Our Daughter's Nightly Struggle

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My daughter is 16 and like all teens  deals with social drama and ups and downs.  I want her to have a cell phone for safety, but last year I began to realize that she was using it for much more than that. She was staying up late at night texting and on social media, and the beautiful daughter I know and love was, quite frankly, becoming awful to live with. 

 After investigating her hours of late night phone use (which for a technology challenged mom like myself was no easy task),  my husband and I decided it was time for us to start putting her device in our room at bedtime. I honestly had no idea how much this decision would impact her. After she blew up in anger, she began sobbing and puddled on the floor. As I held her, I just listened. Listened to all the worries and fears of fitting in and keeping up, but there was something even more alarming keeping her up at night…My daughter had been counseling another teen late at night who was suicidal.  Her huge heart had been on high alert. She HAD to stay up and be available at all times “in case” her friend needed her. 

We were able to talk, really talk, (well, she talked and I held my breath hoping that it wouldn’t stop).  She shared all her social circle drama, the comments on social media she had to keep up with, the sleep overs and parties she saw that she knew she wasn’t invited to, and most importantly how she was single handedly owning responsibility for her friend’s life.  My teen was relieved when we talked through how to break the silence and get her friend help, real help, and that it wasn’t my daughter’s responsibility to carry that burden, especially not alone.  Together we came up with a plan to involve adults who can support her friend and break the silence over suicidal thoughts.

After the dust settled and we stuck to our new “no phone at bedtime” rule, I was amazed at the changes we saw.  I could tell that my girl was so relieved!  Much like setting limits with a curfew, she needed that structure from us to take the pressure off.  Also, while initially it was an adjustment for all of us at bedtime to take the phone (not going to lie, some days were harder than others depending on what was going on socially), after awhile it became routine.  She began to use our limits to protect herself too, telling peers her mom and dad were taking the phone (we gave her permission to blame us for any lame-ness).  She got sleep, she was less irritable and I saw my beautiful girl come back.

Navigating this technology thing is not fun, for parents or our teens. But I will fight for our daughter’s health, and am happy to report that this battle was worth it.  

Allison, START Parent, Overland Park, KS

Krista Boan