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latterdaymom

14 year old daughter doesn't want to go to church what do I do?

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My daughter recently told us she doesn't want to be "mormon" anymore and doesn't want to go to church. She has had a rough year dealing with depression and self harm. We've also had some big trials in our family (husband lost his job and is still unemployed; lost a child in an accident 2 years ago). I know those things have had a big impact on her.

We noticed that something was "off" around age 11, and we took her in for therapy. She's been going on and off since then. There is a family history of mental disorders in our extended family so it doesn't surprise me what's happening here. She's also on medication but we are still tweaking with it. This summer the doc added lithium to help her with self harm but instead of calming her down it made her more irritable and aggressive. She feels like the church makes rules of what we "can and can't do" which really aggravates her ("It's dumb we can't date before 16 and drink coffee, and shouldn't wear short shorts and tank tops" etc.) She's also a strong willed child and doesn't like to be "controlled", which doesn't help her complicated situation. We think the combination of meds gave her the "push" to decide she was done with church.

She thinks no one likes her in YW...literally. She has this idea in her head that they talk about her behind her back and don't want to be her friend, which is completely false. She is a beautiful girl, but something has convinced her she's just trash. I feel so helpless, and don't know what to do for her.

For now I am focusing on just uplifting her and loving her. I am more concerned about getting her stable mentally before her spirituality, but it is in the back of my mind and I am concerned. She hasn't attended church in a month.

Now I know there will be a few of you who will say, "she's messing with you...you just need to put your foot down and tell her to snap out if it". Or, "just throw her in the car and make her go...She is a child and doesn't have a choice". People these things do not work...I know personally and if you know the plan of salvation, you know that "forcing" people to do things is Satan's plan. So please...if you think your judgmental remarks are going to fix this, then take it somewhere else because you aren't helping. :disenchanted:

So with that said...I need some real advice....

Has anyone else had a teenager who went through this and came back or changed their mind/attitude because you did something different to encourage them to come back? What can I do as a parent to help her?

Thanks for your input.

Concerned mom :(

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Well though I don't have any children I was a teenager, very much like that.

When I was around that age, I embraced atheism because I thought the idea of God was "stupid" and that I was not a slave to anything (as I put it).

I had, and have, my own mental issues, fought depression (though refused all kinds of medication) and struggled with extreme paranoia.

For me, anyways, when anyone tried to push religion on me it made me extremely irritated. I think, someone with that sort of mindset needs not to be pushed into it, or it will become worse later on.

The only reason I found any sort of spiritual thinking is because I was let loose to think and ponder by myself.

Have faith she will make the right choices in life. Pushing someone to go to church will only make them dislike the church even more and they will most certainly become inactive when they grow up.

Just my opinion, I could be totally wrong, I donno

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I think you may need to give her a 'mental' way out.

When I was young, I didn't want to go to church either. As you said, 'forcing' isn't the Lord's way.

So my mother made me a deal. She said that I had to read the entire Book of Mormon and be trustworthy to be home alone. I also had to be a minimum age of 16 to be home alone. (That was her rule and probably to buy some time for me to get out of that phase.)

If I was to meet those conditions, I wouldn't have to go to church! But it encouraged personal responsibility and testimony in order to have that privilege.

You might want to give a plan like this a try.

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I have my doubts about lithium and who and why its prescribed, as in my mother's case it only made her manic depression worse. According to my own therapist, there are many instances where Lithium or even prescriptions push someone from mild depression into manic depression, which is one reason I did not speak to my physician about my mental status.

You don't go into detail about self harm, but I am curious as to what that entails, because generally speaking the act of self harm, or destructive behaviours is a symptom of an event or a serious of events that traumatized the person. If its suicidal, I would hazard a guess that there is more going on than simply a family history of mental illness.

It appears that you are distancing yourself from mental illness in some fashion and want to fix your child in some way. Your concern and worry are obvious, as is your quest for input or anything that may help, but I wonder if you really listen to your child.

My parents were not emotionally available to me when I was a child and when I speak of circumstances with my father, he puts up a wall and speaks of other people. I have since learned that he is living in denial, as he has not come to terms with his own issues and there are many, so he is incapable of actually listening. My mother on the hand, has accepted her depression and is making progress, but the fact that my father blamed my mother for who she was or what she was experiencing, made it that much worse for her with the irony being that my father appears to be stable, but only because he lives in denial.

Perhaps if you attended therapy together, or examined the family environment it could help you as well as your child. As for the church thing, most teenagers rebel in some fashion, as I did. If anything, its a scream of independence or some form of control, as your child no doubt feels that she has no control over her life and probably feels smothered.

