Sad and disappointed: when to give up on a child's education?

I agree with the comment that you should not even be thinking about your daughter’s education right now. You should be thinking about how to help her get well. Also, you should not be the doctor. You should provide her with a safe environment to live, and get her to the right doctors who should do their job.

Is your daughter on medication? It takes a while, but the medical profession has gotten a lot better in dealing with depression and anxiety. Sometimes medication is needed. Sometimes the first medication does not work and they need to try a second or a third.

It is not unusual for very smart students to have to deal with depression and anxiety. I don’t want to go into details, but I am aware of cases that seemed similar to what you are dealing with where the student has over time with medical help gotten better, returned to school, and done exceptionally well. This takes time, and often takes medical help and some support from the family.

Great universities will still be there whenever your daughter does get better.

I’ve written about it elsewhere here, but my S dropped out of his Ivy in the middle of his eighth semester, with a spotty record his last two years but on track to graduate if he could finish. But he couldn’t. He came home, worked for five years, got his head back together, and then, having to write to a committee for permission, was allowed to come back for one semester and finish. He had to commute from home as the aid offered at that point wouldn’t have covered dorm, and we were very limited as to how much we could commit. He totally turned it around. Commuted three hours a day, took 20 credits, ended with a 3.8 for the semester and graduated with a respectable GPA. And now has an enjoyable professional job. overall, college took him ten years, and in the middle, I had very little expectation he’d graduate from the original school. But it happened. I wouldn’t count on it, but I also wouldn’t write it off. Help her get her self together, then see where things go.
Sending all the hugs and sympathy in the world–I have totally been where you are.

In the midst of the success stories, there are the tragedies too. Though it’s definitely a possible , maybe even a likely, given your daughter is clearly a bright, academically competent individual who is struggling with some internal demons right now. Most of the time , most, most, most, we learn to manage them. Deal with them. Reconcile our lives with them. Sometimes not in ways that parents, teachers, society would expect. Sometimes not ideally. But it’s important to learn to live with these issues and find a way in life to cope, find joy, and support one’s self. Being glued to the return to a certain school or situation is not always the optimal way to go.

From reading this post (and your other thread regarding trying to have a family therapy session which your daughter cancelled) I would greatly recommend that you start seeing a therapist if you haven’t already started.

Your pain, disappointment and anger regarding this situation is clear and you may find that therapy helps you to explore and understand your options to move forward as well as having a deeper understanding of both the benefits and limits of therapy as it may relate to your daughter.

Wishing you and your family the best.

Why are you so focused on the five year leave thing? I truly don’t see how being able to return simply pending a meeting with and approval from the dean as such a horrible barrier to completing a degree at Brown if she does decide she wants and is ready to do that.

It is okay to let the school go. Okay for you, okay for her. Give yourself permission to say it’s over, and start living like it is.
I just went through this with my daughter, although it was grad school, not undergrad, but it had been a struggle all through college. Same issues, depression and anxiety.
She took a deferment for a year before starting grad school, fell in love and got married during that year, then moved with her H back down to Boston to start her program. Within a month, the horrible anxiety came roaring back worse than ever. During that month, we tried to help her figure out how to be healthy within the program. But in the end, she quit. The day that happened, everything changed for us and for her. It was night and day. We went from worrying about suicide to simply wondering what she would choose to do with her life. Wonder is much, much better than worry, I promise.
In the 9 months since she quit, she and her husband had a baby, so I am now a grandma.

I think this is a fabulous idea. As long as she is serious about taking her meds and does not have suicide ideation. Sometimes the human brain skips like a scratched LP until we lift the needle and place it somewhere else.

@Emsmom1 : Consider schools with non-letter & non-numerical grading systems–such as the University of the Redlands in California–in order to reduce anxiety associated with testing, grading & ranking.


If you are not in therapy for yourself, I highly recommend you get in there ASAP! Preferably to a therapist who has experience with teens and young adults & experience with CBT and/or DBT.

Every single time my kid does or says something that causes anxiety and distress to well up inside me, I find my brain is so darn impatient for a solution, and impatient to feel relief from the onslaught of worry about “how things are going to turn out”.

It takes a LOT of practice to break free from this torture and being in therapy helped so. much. I remember telling the therapist, Please, help me break free from this roller coaster where what’s going on with my kid is determining MY happiness day to day. It’s killing me. I need some distance and acceptance.

@Midwest67 Took a lot of time for the therapist’s message to sink in: kids learn from their own mistakes and taking responsibility for them. (Big difference between being in high school vs older.)

We all understand OP’s girl is suffering depression. Many feel that “wiring” issue is not just a matter of voluntarily perking up and taking a brighter view of things. Meds can help, just as with physical problems. Counseling for the D, absolutely.

But when we get mired in the mud of it all, we need our own help. Partly to help us feel better and partly to truly learn how to help our child, not inadvertently perpetuate.

