Growing Up and Falling Apart
Katlin had been an outspoken, self-confident, somewhat feisty child with a ready smile and some special athletic abilities. Up until seventh grade she had been an outstanding student, active in the church choir and youth group in addition to playing soccer and swimming. Two months into seventh grade, Katlin dropped out of her church activities. A few months later she wanted to drop out of the swim team, too. Since her grades had declined, her mother agreed. Katlin's grades didn't improve, however, and she started getting in trouble for being late to school and talking to her friends in class.
At home Katlin began sniping at her mother, declaring her “uncool.” From Katlin's many derogatory comments about herself, it was apparent that she didn't consider herself to be cool, either. Her parents, who had divorced when she was eight, agreed to put their personal differences on hold and meet to discuss how to help their daughter.
Her father had read that a good father-daughter relationship was critical for girls' self-esteem, and believed that Katlin should resume weekend visits at his house. He understood that she disliked her stepmother and didn't want to be separated from her friends, but he felt that spending more time with him would be helpful to her at this critical stage. Her parents agreed that Katlin needed to be involved in an activity she really cared about, but she had lost interest in her old ones and her mother feared that Katlin would rebel if forced.Finding a Niche
What Katlin needed, they decided, was to try something new. Having an activity to look forward to might make her less resistant to spending time at her father's house. Since Katlin had always been passionately interested in horses and said she wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up, her father offered to arrange for her to take a riding lesson during her every-other-weekend visits. To encourage Katlin to broaden her horizons beyond the middle-school social scene, her parents decided to see if she could do some volunteer work at the Humane Society or for a local vet.
It was hard to tell exactly what made such a difference, but a few months later pictures of horses lined Katlin's bedroom walls and she was intent on bringing up her grades in math and science so she could go to college to study veterinary medicine. She invited some of her friends to her dad's house to spend the weekend so that they could take riding lessons, too. Her mother laughed to see Katlin acting like a haughty super sophisticate one minute and cantering through the yard playing “horses” with her girlfriends the next. The only thing that worried her parents was that Katlin was saving up to buy a horse. They didn't aspire to keeping that kind of pet in their backyard.