At the end of my talk I’m often asked what one piece of advice I would offer parents. Impossible to answer of course, although I did surprise myself one evening by saying “Get a pet!” (Aside: we talk a lot in Girls Journeying Together groups about how to manage the bigger feelings that come in the preteen and teen years and every time someone will say that their cat or dog helps a lot.)
Even better than pets are parents. Nothing beats what a parent-on-a-good-day can offer their child. And because we can’t always be at our best, I’ve a simple suggestion to make up for the times when we’re impatient or distracted: make space for one-on-one time. It can be short and simple, like stopping off at a café for a hot chocolate, but it’s planned, and in the diary at least once a month, so it can be relied upon and looked forward to. Then treat it like a date. Make an effort, put phones away, be fun, don’t cancel.
A child feels good about herself when an adult chooses to spend their spare time with them.
Don’t underestimate how much you can make life good for your child. No matter what else is happening in your child’s life, having time with you set aside makes whatever they are dealing with easier. Make plans today!
“It used to be easy but now I feel like I’m walking on eggshells.” “I never know what response I’m going to get. I want to help but sometimes it feels like everything I say makes it worse.”
Communicating with a preteen or teen girl takes skill, resourcefulness and a thick skin. What used to work, doesn’t anymore and mothers worry as the easy closeness they used to enjoy with their daughters seems to elude them.
At Rites for Girls we guide girls and support mothers so that the years of adolescence can be happy and safe. We’d like to remind you of some pointers to help you stay connected, even through the tough teen years.
We look forward to the holidays but they can often be a time of tension.
Here are three tips for being able to communicate well with your child and enjoy each other’s company:
Get into the right mood Teenagers can be infuriating and it’s not easy to speak calmly and kindly when we’re mad. So calm down first, remember how easily a teen feels misunderstood, and take a moment to choose the words that will actually work. Much better to say, “Can you help me to understand your reasons for doing that?” rather than “What on earth were you thinking, why did you do that?”
Back it up with your body language and tone of voice There’s no point in saying all the right things if you’re standing there with arms crossed and face frowning. Or with that disapproving tone of voice that teens seem so atuned to. So breath into your belly, feel your feet on the floor, and be nice! You’ll find it easier when you remember what it feels like to be a teenager: that confusing mess of intense feelings, excited one minute and down the next, full of the possibility of life and then feeling like you’ll never amount to anything, all the while feeling horribly self-conscious. Teens are vulnerable and need us to be firm and gentle in our dealings with them.
Look after yourself first For any of this to work, mothers need to take care of themselves first. Not because it’s a nice idea, and not because it shows girls that a woman’s life can be appealing (although both those are good reasons), but because when you try to give when you’re empty, it’s empty-giving and not truly nourishing.
Have fun together Amidst all the challenges of guiding your children safely through their preteen and teen years, sharing their worries and helping them to make good decisions, make sure that you regularly have fun together. It’s an essential ingredient for you both.