Easy? Nope.

I have been there and done that – it is incredibly hard. From the age of 18 to present (25) my daughter still hasn’t managed to finish; she has change course multiple times and finished none of it.

At this point she is never going to finish I guess – I am just accepting it. And I am not happy because she cannot make decent money between having only her HS education and her LD, it is rough.

But she did just get a job as a large animal vet tech at U of F so hopefully she will do well there – benefits and all that!

S2 went overseas almost 18 months ago. College was not a great experience, lots of depression and anxiety and the realization that his smarts could no longer compensate for serious LDs. Took off a semester. I admit we pushed him to finish; I was terrified that if he didn’t go back, he never would. After graduation, he came home and lived with us for 2.5 years working odd jobs, not making enough to have any hope of moving out on his own. It was a terrible dynamic for all of us, and I kept getting sucked into the conflicts between S and his dad. S also was in regular therapy; having seen me go to deal with the emotional fallout of all my medical stuff (and how to extricate myself from said difficult dynamics) made it a comfortable choice for him.

S went overseas to teach English and improve his language skills in the hopes that he’d be able to land the kinds of jobs he wants here. It has been an incredible experience for him. The cost of living there is much lower, so he is financially self-sufficient. He has found a life, friends, meaningful work beyond the teaching, and loves the country. Original plan was two years; now he’s talking three. He calls it “adulting lite,” but it’s hard to live in a country where English is not often spoken and the culture is so different from our own. (I am continually thankful we traveled with our kids as they were growing up. A lot of things were familiar and comfortable to him.)

That said, he had a colleague come over for the same job, his anxiety and depression overwhelmed him, and he went back home after a couple of months. Yes, going overseas could be absolutely a brilliant move, but not something I’d recommend if there are significant issues that have led to ideation or extreme swings in behavior. S got clearance from his doc and counselor and we had plans in place in case he struggled.

And +100 on getting therapy for yourself if you are struggling with letting go or anxiety about your S/D. It’s REALLY hard to let our kids make their own decisions and mistakes. I keep reminding myself of what I was doing in at my sons’ ages. That keeps me focused on the fact they are adults, that mistakes may lead to happier endings than any of us imagined, and keeps me grateful that my sons share far more with me than I ever did with my parents.

Thanks to everyone who replied. My daughter is in therapy and on medication. I found a parenting therapist, but my husband said that was ridiculous since the therapist doesn’t know our daughter. I am going to contact her current therapist to see if we can meet with her (after discussing it with my daughter).

FWIW, your therapist doesn’t need to know your daughter to be impactful for your.

Most therapists who work with your child will request that you work with a separate therapist. Your therapist doesn’t need to “know” your daughter because they will focus on you and your husband and ideas for how the two of you can help your daughter without losing yourselves or your relationship. It sounds wrong, but it is a good idea.

I’m so sorry. I think it’s hard for anyone to understand unless they’ve been down this road. Have you looked into your state chapter of NAMI? Their Family to Family class would be very helpful for gaining perspective and wisdom in dealing with your daughter’s situation. I agree that the number one priority should be helping her get stronger. She may not be able to go back to college, but don’t worry about that now. Take one step at a time. My son ended up dropping out permanently, and that’s been a hard pill for us to swallow. On the other hand, he’s happy and stable. In comparison, my middle child, who was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder, is thriving and set to graduate from college in December. The common denominator was that we told the boys not to worry about anything other than getting help for their illnesses.

YOUR therapy is not about your daughter. It’s not about teaching you how to get her to behave a certain way.
Your therapy is about YOU! The therapist only needs to understand your emotions and how you relate to and react to your daughter.

A good therapist will get a read on your D from you. And you’re the patient.

You dont want the therapist who knows her private thoughts and revelations. Only in family counseling, where she offers details or not. This is for you. And Dad, if he chooses. Many of us feel he should. But go without him, if needed.

Does having the time to go back to the college add stress to your dd? What does she want to do? It is really up to her. It is so difficult as a parent to watch our kids suffer from mental health issues and not make good choices toward improving their lives. One of mine has depression and ADD inattentive. Takes medication for the depression but has not yet been motivated to do other things that would help cope with the down days that still come. Is independent and working, but has not finished school. I have not given up hope, but have had to accept that it is now his life and his choices. I am as supportive as I can be and will also offer some observations, depending on his mood and openness at the moment. No reason not to remain cautiously optimistic that she will find the right combination of medication and therapy to move forward with living a fuller life, even while knowing there is some chance it might not happen. Therapy for yourself can really help, especially in learning how to live with the choices your dd makes.

My neighbors would be thrilled if their 30 yo son would just get a job and live on his own. He’s depressed and has other health issues that he seems to be mostly in denial about, but it’s hard not to feel like he should be making more progress. All he needs to do to graduate from Princeton is to write his thesis, but he just seems to be stuck. I have no answers for the OP, but lots of sympathy.