Nina was the eldest in a family of six children, including a set of seven-year-old triplets. She was the sort of girl who would be described by others as a dream daughter. She was kind and easy-going and loved helping out at home, baking, organizing and playing with the children. If you asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she’d say mother first, and then maybe a hairdresser- she spent a lot of time practicing elaborate hairstyles on her younger sister. At school, she had always been an unremarkable but well-liked student and received reasonable school reports. So Nina’s mother was taken aback when the school called one day to say that Nina had been repeatedly in trouble recently and that they had now classified her as one of the troublemakers of the grade. She was hanging out with the ‘rebel’ students, skipping classes, not turning in her assignments, and generally displaying what the homeroom teacher called a negative attitude.
It seemed completely out of character
and Nina’s mother asked her if anything bad had happened or what was going on. But Nina said that the school was just full of hypocrites and she was tired of hiding the real her. Nina’s mother was at a loss and called Kav L’Noar.
When the Kav L’Noar therapist asked Nina about school and about what had caused such an apparently drastic change- Nina said that in fact, she’d always struggled in school. She said that the only difference was that previously, she’d always attended every class, sat at the back, and kept her head down. But she’d never really connected with any of the teachers, never felt confident about her studies, and never felt that the school was interested in helping her succeed. When the therapist asked about what was drawing Nina to her new group of friends whom the school disapproved of,
Nina said that they were the most genuine people she knew.
“They’re not trying to live up to other people’s standards or expectations, they don’t fake who they are- they are just themselves. I can be anyone I want to be with them- they’ll always accept me.”
The therapist asked Nina if she felt like she could be anyone she wanted to be with her family too, and Nina shook her head.
“I don’t want to hurt them. I want to do things differently-like I really don’t like their conservatism, nor how noisy and opinionated they are for example, but I also don’t want them to feel I’m rejecting them. Also what I want changes every day. Sometimes I want to dye my hair green and get an eyebrow ring if only to stop people putting me in the ‘nice girl next door’ box. Other times I fantasize about disappearing into one of those silent meditation retreats I’ve seen advertised. It’s so confusing. How can I risk ruining my relationship with my parents when I don’t even know what I want? The only thing I know for sure is that I’m not interested in pleasing my teachers any more- I hate everything my school stands for.”
Every so often, Nina’s mother came to Kav L’Noar for a joint therapy session with her daughter. In one of these sessions Nina’s mother said that she could feel Nina’s frustration with her, and that even though she didn’t know what was causing it, she was willing to do whatever it took to make sure that they maintained a positive relationship. She also said that she thought they should move Nina to a new school, and asked the therapist if she could recommend anywhere that might be a better fit.
The therapist recommended that Nina move to a small school which was known for being both forward-thinking and particularly supportive of students who struggled academically. The new school offered all its students psycho didactic testing, and because Nina was found to have dyslexia, she was given access to specialist resources to help her. Her grades quickly started to improve, and she said that she felt cared about and supported for the first time.
Once Nina was feeling understood and respected in school, the therapist was able to help her focus on other parts of her life. Over time, Nina started to clarify with the therapist which values she felt were part of her and wanted to take into adulthood, like her love for the natural world, and which she really wanted to leave behind. Some of the lifestyle changes that Nina wanted to make would take her on a very different path from one chosen by her parents, and they were bemused and worried at first, joking that she was becoming a hippy and a treehugger and openly fretting about where she might end up. Nina found it very hard to defend her emerging beliefs about the environment and other causes- feeling that if her parents disagreed she must have got things wrong. The therapist supported Nina during this time, empowering her with the confidence to continue developing her own separate identity while still maintaining the warm, loving, and respectful relationship with her parents that she’d always had.
Nina finished therapy feeling much more comfortable with who she was than when she started and ended up successfully passing her high school matriculation exams, something she’d never previously believed possible.
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