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Skippy funny thing you mentioned the bishop...our bishop was just assigned as our home teacher (our last one moved out of the ward). We spilled the beans to him the last time he was here to HT. He was surprised, but very understanding.

Thanks for your suggestions. We do have conditions in place where she needs to do spiritual/positive things (playing her cello/reading uplifting books, write in journal etc.) if she doesn't attend church.

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Praetonian Brow thanks for your insight. We have been going together as a family to therapy for 2 years now, and it has helped tremendously. I would agree that the lithium could have made my daughter manic just like it did with your mom. We are actually weaning her off of it to see how things go. So far she's not having outbursts as often as she did a month ago, so I'm hoping that's a good sign.

I believe the self harm was brought on after she lost her brother. She had a particularly hard time accepting his death and shut down emotionally. She felt like the only way she could feel relief was to cut. She refused to talk about his passing because she didn't want to cry and feel the agonizing grief. In her mind it was better to avoid it. It was then we realized she needed to have talk therapy, her emotional life depended on it. That is why most people self harm. They have a difficult time expressing their emotions and to get that release they resort to hurting themselves. It releases endorphins which makes them feel better, but afterwards it hurts physically and seeing the scars brings on shame. Feelings of negative self worth sets in and the cycle can start all over again. You can recover from it, but that takes a lot of therapy, love and empathy from supporting parents.

I also have depression and so I understand what it's like. I just have always had the desire to go to church, even when I was a teenager. It was the only thing that I felt was constant. My parents divorced when I was 7 and shortly thereafter I was abused from a trusted LDS caregiver after my mom went back to work. I had every reason to rebel and leave but I just didn't want to.

Perhaps I'm expecting my daughter to cling to the one thing that "saved" me. I don't know for sure but it's possible. I realize though I can't expect her to feel the same way I did since we are individuals and have different personalities.

Too bad a parenting manual didn't come with the kids I gave birth to. Wouldn't it be so much easier? ;)

Edited by latterdaymom
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Having weathered some similar storms with our own teenage (now adult) daughter, I have to agree with what some others have said on the issue of force. Forcing her to attend church will not solve the problem and may only make it worse. Every kid (and every person) is different, so what works with one person isn't going to work with every person. You need to trust in yourself that you taught her properly when she was younger - her true core values are already established and will not change, although outwardly they may appear to. She will return to those values.

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My 15yr old girls and 13yr old son do not want to go to church. They have no issues like your daughter. They simply do not want to go. No amount of discussion can get them to tell me why.

I went through the same, at much the same age. Prior to high school I would organise lifts for myself to go to church, I rarely missed a meeting, then I suddenly decided to stop.

I can tell you my reasons - high school is hard work. There is a huge amount of schoolwork to do, plus pressure to succeed academically, in sports and be popular as well. I was coming to a realisation that my parents are human and made a lot of bad decisions - and I had to wear the fallout from those. I was working a part time job as I needed the money (long story about my parents that I wont go into)

To me, church was an added thing to have to do and added pressure to conform. It was another place to be judged by people, and to be judged by a totally different set of standards to everywhere else I was being judged. (Remember this is a young teen mind thinking these things - it was how I saw it)

Something had to give, and to succeed in life, I knew I needed a good education - so church it was.

Not saying what I did was right, but it was definitely right for me at the time.

Your daughter probably has a lot of the same pressures I felt - as well as all the ones you mentioned(which are a lot bigger than mine were). I feel for her, the pressure must be so intense :(

I don't know anything about mental illness so my opinion means very little, however I will give it! Sounds like she needs a release of pressure. Maybe some time out?

I know that forcing doesn't work - I am forcing mine to go at the moment and all that happens is a lot of resentment towards the church, disruption in their classes, bad attitude towards everyone. I don't feel it is fair to ruin other people's experience at church because of their bad behaviour. We are yet to decide our next step with this.

I like your comment that you are focussing on uplifting and loving her, that is so important. She knows she has a soft place to fall no matter what.

In regards to "church rules", they are not specifically church rules - they are life rules. Perhaps you need to enforce with her that regardless of whether she attends church or not, your parental rules still apply until she has left home. If my children do stop going to church, it will not change our family values.

This is a really hard time for you and your family and I don't think there is a 1 size fits all solution, just keep on loving each other and doing what you think is best.

