Wandering teens, mothers in distress


Wandering teens, mothers in distress: When teenagers go wrong, mothers are the first to suffer. Why are they more fragile than fathers? How do you help them through this step? The psychiatrist Xavier Pommereau gives us leads.

Wandering teens, mothers in distress
Wandering teens, mothers in distress

“Adele was 15 when she started to lie, to go out, to refuse to listen … Until one day, by chance, I discovered her scarifications. Isabelle, 40, falls from high. She tries to speak to her husband, but the latter minimizes, the traffic of “anguished who better let go of the sneakers to his daughter.” Since then, Isabelle no longer dares to approach the issue as a family. She worries for Adele, loses sleep and decides to consult. Situations like these, more or less severe, Xavier Pommereau, psychiatrist, sees dozens a year. In his forthcoming book, Teen spin, bulk Mother, it sounds the alarm: “The parents are alone in their suffering, they live more painfully than fathers tension link with their child. They carried it in their flesh; they have it in their skin. They confront, subscribe and suffer in silence, trying not to be overwhelmed by guilt. However, tracks exist to cross at best, side parents as children, this cataclysm that is sometimes adolescence.

Wandering teens, mothers in distress: Involving the father

Married or single, a teen’s mother always feels lonely. “Fathers are afraid of this great ebullition of the effects that is adolescence, analyzes Xavier Pommereau. Then they run away. To such an extent that in the Aquitaine pole of the adolescent, psys are often obliged to summon them insistently to bring them in and involve them in a new family dynamic. The first step for the mother to come out of suffering is, therefore, the priority of involving the father. “It is a cliché, but it is true: they have carried their child, they feel that it belongs to them more. Moreover, especially if they are fusional, they tend to exclude the father, even if he is present because it allows them to extend the “body to heart” with the child. The psychiatrist makes parental involvement one of his creeds. “We want to see the fathers, and we do everything to get the mother to support this position,” he insists. First of all, because the teen is doing stupid things to group his parents around him, then because the mothers must learn to let go of their fantasy of omnipotence. ”

Obviously, everything is more difficult for those who live alone. “In this case, we must reintegrate father, symbolically. The mother and the teen can then share their difficulties with a person embodying a male figure, a friend, an uncle, a shrink, or addressing an association. They are numerous and very active. This exchange makes it possible to grasp the situation differently, to take the necessary distance to find solutions or, quite simply, to calm the relationship by leaving the passionate register. This presence of the third allows the women to be heard, but also to lighten, a little, of the enormous weight of their guilt.


The entourage often sends messages that we do not hear, while they can be of great help. “Instead of stealing when the grandfather says:” Audrey is not very cheerful at this time, “better open her ears, Xavier Pommereau goes on. Especially if others (friend, teacher) return the same echo. He recommends the parents to keep a notebook at hand to record in bulk all they have captured: teen phrases (“tired of everything,” “I am null”), observations (falling notes, Loss of appetite), anxiety (drug, depression). These various inscriptions, difficult to decipher at the moment, will take their full meaning once read as a whole. It is not a question of spying on his child but of observing his behavior to differentiate between what the psychiatrist calls “a gap” and “a break.” “Dyeing your hair in blue is a gap. Shaving the skull and inscribing signs, it is a tear … If the difference is used to assert oneself and to seek limits, the break is used to make his suffering hear and try to control it. ”

Anticipate separation

“All mothers should take stock of the relationship they have with their child when the child reaches 9 or 10 years,” says Pommereau. A too merged relationship is a source of future difficulties. At 14 or 15, sometimes even before, the adolescent feels the need to separate from his parents, especially his mother. The greater the emotional proximity, the more difficult the separation. Moreover, this painful detachment can, in extreme cases, result in different symptoms: anorexia, addictions, dangerous behaviors … The psychiatrist proposes a range of questions be asked before the burst of puberty breaks out. “Do not I expect too much from my child?” Am I not using him to fill my effective life? How’s my couple? The doctor observes it daily in his practice: mothers are excellent radars. They feel the condition of their child quickly and have to trust themselves.

