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dramascientist
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Hi everyone, I guess I'm looking for a little advice about my DD. After having to turn down a place at Tring because of lack of funding (we live abroad and don't qualify for MDS) my daughter has suddenly become really withdrawn and depressed. She was okay for a couple of weeks after the news and started private singing lessons and joined a drama group to have more strings to her bow ready to apply for 6th form dance next year but now seems to have lost her sparkle completely. She has been studying at the national ballet school where we live since she was eleven and previously has loved every minute but we applied to Tring because her teacher suddenly began to tell her she was fat and would never make it as a ballet dancer. Also she began to worry that she would not have anything to fall back on if she didn't make it (the school is completely focussed on dance after 5th form with no academic studies at all). She is very bright academically and very sensible too so we listened to her worries and that's why we contacted Tring. They were wonderful and of course she was thrilled to be offered a place and even thogh she can't go next year, I hoped that having got in she would see that the head of dance at Tring thought she was tallented enough to offer her a place so she would hopefully not necessarily only listen to her teacher here. Now however she is so quiet and hardly talks at all, sitting in her room by herself and even need to be persuaded to go out with her best friend. My husband says she is just being a teenager but it is so out of character I don't know what to do. She has a place at Tring's summer school but she has even stopped talking about this now. Has anybody seen this type of thing with their DDs or has any suggestions? HELP!

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Hi Dramascientist. Really sorry to hear that your daughter has become withdrawn. That must be so hard for you!! I can't say that it has happened to my children but I have worked a bit with teenagers who do not want to talk and it is is very hard. I bet you just want to scream "what is wrong? and what can I do to make it go away?". Something that sometimes works when talking is avoided is to write a letter to your daughter. Sounds strange but its so much less confrontational and allows her to deal with your thoughts in her own time and space and when she want to. She may think it is odd if you hand her a letter but just go with it and see how she responds. Try not to ask for to many answers from her as she may not know exactly what is going on in her head herself. I would suggest letting her know that you are aware she is not feeling happy and wondered if she could do with help to get back to her happy self. You can admit you don't know what that help might be at the moment but that you could begin to work together a bit if she wants. Ask for a letter in reply. It may not be dancing that is causing this issue, there may be other things going on but if you try to gently open up communication you may get somewhere. I don't know if any of this will help, but huge luck. xx

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Let her know that you love her and that no matter what she does, you will always love her. Give her plenty of hugs and affection. She might think that what she is feeling is silly so won't open up, but if you approach it by letting her know that it's not silly, it's real, and that you want to help her feel better she might start to open up.

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Thank you for your replies and pms. It brought tears to my eyes to read your kind words. I was pleased that tonight my DD actually sat downstairs, not actually talking but its the most time she has spent with me over the last few weeks. My husband was out and a couple of times she seemed like she wanted to say something but instead she just asked for a drink or something. I guess I will just have to wait until she is ready. I will definitely take your advice

Beljul and write her a letter!

 

Tulte And Drdance have sent you pms.

 

Thank you everyone its nice to know I am not alone.

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Hi I may have missed this but I don't think you said how old your daughter actually was? If she is very early teens this could be a reaction to developing puberty and becoming more self conscious generally and may need adjusting time however something else may have sparked this off which hopefully you will find out eventually. I am truly sorry to hear that her dancing teacher described her as fat....I really think this is disgraceful....as these sort of comments can lead to girls becoming super sensitive about their weight and worse. However you've had some excellent advice already and I'm sure she'll be okay soon. I know one of my friends sons went through a rather in communicative stage where only vague grunts of hallo and goodbye were to be got from him but now you can talk to him about anything discuss books you've read etc the lot!

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How horrible and inexcusable of a teacher to tell her she's fat.  I wouldn't let that kind of behavior go by. 

 

I think any kind of change in behavior (yes, I know she's a teen) should be carefully watched - espeically if she also shuts out friends. 

 

Of course, lots of love and support from you - but I would keep a watchful eye out.  Teens are so vulnerable.  We can't know everything that is  happening in their lives - and how they perceive it.  Life isn't easy and when one is just beginning to realize that it becomes difficult to see the road ahead.

 

I wish her well - and happy  - and I'm sure you will keep a careful eye on her.  

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Hi i would echo what anjuli says and keep a close eye on her. It's obvious her confidence and emotions have taken a knock both with the weight comments and the unfortunate situation with regard to funding and her place at tring. This maybe her way of dealing with these knocks and sometimes to withdraw is another way of dealing with feeling wounded emotionally. Give her some space and time while as previously said letting her know you are there when she feels ready to engage again. You may find she may not want to talk about it and may just want to move on without much discussion around the subject. Possibly invite one of her close friends around to visit or possibly encourage her to indulge in something she enjoys and usually gains pleasure from.

