Unless you have been (unfortunately) in a coma the last decade, you are aware that there have been huge changes in technology and cultural standards. These changes affect teen girls in ways that many parents do not understand. The changes make parenting with the “old skills” obsolete.
Parents need to know the new skills for raising healthy, happy, and successful teen girls. They also need to hone the old skills: listening, and expressing true love and concern. Our daughters need them more than ever.
1. UNDERSTAND THE TEENAGE BRAIN.
Neuroscience research has revealed the differences between teenage brains and adults brains.
Knowing even a little bit about your daughter’s brain, i.e., what you can do to help her brain grow (and heal) can have a tremendous difference in how her life turns out.*
2. BE INVOLVED
Your daughter needs your attention and time just as much, or maybe even more, than when she was a little girl. You need to know who she is becoming, what she is doing, who her friends are. Etc. Don’t hover but don’t ignore her either.
3. LEARN THE FOUR L’s
Effective parenting starts with knowing the four L’s. Look, listen, learn and Love. First, you have to take a look at your daughters behavior. Next, listen to what she really wants you to know underneath her actions and words. You then have to learn what she needs or wants. Show her you love her by helping take care of her needs and wants.
4. ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.
John Lennon was onto a profound truth when he wrote the song, All You Need Is Love. Let your daughter know you love her. Don’t hold back on hugs, except maybe in front of her friends. Research shows that expressing love can help your daughter grow up into a happier, healthier woman.
5. TEACH BY EXAMPLE
Be a role model . Teens have a hair trigger hypocrite/BS meter. Walk your talk.
6. DO YOUR OWN HEALING WORK
Every parent carries around old wounds. Those wound cloud the way they interact with others, including their children. One of the best gifts you can give your children is to deal with your emotional baggage so it stops spilling out everywhere. There are no perfect parents and we all carry some degree of wounds with us, no matter how much we work on them. But the point is: work on them!
7. SET FAIR LIMITS AND RULES
Don’t arbitrarily set rules. Ask your daughter for her input. Most importantly, understand what drives you to make a rule in the first place. If you want an early curfew for your daughter, talk about what your fears are about her staying up late rather than simply focusing on the time factor. Be truthful about what you feel in the process of setting rules and limits. Ask your daughter for her truth.
8. ENCOURAGE AUTONOMY
The teen years are the time for children to begin finding out who they really are. They will try on lots of things! That’s normal. And in today’s world, with Virtual Social Networks such as MySpace and Facebook, teens have an audience to “perform” to in order to get feedback about who they are becoming. Encourage your child to explore who they are and want to be. Don’t force your expectations of who you think your daughter should be. Its’ her life! Step back. Let her explore. If your life isn’t satisfying, it can be easy to turn to your daughter for emotional needs that she can’t fill. Lear to let go, let her have her life, and you shore up your own.
9. KEEP UP!
Today’s world is changing faster than ever. As a mom, you need to know some of the new things. For example, if your daughter came to you in tears because her friend keeps untagging the pictures she posted, would you know what she meant, why she is upset and what to tell her? Teens are forming relationships in ways our generation never dreamed of, and the social interactions are amazingly different. Learn the new technology. Check out the Virtual Social Networks. Keep an ear out for the newest on Youtube, etc. Learn how to text. Stay as up to date as you possibly can.
Your daughter is going to make mistakes. Help her learn from them instead of shaming, blaming or punishing. Don’t break into her Facebook, emails, text messages or private journals. Buff up your listening skills. Become someone she trusts enough to tell you who she really is.
11. CREATE A FAMILY MISSION/VISION STATEMENT
What does your family value? What does your family stand for? Write a mission/vision statement and refer to it often. Ask your daughter for input. See what she values and wants your family to be about!
“Play is the new Global Warming” announced a recently published article. Play has been taken out of our culture, and that’s not a good thing. Find ways to be silly, spontaneous and playful with your daughter. Make sure she has fun things to play with such as a myriad of art supplies. Find ways to bring back play into your lives and homes.
13. LEARN TO LISTEN TO HARD TRUTHS
Your daughter may do things you disapprove of. Some parents take the ostrich approach and put their heads in the sands. That isn’t helpful. Learning to be someone your daughter can turn to, trust and know that you will always be there for her, will help her as she grows up. This means you must control your anger, disappointment, judgment etc. Learning to ask Strategic Questions, can help you become someone who can hear hard truths.
Today more than ever, your daughter needs to know you are there for her. She is growing up in a world vastly different than the one you grew up in. Learn to listen. Learn to open your heart to your daughter. Let her unfold and find her way, as you gently help her when she makes a miss step. Time doesn’t go backwards. Like it or not, the new world order of things is here and parents need to understand it, and deal with it in ways that does not alienate their daughters.