just as happy to meet me!

    I met DH there, and we still have a group of 10-20 alum friends that we have a close community with - living in the same area and seeing each other weekly. Many more of our group are more loosely associated and come to holiday parties and such, or visit the whole group when they come from out of town. Our kids are growing up like cousins. No one showed us this model. We created it ourselves because it was important to us.

    Among the many HG+ people I know now, the ones who were least isolated before college had been to summer talent search programs. Several had been to the same one, some to others, but I get the impression that which one it was mattered much less than the going. Some considered their camp friends their 'lifeline' during the school year, and kept correspondence relationships with them that still survive today.

    While I realize that a summer camp may not be safe for your DD, and summer is far away in any case, how about an online course with a virtual classroom component and high entrance requirements, like CTY or EPGY/OHS? Friendship-by-skype could help a lot, if you can just find the right person for the connection. My kids are younger and less different from their neighbors, so I have no experience here, but it's certainly something I'd consider.

    I hope things will look up soon.

    #143362 - 11/25/12 04:36 PM Re: adolescent girl and social problems [Re: HowlerKarma]
    ljoy Offline

    Registered: 05/28/11
    Posts: 269
    Originally Posted By: HowlerKarma
    She hears a lot of "yeah, my feelings for you have kind of... evolved..."

    This isn't exactly helpful, but... is it possible that the object of interest suddenly realizes that he's talking to a much younger girl? This would have weirded out boys in my HS badly, and much more as a dating relationship than as a member-of-club friendship. As I recall, a girl had to be at least 16 or 17 to be considered relationship material for a boy 3-4 years her senior, even if she was always around and had the same interests, etc. Just another possibility for cause.

    My instincts say that finding a couple of peer friends closer to her chronological age is important here.

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