Ax

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All great advice dramascientist, and I think the letter is a wonderful idea, particularly if your dd might find it easier to write back rather than talking.

 

I do feel for you as my dd has a tendency to be a bit of a closed book - and teenagers are a mystery in any case! :-)

 

What I would add is that in your situation I would want a meeting with the Head of your dd's school immediately, as telling a child they are fat and will never make it is totally unacceptable.

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I am livid that a teacher called a student fat, it is not acceptable.

 

Excellent advice on here already. Is there an activity/outing/job you could do together?  i.e. baking or a walk out somewhere. I used to do this with my ds and sometimes found this suddenly triggered  a torrent of rambling thoughts that I would listen to and do my best to help with- sometimes saying "yes, I remember feeling like that" to emphasize. Sometimes the most trivial conversations developed into some very deep ones indeed and for us it often worked better than a straightforward "what's wrong."

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I found that my more quiet and self contained did would always talk about her worries in the car, but never at home.I wish you all the best of luck. She must be heartbroken at not being able to go to the college and to be insulted in such a cruel and wicked way was the last straw, poor girl.

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I am so sorry to hear that your dd is going through so much.  I think for a dance teacher to call a student fat is totally unacceptable, though I know it goes on in the UK as well as a girl I know who attended Northern Ballet Associates programme had been told that she needed to lose weight, and she had a lovely figure.

 

Have you looked at private sponsorship to enable her to take up her place at Tring.  I know that there is not a lot about, but Sky Arts council are advertising that they may fund individuals for arts related training and there are a few other arts projects that sometimes fund.  I know arts funding has been cut to the bone, but it might be worth a try.

 

With regard to withdrawing, I know my dd, who used to tell me everything, is spending more and more time in her bedroom, but have discovered that taking her a hot chocolate up to her room at night time, when she is getting ready for sleep opens the door and allows her to open up without feeling her space is invaded.  The letter idea is also a brilliant one as I think sometimes they don't realise that they are worrying you with their actions.

 

Whatever you decided to do I wish both you and daughter all the best and hope she soon gets her mojo back!

 

Edited for spelling mistakes

Edited by Huddsballetmum
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I'm really sorry to hear your dd is going through such a hard time at the moment. 

There is nothing more heartbreaking as a parent to see your child really unhappy and feeling powerless to help. 

There has been some fabulous advice on here already (as ever) and as others have said the teenage years can be particularly difficult; it is the norm for 64% of them to be experiencing 2 or more symptoms of depression at any one time.  For the majority of them it is transient and your daughter is one of the lucky ones who has the love and support from you and her family as a huge protective factor.  Keep the lines of communication open and hopefully your dd will have the resilience to return to her usual self quickly.  I have also sent you a PM.

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I found that my more quiet and self contained did would always talk about her worries in the car, but never at home.I wish you all the best of luck. She must be heartbroken at not being able to go to the college and to be insulted in such a cruel and wicked way was the last straw, poor girl.

I too found that ds would suddenly open up in the car, especially 5 mins from home with the result that a further hour would be spent on the driveway. Maybe its because its a more neutral environment or there are less distractions such as the TV.

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It may also be the fact that it isn't a face to face conversation in the car; whether they are front seat or back seat passengers, if you are driving then you can't safely face them and look directly at them while they express something with which they may have been battling. I do hope that you and your DD find a way through this and that she recovers her joie de vivre soon. She must be very talented to be accepted at Tring (for Y11?) and to have retained her place since the age of 11 at the national ballet school where you are living.

 

I second Huddsballetmum's suggestion regarding funding options for Tring. I assume that Tring aren't able to offer assistance towards funding for your DD as she is ineligible for MDS funding? Do enquire if you're not sure, you won't lose anything by asking, even if the answer is no, but may possibly gain a great deal!

 

With regard to your DD being told that she is fat, this is totally unacceptable and harkens back to the old stereotypes of ballet students existing on black coffee and cigarettes. Is her school very old-style (and I am NOT in any way excusing their telling your DD that she is fat) or is the teacher concerned very old-style in terms of a 'that's what we were told and that's how we were taught and it was good enough for me' mentality? Sometimes teachers with this mindset don't realise the effects of what they are saying and may even think that it 'toughens' their students' resolve and determination to succeed in the very harsh ballet world. - Whatever the bizarre 'reasoning' behind this teacher's cruel remarks to your daughter, remind her that she would NOT have been given a place at Tring had she been in any way overweight or lacking in real potential to make it as a dancer! That is the real positive here - that Tring has totally negated your DD's teacher's remarks by offering her a place, even if she is unable to take it up.