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Now I know there will be a few of you who will say, "she's messing with you...you just need to put your foot down and tell her to snap out if it". Or, "just throw her in the car and make her go...She is a child and doesn't have a choice". People these things do not work...I know personally and if you know the plan of salvation, you know that "forcing" people to do things is Satan's plan. So please...if you think your judgmental remarks are going to fix this, then take it somewhere else because you aren't helping. :disenchanted:(

Side observation:

"Laying down the law" may or may not work with an individual child; but I think it's going a little far to say that it's "Satan's plan". Our scriptures do not say that Satan's plan was to force people to be good; they say that he sought to destroy the agency of man. "Agency" has two components: the ability to make meaningful choices, and living with the consequences of those actions. Given that one feature of Satan's character that he "persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one" (Moroni 7:17), it strikes me as much more likely that his "plan" in the premortal council was to do away with consequences rather than to somehow limit choice itself.

Again, I'm not saying this should translate into any particular course of action where your daughter, specifically, is involved. I just wish we could get past this idea that letting kids know what we expect of them--and setting consequences for failure to meet those expectations--is inherently Satanic.

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I have a bunch to toss out to think about... But it's late here so I'm going to post in pieces

1) Neurology

Being ADHD the first thing that makes me tilt my head is wondering if she has a correct diagnosis?

This is huge, of course, because so many disorders present similarly (ADHD & bipolar disorder, for example) whose medications make the sister disorder waaaaaaaay worse. Bipolar meds make ADHD folk go crazy (creates manias and depressions... Which seem to confirm the bipolar diagnosis, so more meds are given, makes them even more unstable, s different meds, then more meds, then different, then more... All equating to years and years of wasted life). Meanwhile ADHD meds kick bipolar folk into manias. ((Its actually safest & fastest to ex ADHD meds, because stimulants calm ADHD folk out but ramp up bipolar folk))

The same is true for many issues. Here is just a short list of often difficult to determine disorders:

ADHD & Bipolar Disorder

Depression & anxiety disorder

Sensory processing disorder & Oppositional Defiant disorder

And others

AND, unfortunately, nearly all of them with everything else.

(ADHD is what I'm most familiar with... So I'll keep using that as an example)

ADHD has several common facets. Not all people have all facets. And there are other facets I'm not adding. It's is just a general list.

- Hyperfocus (intense concentration)

- Hypofocus (inability to concentrate)

- Sensory issues (similar to SPD)

- Intense emotions (FAR more intense than neurotypical, but not as intense as bipolar disorder)

- emotions that don't fade but come one full force until replaced with another emotion

- near eidetic memory in person specific areas (including for pain, emotion, academic, episodic, physical, etc.)

- Muliple/concurrent thought processes (instead of thinking of one thing at a time, most ADHD-c & ADHD-I folk are usually thinking of 2-5 given DISPERATE things at a time. Like auto mechanics, shopping list, French school menu, endangered marine mammals, shoes).

EACH of these (and others) gets mistaken for similar disorders.

The hyper focus, when on micro expressions & body language, can create extreme social anxiety for example. So too, the near eidetic memory can create PTSD symptoms (living the same experience, complete with "just found out emotions") or feed depressive loops. The multiple thought processes can mimic Oppositional Defiant disorder (ODD). ODD people are compelled to disagree. ADHD people are compelled to think of alternatives/ what if scenarios. Ex) ODD. This sun is going to rise in the morning - No it isn't. ADHD Ditto - not if it supernovas. Or if you're in the article circle. Or, or, or. The intense emotion swinging (while most commonly mistaken for bipolar disorder) are often compensated by "shutting down". Flat aspect. Clipped speech. Roiling thunderstorms internally, but externally just laying on the couch staring 1,000 yards away. Et cetera

______

To be clear: I am NOT saying your daughter has ADHD. Never met her. But in over 20 years of dealing with & working with ADHD... I've met countless people misdiagnosed with various disorders who later turned out to be ADHD... And countless people diagnosed with ADHD who turned out to be bipolar, GAD, GDD, SPD, and all the rest.

So... Even before discussing strategies... My must knee jerk reaction is double checking her diagnosis. Because different coping strategies work REALLY WELL for certain disorders and JUST PLAIN BADLY for other. (Ha! Like the negative consequence thing creates MORE problems with ADHD & Aspies than you started with -really really bad-, but works exceptionally well for neurotypical kids. Repeated exposure works really well for PTSD, but Causes trauma for general anxiety disorder).

Okay. Part 2 tomorrow.

All my best,

Q.

(ADHD mum to ADHD kiddos)

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Welcome latterdaymom,

I have a daughter who is very similar to yours. She is 14, cuts and wants little to nothing to do with the Church and attends therapy. She does not on any medication but I'm considering taking her to psychologist.