Fighting violence

Whether physical or verbal, it is always the sign of a profound disturbance. “Free violence at home does not exist! “Said Xavier Pommereau. It expresses the conviction of the adolescent that he has suffered violence, real or fantasized. “Perhaps the parents simply reduced the space necessary for the child to become autonomous, leading in reaction to a resistance of the young person to what he considers an occupation,” he continues. An occupation which then produces violence. ”

What to do when violence breaks out? The doctor offers answers that help defuse the crisis and avoid putting oneself in danger. When the teenager begins to scream, to hit the walls, to throw objects on the ground, “one should not approach him (or her) more than the length of an outstretched arm, To two meters. This is a safe distance; it is respect for the minimum territorial space. To cross it in a situation of conflict is a signal of aggression which can provoke a violent reaction “. Other advice: do not argue in the kitchen, where dangerous objects are within reach. Fathers and mothers can also reduce tension by acting on their gestures. “We have the reflex to stand up to confront the other,” says Xavier Pommereau. The opposite must be made, to sit first. This sends a signal of appeasement. When one is seated, one can not fight: it is, therefore, an offer of a truce. The bad idea? Look at her child in the eyes and ask her to do the same: “Teens experience it as aggression. They hide behind their hoods, their hair. They do not want to be drilled up to date. If you get carried away, look elsewhere. Moreover, most importantly, let him go calm down, and resume the discussion later. ”

When it takes place, it is essential to get involved in the discussion, to say “we are not well” rather than “you are not well,” not to accuse but to question, opening. If the teenager comes to blows, even minimal (jostling, gripping), “it must be calmly and firmly indicated to him that his behavior will not be tolerated and that he has crossed a limit. Later, we can open the discussion. If the gesture was more severe (blows, rampages), do not hesitate to call the police, this very often produces a good shock. Finally, it is necessary to involve a third party (psychologist, therapist) as quickly as possible so that the violence does not become a mode of a family relationship “.

Dare to consult

If many mothers hesitate to ask, it is because they try to convince themselves that the situation is difficult but neither abnormal nor desperate. Moreover, then do not they risk burning unnecessarily descartouches that might prove necessary later? How to know? “The right moment to consult is when you feel overwhelmed, that the problems of the adolescent take up too much space and that you lost your bearings,” says Xavier Pommereau. The path can be done in stages, with stops, even regressions … apparent. It may be necessary to call several people, at different times: an educator, a psychiatrist … before finding the right interlocutor. In other words, nothing is lost, even if the journey seems chaotic: work and maturation progress underground, and therefore invisible. “Mothers should not be discouraged, but say that these apparent failures participate in therapy,” concludes the psychiatrist. We better see these moments when we know that these are not failures. Provided however to take back the thread. Moreover, bearing in mind that our children are not only what we do, but individuals in their right, whose destiny is to escape us.

” Today, I accept to no longer be the one who cares for the care “


Marie-Ange, 48 years old, mother of Sarah, 20 years old
“Sarah was a very cheerful little girl, sporty, a little round. At 14, she changed her eating habits. She sorted her food, removed the fat. This is how episodes of anorexia and bulimia began. In second, she swallowed tablets. In the hospital, I discovered a girl I did not know, who refused to touch her. She minimized the incident and shut herself up. She was losing weight, but I did not put a name on her illness yet, I did not want to see. I lived in such anguish … I could not talk to her; she refused everything. I watched him incessantly. She ate, mostly in secret, and made herself vomit. It was dreadful. To see his child suffer, to destroy himself, is atrocious.

The nurse of the lycee directed us towards the Aquitaine pole of the adolescent. Dr. Pommereau demanded hospitalization. Sarah was separated from us for three months. For me, it was both a relief of knowing finally safe and a tear. I started psychotherapy. That allowed me to understand. My mother was murdered in Israel by a young Palestinian on a pilgrimage. Sarah was one-year-old. I understood how much it had weighed on her. I felt abandoned by my mother, and I dreaded everything for my daughter, I clung to her. I pulled her to the bottom. I think she tried everything to escape, including losing weight so I could not grasp it.

Today, I agree not to be the one who cares, that Sarah can harm herself and even to others. I accept to wish his happiness and no longer want him at all costs. I agree to be just there. It is difficult, the old demons are quick to re-emerge, but things are progressing. My husband supports me enormously. We participate in a group of parents. Sarah lives alone; she is in BTS. Today she is better, but it will take time. “


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