 

Wishing your DD a speedy recovery of her usual self and self-belief and sending you both virtual hugs x

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Legseleven is totally correct, there is no way the young lady in question would have been offered a place on the dance course if she was in any way overweight- the head of dance is quite rightly very particular about who is accepted for training.

 

I also think its worth enquiring about any possible avenues for funding.

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In regards to the remark above concerning being in a car when meaningful conversations occur ......

 

I think it is very true that people often feel more able to open up when not actually looking directly at one another.  I think it was Jane Goodall who found that in our chimp and gorilla  cousins eye to eye contact is actually considered threatening - or challenging.  I've tried this and it is also very true with people.

 

When people gather in groups such as at a coffee shop where they have the freedom to move the chairs around, they (especially men) will line the chairs up alongside one another (often with the back against a wall) and so they sit in a line facing out.  Women are more likely to arrange their chairs facing one another - a bit obliquely.  The space between the chairs is usually quite exact -just as it is when we stand and talk to one another.

 

What does this have to do with depression - probably nothing - but it does facilitate meaningful conversation when people are comfortable with the setting.

 

Also the car represents neutral territory.  The sitting distance is set.  People are very territorial and this does have an affect on how we behave.  Even in a child's bedroom - the parent is in control - he/she owns the living space.  The child's space is only there through the parent.  It would seem this holds true for a car - but not as much.  It is open to the public and is not a designated "this is my space" environment.

 

Communication is best when each feels that the space is neutral - that each has some control of the setup. 

 

I found that sometimes it was a good idea to pick up a fast lunch and eat it in the car.  Arranging this seemingly spontaneously (spontaneity is important)  worked best as in:  "Tomorrow is a busy day so let's pick up lunch and park at the lake on the way to driving you to ........."

 

That sets up a neutral space, a reason (other than deep conversation) to stop, and an activity (eating) which keeps the hands busy.  And the space is in public - but still private.

 

I also found that affirming what the child was saying was just as good as trying to find a solution because sometimes there is no obvious immediate solution.  Most of us are seeking validation for how we feel.  Without that validation we are alone. 

 

Hope it all works out for you and yours.  I'm sure it will.

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I have thinking about you and your daughter drama scientist, since reading your post. Seeing our children hurting is so painful, especially if there doesn't appear to be an easy way to help. I quite agree with the comments made about car journeys. I think generally it helps if you can be in a situation where talking does not appear to be the priority. Somehow it takes the pressure off. Otherwise we can feel cornered and end up saying things we did not quite mean. You seem to be wonderfully supportive. Keep up the positives, tell her how pretty she looks today, or you like what she has done with her hair. Compliment her on her school work or her dedication to her hobbies. Take a long walk and talk about the coming spring. And if she does start to open up, take it very slowly, cautiously almost. Accept what she says about how she feels. We sometimes leap in with "but you shouldn't feel that about yourself...." Tell her its ok to feel sad sometimes. And there is help out there from professionals. It's nothing to feel embarrassed about, after all we go to a doctor when our body is hurting.

I hope things work out.

X

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Thank you so much everyone I cannot tell you what a relief it is to hear that this can be "normal" teenager behaviour and it has helped to put it into perspective a bit. I have tried to be neutral over the last couple of days and just give DD some time to work through things, I can sometimes be a bit "perky" and try to jolly everyone along which I can imagine would be annoying if you are not feeling positive so I have attempted to tone it down a bit and give her some space. She did open up just briefly the other evening just before bed to say that she knew she was being awful. I told her that we all lack confidence in ourselves sometimes and it was okay. She said that she knows that she is so lucky to have what she has but she can't seem to pull herself out of (her words) "a black box" at the moment. Its almost like she is grieving, is that possible? Just to say we have spoken to the school about the teachers comments and they told us that it can be the way with these "old school" teachers and apparently some other parents have also complained so we are not the only ones who are unhappy about it. I have also been assured that she will have a different teacher next year, not that it helps us now. I did also speak to the teacher herself but she was all smiles and positve comments ???? She did say that DD might not completely understand what she is trying to say to her (the school is not in English) but I think she was just covering her back.

 

Thanks again everybody I will keep you posted as to how things go!

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Many sufferers of depression refer to it as a 'black cloud' or a 'black box' so that's interesting she used those words. In fact Winston Churchill is famous for having referred to a 'Black dog' that followed him around. As long as she knows you're there for her, and as other people have said, let her know that how she feels is totally valid, not at all silly, and that you understand - and that she's allowed to feel like this. 

 

If it goes on and on, or she appears to want to feel better, it might be worth seeking professional advice. Does the school have a counsellor or a doctor?