I took her and her older sister to a Seminary meeting last night and she told me that going to Seminary is just going to make her angry. I thought about this and tried to talk to my wife (her step-mother) and let her know that if my daughter pushes any harder I'm not going to force her to go to seminary. My wife wasn't happy about that and told me to pray and fast about it and pretty much cut off any further discussion leaving me feeling like a failure for not forcing her to go.

I don't really believe in forcing kids to go to seminary or church but I also believe there can and should be some incentives and privileges associated with going.

My daughter also mentioned after Church that she wants to discuss with the Bishop being released as the 2nd councilor. At least she still goes to Church I guess.

So while we struggle with her, my son (who is now 18 and preparing to go to BYUI) really had a hard time with the Church at 14 when I was going thru a divorce. He didn't cut or anything, but he got in allot of fights and he wasn't living the law of chastity with his girlfriend. He is very talented and was a guitarist and singer in a post-hardcore band. He went to EFY in Oregon with his cousins and it completely changed his course. He did come back with a different attitude about the Church. He still hated seminary but went at least.

I think boys and girls are very different and I have to be honest I never worried about him like I worry now about my daughter. The next four years are going to be very challenging me thinks.

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Welcome latterdaymom,

I have a daughter who is very similar to yours. She is 14, cuts and wants little to nothing to do with the Church and attends therapy. She is not on any medication but I'm considering taking her to psychologist.

I took her and her older sister to a Seminary meeting last night and she told me that going to Seminary is just going to make her angry. I thought about this and tried to talk to my wife (her step-mother) and let her know that if my daughter pushes any harder I'm not going to force her to go to seminary. My wife wasn't happy about that and told me to pray and fast about it and pretty much cut off any further discussion leaving me feeling like a failure for not forcing her to go.

I don't really believe in forcing kids to go to seminary or church but I also believe there can and should be some incentives and privileges associated with going.

My daughter also mentioned after Church that she wants to discuss with the Bishop being released as the 2nd councilor. At least she still goes to Church I guess.

So while we struggle with her, my son (who is now 18 and preparing to go to BYUI) really had a hard time with the Church at 14 when I was going thru a divorce. He didn't cut or anything, but he got in allot of fights and he wasn't living the law of chastity with his girlfriend. He is very talented and was a guitarist and singer in a post-hardcore band. He went to EFY in Oregon with his cousins and it completely changed his course. He did come back with a different attitude about the Church. He still hated seminary but went at least.

I think boys and girls are very different and I have to be honest I never worried about him like I worry now about my daughter. The next four years are going to be very challenging me thinks.

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OP.

Because of your daughter's mental issues what I have to say may be irrelevant, but here goes:

I always hated church, and was forced to go all my teenage years. Sundays were the worst days of the week for me. When I became a junior in high school, my mother go so frustrated with forcing me to go to seminary, that she said if I go voluntarily in my junior year, I wouldn't have to go as a senior, but, I had to figure my own way to get to school (seminary parents were my ride). I said OK, and when the time came I didn't go to seminary as a senior, and found other ways of getting to school. I actually hitch hiked home daily from school!;)

At the end of the day, being forced to go to church worked, because I'm still going! I'll spare you the boring details of the decisions made to be here.:eek:

I'm a believer in force as long as the kids are minors because house rules, just as in society at large has rules, is something we all have to deal with. It's part of growing up.:huh:

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It takes a light touch, as perhaps gender difference plays a role here, as my father forced me to attend church in a disciplinary way to which lasting harm was down to all us kids, as we have associated church attendance with resentful feelings, discomfort and anger at how we were treated. To this day, 4 out of 7 children are inactive and harbour deep issues against the church, because my father forced us to attend and didn't really practice what he preached.

The carrot and the stick approach is necessary, not just the stick. Offer incentives and reasons as to why they can't stay home. They are too young to be alone at home, etc. I can remember being seven when I refused to go to church and my five year old brother went along with it. Instead of explaining anything to us, my father angrily picked both of us up, kicking and screaming, in our underwear, carried us to an unheated panel van in the dead of winter and threw us in. The details are hazy as I can't remember how we got dressed, but church was half an hour drive away and I think we were able to dress ourselves in the van after my mother got our clothes. My brother says my mother drove back to get the clothes after unloading the other 5 kids.

Use a light touch.

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Will she go if she gets to stay with you in Sunday School and Relief Society?

