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Ask The Expert: My Teenager Is (Very) Emotionally Immature

Dear Your Teen:

My 14-year-old daughter is very sweet, kind and thoughtful, but she seems to be very immature for her age. She still wants me to tuck her in at night or sit with her in bed, waits for me to wake up on the weekends before she will go downstairs to turn on TV, and is scared of every noise in the night. She is a child of divorce (since age 4). I was remarried when she was five, then divorced again when she was 10. She is a momma’s girl and is now refusing to visit her dad every other weekend.

She depends on me for everything, and I know this is my fault as I gave in and spoiled her (only child). I can’t believe how emotionally immature she is, as I watch other girls her age with boyfriends and normal teenage behavior who act so much more independently.

I’m glad she is a “good” girl, but I would like to see her be more independent. I feel smothered sometimes, and she is very selfish with me and my time. She still calls me “Mommy” and I have recently spoken to her about this as she will be starting 9th grade and don’t want friends to make fun of her. She is very kind to adults and very caring and loving, but I am so afraid that she is not ready for the REAL world in 4 years! HELP me make her more independent and not afraid to do things on her own. How do I do this??

EXPERT | Dr. Barbara Greenberg

Dear Mom,

First, let me say that it is quite wonderful that your daughter trusts and loves you. In life, there is nothing better than that.

However, you are right to be concerned about your daughter.

Your daughter has suffered losses and has probably developed some anxiety about relationships and people leaving her.

This may be the cause of her acting differently from other teenage girls.

I strongly suggest that you find a wonderful therapist for her. Make sure that it is a therapist that she can connect with. In the therapy room, she will be able to discuss her separation anxiety, her worries, and her resistance to leaving you and spending time with her father.

Be patient with your daughter. She is still quite young even though she is a teenager. Losses wreak havoc on the young and the old alike. When your daughter has developed an understanding of her life, my hope is that she will then be willing to move toward greater independence.

Good Luck.

Dr. Barbara Greenberg

Dr. Barbara Greenberg is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of teens, children, and families. She is the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language. She writes and consults for several publications and frequently appears on TV. You can find her work on her website drbarbaragreenberg.com.