Guidance for Mums and Mentors

Supporting our girls from childhood, healthily through puberty and on towards womanhood:

How does a girl become a woman?

Girls Journeying towards Womanhood

Her first five years

At first your daughter doesn’t even know that she’s separate from you.  Her understanding of what it means to be a woman comes largely from observing you and she learns by copying you.  You show her how to take care of herself, not only in the way that you nurture her but also in the way that you cherish yourself.

A Mother’s Moment

Make five minutes each day just to be with her.  You may already spend hours every day with her but this has a different intentional quality.  Spend five minutes just sitting beside her and watching her, really watching her.  Pay really good attention to her.  Nothing more.  Look at her face, her eyes, the way she holds herself, the way she moves, the way she talks.  Smile at her if she looks at you.

Take five minutes of every day for yourself too; five minutes alone.  Make sure your daughter is safe or perhaps choose a time when she’s napping and then find a place in your home that feels nice to you.  Just for five minutes, sit there listening to the sound of your own breathing.  If you have to think something, think: How can I take care of myself today?

If finding those five minutes proves tricky to begin with, start by doing it on a Sunday.  Then see if you can find the time on Wednesday too.  When you feel able to, gradually increase this to include the other days of the week.

Start today!  Ten minutes is all it takes.  Five minutes with her and five minutes with yourself.

Her pre-teen years

One minute your daughter is playing with her dollies and the next she’s wanting to borrow your eyeliner.  Suddenly your little girl is dressing like a teenager and she’s worried that she’s fat.  Her girl friends seem to have so much influence over what she wants.

Your daughter’s probably beginning to spend more time away from you and with her friends.  Perhaps this coincides with you spending more time away from home too.

Introducing Girls Together Time

This is your time, just you and your daughter, once a month for a few hours to have fun, to really talk, to share a simple pleasure, or to do something you’ve both been longing to do.  The point is to be together, regularly; time she can count on.  Be as creative, simple, adventurous, ordinary, inexpensive, extravagant, experimental as you wish.  Once she realises that you plan to take this time together every month, she feels your commitment to her.  Children feel loved and special when you give them your time.

And if you think that you cannot find a few hours once a month to spend in this way with your daughter, then perhaps this indicates an imbalance in your lives…

Also notice when your daughter warms to another woman and encourage the special connection.  Inviting other women to take a mentoring or auntie role with your daughter will enrich both their lives.

Girls Together Time with your daughter can form the basis of a healthy on-going relationship with her into the teenage years.  Puberty is a time of such rapid change, a magical time, but a time when your daughter needs you close.  You can prepare her.  One day, maybe not soon but someday, your daughter will begin to bleed once a month.  This monthly treat of Girls Together Time should then shift to the week of her menstruation and can become a valuable pressure-release-valve where you can give her the opportunity to talk, sound off, weep, take a break, and feel your support.

Girls Together Time is a simple idea and its power is not immediately obvious.  Many mothers however report amazing developments in their relationships with their daughters as a direct result.  Try it!

Through her teens

  • You love aspects of watching your daughter grow up but you worry that it’s happening too fast
  • You feel she takes too much notice of her friends’ opinions
  • Something’s troubling her but she won’t tell you what
  • You found your adolescence painful and you want hers to be easier
  • You want to make her feel special when she starts menstruating but you don’t want to embarrass her
  • Every morning you promise yourself that you won’t lock horns with your daughter but still you do
  • Sometimes you feel like you’re losing her

Monthly Moment Together

Once a month, every month, take some time out together — just you and your daughter.
Take her to your favourite cafe, watch a good film, go on a country walk, visit your childhood home.  Go swimming, get your nails done, redesign her bedroom together, sky-dive.  Tell her about what you admire in her, about your dreams as a teenager, about your mother, about your aspirations for yourself now.  Above all, listen to her.  Listen without judging or guiding her (even if only for these few hours).

Make a monthly date in the family diary and let her know that she can rely on you to spend special time with her every month, no matter what else is going on.  Everything that is precious about your relationship will show itself here.  Everything that is hard about your relationship will also surface here.

Make it an unquestioned commitment that you will honour…

  • whatever the emotional climate, however things are between you
  • when the last thing you feel like doing is spending time together
  • even if she has behaved badly and you feel she doesn’t deserve it
  • even when you’ve already spent lots of time together that month
  • even when life feels so busy that to find time seems impossible

Make it coincide with her monthlies

When the time comes, have a Monthly Moment Together during the week that your daughter is menstruating.  Her feelings can be heightened around this time of the month and, especially if you’ve already established this monthly habit of spending time together, it can become an opportunity for emotional release and support.  It recognises her changed status too.

If I only inspire you to do one thing, let it be that of making a commitment to spend special time every month with your daughter.  This gift of time she will experience as your love for her.  It is a deceptively simple suggestion, but extremely powerful.

Message to mentors

Girls need mentors as well as mothers.  For women who have chosen to take a special interest in a girl’s life, trust your instincts about how to stay connected in whatever way works for you both.  Although you may see each other infrequently, every call, text, outing or visit lets her know that you care.  Your presence in her life is enormously valuable.  Mothers who encourage their daughters to build friendships with other women who they can trust are showing their girls the benefits of having a circle of female support.

Her late teens and into her twenties

  • Your daughter is ever more her own person now
  • Most or all of her life is lived away from your home
  • She has a family of friends and colleagues who populate her life
  • She gives you glimpses of the woman she is becoming…
  • … and flashbacks to the child she was, and sometimes still is
  • She needs you, and she doesn’t
  • She wants your opinion, and she doesn’t
  • She seems so sure of herself, and then she doesn’t
  • You know that you need to trust her to make her own decisions now, but sometimes you can’t quite
  • You know it’s natural that she make her life her own, but that leads you to feel like you’re losing her

Daughter Date

Don’t take your relationship with your daughter for granted — all relationships need nurturing so continue to make a special effort by making a space for your daughter outside of your everyday interactions with her.  Invite your daughter on a date regularly — monthly if you can.  Find ways to stay in touch, especially when she’s no longer living with you.  Schedule treat-time together, even when she’s still at home.

Even if it seems like her life is filling with other things, don’t give up on offering her a mother-daughter space.  Invite your daughter to the cinema, a cafe, a day trip, a sale, a bike ride, a sauna, an exercise class…  If you live far apart, you could arrange to watch the same programme and then call afterwards, handwrite her a letter, send her cuttings from magazines that you think will interest her (no hidden agenda), set a time to skype while you each enjoy a cup of tea and a cupcake (send her the cake!).

It will be important for her to feel that you’re revising your relationship with her, allowing her to become the woman she now is and no longer treating her as the little girl she was.

The mother-daughter bond can be a powerful one.  Nourish yours.

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