There are few things that strike terror into the hearts of parents of girls more than the thought of their offspring’s teenage years. Moms and dads fear this time for different reasons. Moms know what THEY were like at that age, and also what IT was like at that age – the clicks, the peer pressure, and the drama. Dads also experience this fear of their girls’ teenage years. In their case, it is not because they know what teenage girls are like, but because they know what teenage boys are like.
Whatever their perspective – moms and dads share one common goal: to get their daughters through these tumultuous years with their self-esteem intact, with the skills they need to be self-sufficient in their adult lives, and generally speaking, with whatever it takes for them to grow into mature human beings (and all that entails). In short, parents face a herculean task that when laid out in that way seems impossible. It seems even more so when the tweens and teens in question close themselves off when their parents try and talk to them about touchy subjects – and let’s face it, there are many – from sex to drugs to bullying to everything in between. But are they really shutting down, or are we as parents just not reaching out to them in the right way? How would our daughters like us to talk to them about sensitive subjects?
To try and find the answer to this question, we could have read books by experts – after all, there are a lot out there. But instead, we thought we would go straight to the source.
Meet “Penny.” She is twelve years old – a tween on the verge of becoming a teen. It’s been a while since we were twelve, so we asked her what she thought the hardest part and the best part about being twelve was. According to Penny, the worst part is, “Puberty. We are changing. There’s peer pressure, bras, THE talk at school, and Boy DRAMA!” As for the best, Penny replied, “cell phones, freedom, friends, and tons of other benefits.”
One thing we could recall from our tween/teen years was that it was pretty hard to be a girl, so we asked Penny if she thinks girls have different challenges at this age than boys. Penny replied, “Yes, NO CONTEST. We are getting our parts. Not to mention the fact that we have to start wearing bras, we are getting our period and TONS of other changes.”
And now, because this is an article for a mommy website, we wanted to know what we are doing wrong and what we are doing right. When asked what one of the biggest mistakes parents make is, Penny had this to say, “Invading our privacy – that will tell them [your kids] that you can’t be trusted.” And one of the best? “Give them time to chill out, hang out with friends, and do things normal tween/teens do or whatever they like to do,” said Penny.
Penny also gave us tips to help parents talk to their tweens. Penny suggested, “Calmly talk in a private space away or alone from other siblings. Some teens/tweens need some privacy from siblings.” On the don’t do/doesn’t work list, according to Penny, is yelling. “If you don’t like something your teen is doing, then tell them calmly.”
We also gave Penny the chance to give advice to moms and dads who have kids her age. Penny said, “Don’t yell, let them chill after a long day, and encourage their good decisions.” She also said that the most helpful advice she has gotten from her parents so far is to listen to them [the parents], because they made those mistakes, too.
So there you have it, advice for parents from a tween in the thick of it. It’s not a comprehensive how-to guide, but it is a glimpse into a world we no longer inhabit, but need to understand. It is a starting point. And for parents of tweens and teens, sometimes that is enough to begin bridging the gap.