My teenage daughter doesn't want to model anymore and my ex wife is adamant she continue : Parenting

I have a 16 year old daughter. I also have a 21 year old son. My daughter has been modelling for two years. She does things like retail store catalogues, children’s clothes, product shoots and she’s done a couple of adverts. My ex's friend (we have been divorced for three years now) is a marketing chief for a certain company and two years ago, she suggested that our daughter should do some product shoots for her company. She ended up doing it and has been routinely getting gigs since then.

In all honesty, I wasn’t so hot on the idea when it was presented two years ago. I didn’t really feel comfortable about the whole thing but my ex and my daughter really wanted to do it and so they did. My daughter really enjoyed it in the beginning. She enjoyed herself. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the entire thing but I supported her. I love seeing her happy. However, over the last few months, I noticed a change in her demeanour. She has always been very vibrant and extroverted. However, recently I noticed she was retreating into a self imposed shell of social withdrawal. I would ask about it and she said it was nothing. She just “wanted to chill.”

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She only told me the truth three weeks back. The truth was that she was miserable doing modelling. My ex had absolutely been on the modelling bandwagon over the last two years. She believes our daughter can grow up to do it as a sustainable career. I always preached caution.

My ex had never been the kind to hold back. Going beyond meticulously studying the market and pushing our daughter to do this or that job in order to “increase her profile,” she is constantly badgering our daughter about what to eat, what kind of exercises she should do, how her hair should be, etc.

All of this has taken its toll on our daughter. She tearfully told me that living with her mother has become oppressive and stifling, due to my ex’s relentless lust for what her model daughter should be. And it’s not just because of her mother, either. She has grown to loathe the industry. We are from South Africa. My daughter is mixed race (I’m black, her mother is a South African of Chinese descent).

My daughter has very sharp and unique features due to her dual heritage and she said she felt the industry here fetishized her appearance, inspiring unpleasant racial undertones. Many of you will be aware of SA's racial history. And it’s not just history – it’s the present as tensions still run high. My wife and I knew that having mixed kids in this country would present its challenges. We wanted our kids to be entirely comfortable with their mixed ethnicity.

"If you have never been hated by your child you have never been a parent. " - Bette Davis

Our son (he’s studying in the States) has never really had any problems. And until now, neither did our daughter. She told me that the dynamics of the industry here has brought up feelings of insecurity regarding her ethnicity.

I spoke to my ex about it and said that our daughter needs to stop. That she WANTS to stop. My ex has been pretty dismissive, saying that this is a phase and that it will pass. That our daughter “just needs a break" and it will be okay. We had an argument over it. We had another chat, with our daughter present. She told her mother how she felt. Her mother didn’t change her stance. She said a break is okay and that after a few months, her batteries will be recharged and she will be itching to “get back in the game.” My ex is of the opinion that what our daughter is feeling is nothing but a teenage phase.

I’ve already gotten to my daughter to start seeing a therapist. And I’m constantly interacting with her, whether physically or on the phone, asking how she is. But I fear that my ex isn’t taking this seriously enough – that she is blinded by her desire to see our child grow into some big model and that soon she will be back to pressuring our daughter to “get back in the game.” What more can I do on this front? Advice is appreciated.