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Glad to hear that your dd has opened up a little. Hearing that your child feels like they are in a 'black box' is really tough :( The good thing about her giving you this description is that you now have a point of reference for her feelings. You can now work to get her 'out of the black box'. You can ask gentle questions such as 'how black does the box feel today?'. What time of the day does the box feel blackest? Is it ever just a grey box'? etc It's a powerful visual image as is 'climbing out of the black box', or switching lights on etc etc. Visual people often work best with other visual images. Go gently on the questions but it will certainly help to use her images and language if you manage to get a chat going.

 

Meant to say that it could be grief that she is suffering as she has suffered a meaningful loss - her place at dance school, and loss of self esteem (self image due to teachers comments). You could tell her that you feel like she is grieving these losses and if that is the case she needs to go through it but that she will come out the other end. xxxxx

 

Edited to add last bit.

Edited by Belljul
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I would second all the helpful advice here in dealing with your poor DDs 'black dog' but just wondered if the fundamental problem derives primarily from her being told she won't make it as a ballet dancer due to her weight. Quite apart from the collective inbreath of horror from all on this forum that anyone should say such a thing it occurs to me that in applying to only Tring both you and she have effectively believed this teacher (sorry I don't mean to disparage Tring for ballet but I get the impression that had you been considering ballet primarily you would have also applied elsewhere). Maybe you might consider that not only is the teacher evidently old school and shockingly insensitive but quite possibly entirely wrong about your DDs potential and hence has held her back from applying to other schools where she might be able to get funding. I don't know which country you are in but the acceptible norm for dancers' height and weight does vary culturally and even from company to company. I do remember being shocked at the part in the film 'La Danse' where the AD of the POB comments that a new corps dancer is looking 'so much better' as she had lost even more weight (she was like a stick to start with), and I get the impression that POB, for example, is particulary inflexible on the height/weight range.

There is plenty of evidence of dancers being told they would never make it due to some reason or another who went on to be very successful. And many who got turned down by one big name ballet school and then accepted by another who went on to be principal dancers. At very least I would get a few more opinions...

Good luck with it all....

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This happened to my friends dd last year. Got into Tring but no funding. Made her work harder, lost weight and tried again this year, got in and auditioned for scholarship but never got it again. Now she is saying she is nearly there and keeps working hard. She is 12

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I suppose it is easy to forget how intense everything can be with adolescent ages and that what they are feeling in the moment may seem as if those feelings will be "forever". It's easier for us more life experienced to have more perspective and know that things change....it can be a bit all or nothing at that age. Looks like some improvement however and the fact that she is aware of how she is coming across makes me think she is actually quite a mature young lady perhaps facing a first big disappointment? It's really important that you've been to the school and spoken about the comments made to your daughter as that shows your true support and may even help the teacher concerned as well. Yes ballet is a tough old world but you don't have to be a dragon to get the best out of people or give them good advice. My friends daughter in Sydney is 13 and up till now a keen ballet student but has just started putting on a bit of normal adolescent weight which the teachers there seem to be worried about!! Just hope they dont put her off too. In the end though passion is what really holds people together and keeps them trying inspite of obstacles sometimes. So hope your daughter will soon have renewed passion for her ballet while that is still what she really wants to do.

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Can I just add my own opinion? It seems to me ,from what you have said,and indeed, from what everyone else on this forum has said,that the problem is her self-esteem, coupled with the nasty comment of a teacher. I don`t mind disclosing to everyone on this forum for the first time, that I have suffered from clinical depression on and off,for the last 18 years or so. [Along with other, more severe mental health conditions]. What many people don`t realise, is that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. No amount of "pulling yourself together", or  " snapping out of it " will correct that chemical imbalance. Only medication will do this. I am not for one moment suggesting your daughter is suffering from actual depression [as opposed to being down in the dumps]. Please just be aware though, that if this continues for a while, or keeps recurring, to take her to her GP. It`s unusual, but children can and do suffer from depression too.The vast majority of depression sufferers , after taking anti-depressants for a few months, notice their moods and  emotions go back to the way they used to be, and often never need the medication again. Sadly, for a percentage like myself, it is a life-long battle. Good luck.

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Keeping communication open is good, I wish I had been able to talk to someone sooner about my situation. Don't dismiss it, depression can be really scary, especially when she's so young and you feel empty, even if you cant explain why. I really feel for your daughter, and I don't know if this applies to her, but maybe she has lost sight of where she wants to be. Setting a goal of what she wants to achieve might give her a more positive outlook. Having worked hard to get into tring, she may feel lost and confused about her future and the short and long term goals may help her see that she should be proud of herself for even getting in and that whilst she may have suffered a set back, she can only move forward :) I really wouldnt even consider any form of drugs yet, too much can be just as bad, a friend of mine was rather too emotional at times as a result. Also, if she's feeling down, don't overestimate the power of sunshine, exersize and good food in cheering her up :) I hope this is helpful and I hope your daughter starts to feel better soon :)

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