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My teenage daughter is failing in school, drinking, and doing drugs. I don’t know what to do.


​I have been struggling with my 17-year-old daughter for about 3 1/2 years now and I have taken all I can take. She is failing school, drinking, and doing drugs. My current husband will not help and says I am too harsh. I do have past issues from sexual abuse and have become very angry with certain issues, but I am in therapy as well. The whole family has been in therapy at one time or another to deal with the many issues. I moved out for a bit to see if that would help, but it only helped contribute to my daughter's problems. Now, both my daughter and husband say I can't come back. Or, I can come back when they decide, or I can come back, but not stay. I recently found out my husband is still legally married to his first wife because he did not show up to his divorce hearing over eight years ago and he lied saying he was divorced in the first place. He will not bac​k me to help with my daughter and says she is working on homework, (which she is not doing much) changes her curfew all the time, and says it's just pot and gives her no consequences and continues to fight with me. The therapist seems to just be taking my money and I am not sure at this point what I can do. I love her so much, but she will not let me in. I am trying to keep her from not failing school. Can you please help?​​


Boys Town - Failing in School

We are so glad you reached out to us. It sounds like you're feeling very frustrated. It's not always easy to reach out for support, but it shows a lot of courage to be asking for help. We are happy to be here for you and talk through the situation. You never need to deal with these things on your own. 

It can be so challenging when we feel that those we love and care for are making destructive decisions. It sounds like things have been very tense between you, your 17-year-old daughter, and your husband for quite a long time which has caused you to feel very concerned and upset. You tried your best to improve the situation at home by going to therapy and moving out, but you feel that this has only made matters worse. Your daughter is failing school, drinking, and doing drugs. This must be incredibly difficult to have been dealing with, especially when you're feeling so unsupported. 

Your husband and daughter have told you that you're not allowed to come back until they say so. Is this something they have control over? If not, it may be ideal to move back home so you can support your daughter. Once back home, you can set up a regular study time and praise or reward positive behavior. It's important to recognize the things your daughter is doing well. 

If your daughter is choosing to disregard schoolwork, drink, or do drugs, then it may also be beneficial to give her consequences. When you give consequences or speak to your daughter about her behavior, do so calmly. It can be rather easy to lose your temper but getting upset will only make the situation worse. She is out of control, so you must stay in control. It may be helpful to pick a time to discuss her behavior when she is calm as well. 

Regardless of whether you move back home, it can be helpful to communicate with school staff and work together to address the problem. 

If you would like to reach out and tell us more about the situation, we can talk more in-depth about how to deal with your tense home situation. These tip pages can also give you some ideas for things you can do to support your daughter's wellbeing:

There also is a four-week email series about helping children succeed in school that you can sign up for if you would like. 

Please know that you are not alone in dealing with your situation or emotions. We are always here to talk when you need support. Emails can take up to 48 hours for a response, and it can be more difficult to have a conversation over email than over a phone call or text. To speak with a counselor more immediately and to be able to talk more in-depth about your situation, you can call us at 1-800-448-3000 anytime. No matter how you choose to reach out, we look forward to hearing from you and providing support for you through this difficult time. ​