I had no friends at church in my youth. People do not have to actively talk about you to make you feel excluded. They may not be talking about her all the time, but she probably really and truly does not feel welcome by her *peers*. It does not mean much if the leaders care.

If you do allow her to stay home someone needs to be with her because she cuts. Allow her to wear pants to church if clothing is ever a fight. Clothes are not worth fighting over.

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Please feel free to take this with a very large grain of salt. As a former Christian (and current agnostic), this is something that I actually went through first-hand.

For years, I dreaded going to church on Sundays. In my mind it was simply wasted time on weekends, which was precious to me since school is a Monday-Friday thing. It wasn't a choice, however. My parents were definitely in the "you're going to go because you don't have a choice" mold.

It wasn't until my Junior year of high school that I even started to sort of like it...and that was largely because I became a part of the church orchestra. Through music, I was able to enjoy my time there (which makes a lot of sense when you consider what I now do for a living). I didn't become agnostic until several years later and for completely unrelated reasons.

My younger *brother*, on the other hand...

He, too, is agnostic. However, unlike me, it is very, very clear that a large part of his pushing away from religion was the fact that he was forced to attend for so long. Our personalities are different, and he didn't have the musical outlet that I do, and thus he never found his "reason" to go. He began to resent being forced and I have zero doubt that this played a part in his eventual rejection of religion altogether (Despite what some may think, I never actively encouraged him one way or the other, feeling that he should make his own choices about what he believed and didn't believe).

I would say to be careful. People are different, and they react and respond to things differently. While forcing someone to go to church might work for one, it might have serious consequences for another (at least in terms of their personal faith). There is no one "right" answer that can cover all of us. I would engage with your daughter about what she doesn't like about church and see if you can address some of those things.

I wasn't Mormon growing up, so I know little about the practices of your normal church days, but perhaps there is something, like music with me, that could get her involved?

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I wasn't Mormon growing up, so I know little about the practices of your normal church days, but perhaps there is something, like music with me, that could get her involved?

If she's vocally musically inclined (or piano wise) quite a few wards have a choir she would be able to participate in.

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Humans in a large way are very simple creatures. In general, we all act in a manner that we believe will be the best way to serve our own self-interest. The older we get, the more complex this becomes . . . but our own self-interest is the basis of the vast majority of our actions; it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be completely selfless.

So there is a reason, as to why the 14-year old feels it is in her best interest to not attend church. The trick is to finding out what that reason is- or more appropriately finding out how to motivate her into understanding that going to church really is in her long-term best interest. There are many different tactics to do so, some are rather harsh and some can be too lenient, and some require her coming to that understanding herself.

I have little ones, but I could easily see myself saying to a 14 year-old, okay I understand that you don't want to take the Sabbath day as a day of rest to worship the Lord; that's fine. It's your choice to go to church or not, however not going to church and taking a day of rest means it will be a day of work for you. So here is what you are to do today while the rest of the family is resting from our labors: I would proceed to have a todo list a mile long, not punishment or a grounding just work that needs to be done. Now if the work doesn't get done, then I would proceed to punish or ground as I would for any normal work or task that isn't accomplished in the appropriate time-frame.

For a little-one, it doesn't matter, you're coming to church b/c I told you. As they get older the box that they play in (i.e. my house rules) expand, so that the boundaries are bigger and bigger so they have more and more freedom to choose; but always they are playing in my sand box and I make the rules for that sand box; and those rules are whatever necessary to persuade my child that staying inside the sand box is much better than outside the sand box, even though I expect that they will go outside the sand box from time to time. The box will grow and grow-until of course the sand box as big as the whole world :-).

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Well though I don't have any children I was a teenager, very much like that.

When I was around that age, I embraced atheism because I thought the idea of God was "stupid" and that I was not a slave to anything (as I put it).

I had, and have, my own mental issues, fought depression (though refused all kinds of medication) and struggled with extreme paranoia.

For me, anyways, when anyone tried to push religion on me it made me extremely irritated. I think, someone with that sort of mindset needs not to be pushed into it, or it will become worse later on.

The only reason I found any sort of spiritual thinking is because I was let loose to think and ponder by myself.

Have faith she will make the right choices in life. Pushing someone to go to church will only make them dislike the church even more and they will most certainly become inactive when they grow up.

Just my opinion, I could be totally wrong, I donno

I was just about to write the same thing as this. This explains me as well (except mental issues, I did suffer from depression though).

Maybe you could try to read the scriptures more with your daughter? I know after reading the Bible or the Book of Mormon, I feel a sense of peace. I feel better about everything.

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