Advice from Thirty-Somethings to Thirteen-Year-Old Girls

by Shannon Hembree on September 1, 2011

​Thirteen. Can you remember being thirteen? I do – and not fondly. I also remember seeing the movie Thirteen and thinking, “Thank God I don’t have kids!” Flash forward to today. I do have kids, and I have a girl to boot. I sometimes wonder what kind of advice I will give to her when she enters her teen years. Will I be totally honest? I would hope so, but sometimes I don’t know. Some things are better left unsaid – or so we think as parents. But when it comes to advice, isn’t the best kind the unvarnished truth we find much easier to give to strangers? With this in mind, I asked women what advice they would give to a thirteen-year-old girl. 

Here is what they said:

“Being a teenager is one of the loneliest times of your life, no matter how many friends you have. Your body is going through a million changes, girls are fighting girls to be popular, girls are fighting girls over boys, boys are antagonizing girls about being too slutty or not slutty enough even though neither may be true. Some days it seems like you are on top of the world and others it seems like everyone hates you. What no one tells you is that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone doubts themselves and is trying to figure it out the same as you. Just remind yourself of that when it seems like you are the only person on earth who gets it.”

“I thought junior high was awful, and my parents and I fought all of the time. If you need someone to talk to, it doesn’t have to be your parents. There are a lot of people for you to turn to for advice or a shoulder to cry on. Do you have teachers or a guidance counselor you are close to or who seems nice? What about an aunt? Because if you feel like you can’t connect with your parents on something, they are another option.”

“Take a look at adults in your life who seem happy and healthy and talk with them about decisions they have made in their lives.”

“Think you’re the school geek? It stinks at the time, but the geeks are the ones who get the last laugh. Let them tell their jokes now. One day they may be working for you or wishing that they did. Success is the best revenge.”

“Are your parents getting on your last nerve? Do you wish they would just leave you alone? Then study really hard and get a scholarship to a school far far away. It’s a great way to get away from them without tanking your future. It’s a lot better than screwing up to spite them and being stuck in the same dead-end town!”

“Start getting very comfortable with who you really are. As you start junior high school you are going to be tested in a million ways – from boys, from friends, from bad influences. If you don’t believe in yourself and aren’t sure of yourself, you can make bad decisions that you may regret for the rest of your life. It’s hard to really know what to believe – and who to believe – at 13 so start with yourself.”

“Take up a sport. If you aren’t athletic or coordinated – don’t worry – you can find something. You won’t worry as much about how your body looks when it can accomplish things. And I promise you, your body looks better than you think it does.”

“At some point, you are going to start thinking about what is attractive to the boys around you (I hate to even say that, but we all think it at some point). Girls around you will be on diets. It can get crazy. Instead of going off the deep end and doing things that aren’t good for your body, learn about good nutrition and start good eating habits now. Find a way to exercise that you love. You will find over time that those who diet eventually gain the weight back and then go on another diet and then lose it over and over, but those who focus on being healthy overall tend to be better off and have healthier bodies.”

“Get a hobby or get involved in activities. Keeping busy is the best way to keep from obsessing about what little miss bitchy said in the hallway or why johnny jackass won’t call you back.”

“It’s a hard and painful time for everyone as you break away from your family and try to become more independent. Even though you are in a rush to grow up, take your time. You will be a grown up for the rest of your life, but you only have a short amount of time to be a child.”

“Be easy on yourself and take care of yourself – spend time and energy doing things that make you feel good about yourself and spend time with people who are nice to you. Pursue your hobbies and interests and put your energy into things that will benefit you in the long run.”

“Never compare yourself to others…there will always be someone smarter, dumber, prettier, uglier, richer, poorer, more popular, less popular…find the people and things to do that make you happy and base your center on that.”

“Take yourself seriously but be willing to have a sense of humor about your faults.”

“If it feels wrong, it probably is.”

“Trust yourself. Deep down you know what to do.”

“Be honest with yourself and be honest with others.”

“If you haven’t already, you will find yourself in situations where you have to make choices. Know what your plan will be so you aren’t taken off guard. What if someone offers you a beer? What if they offer you drugs? If you say ‘no,’ are you prepared for them to say you are a loser or are lame? Sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing. Are you prepared to walk away? If you are not, what is your plan? Will you accept a drink to hold, and only take a few sips? What if someone else says they don’t want a drink and others are giving that person a hard time? Will you join in the taunting or stand up for that person? Make your choices and own them. A girl who says ‘no’ and who is confident and nonchalant about it is much more attractive than a girl who gets drunk or high and does stupid things.”

“When you are at a party, never take open container drinks from anyone, and never let your cup out of your sight. It sounds crazy, but if someone drops something in your drink, you would never know and you would be in real danger.”

“Remember this: drunk girls are really unattractive, really funny (they’re laughing at you not with you), and easy prey for any guy looking for an easy score.”

“Read Go Ask Alice before you go to a party.”

“When you go to a party, always have a friend who will be your buddy. Make a deal that you will tell the other if they are doing something crazy and have them do the same for you. Be each other’s lifeline if someone is giving you a hard time about something.”

“Being a teenager is about living and learning and messing up. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and not to do anything that can’t be undone. Don’t do something that will get you arrested (that can stay on your record forever). Don’t fail out of school (that is the fastest way to a lifetime of hardship and struggle). If you’re going to have sex, have safe sex (a child is forever, and so are a lot of sexually transmitted diseases).”

“The Internet is a crazy place. Your name and identity are attached to what you do, but because it is done through a computer, there is a false sense of anonymity. Just remember that you will be applying for college and/or jobs. Anything that you post online has the potential to come back to bite you. How awful would it be to be interviewing with your dream college or job, only to have them turn you down because of something stupid you posted on your Facebook page when you were younger.”

“I almost got turned down for my dream job because I smoked pot back when I was in school. A lot of jobs now require security clearances, and you will be asked if you have ever used drugs. When someone offers you drugs, remember that you could be destroying your own future in more ways than one.”

“Think about the consequences of your actions.”

“Here’s a little secret: Your parents aren’t always right. We are doing the best we can with the information and experience we have. We never got a manual on how to raise a teenager, and you never got a manual on how to be a teenager. We are all figuring it out together, and we will all make mistakes.”

“Be respectful of your teachers, but still remember to think critically and question authority.”

“You’re only a virgin once, and once it’s gone it’s gone. If you want to wait until you’re married, that is your choice. If you don’t want to wait until you’re married, that is your choice, too. The important thing to remember is that it is with someone you love, because that memory – good or bad – will stay with you forever.”

“Don’t have sex until you are 25.”

“Have sex when YOU are ready…not because you are the first or last virgin to be checked off an imaginary list.”

“When you are ready for sex, be smart about contraception, and never be afraid to ask for him to use a condom.”

“There is plenty of time for you to grow into your sexuality, take it slowly.”

“Read books about things that interest you.”

“Try to do something new that you think is difficult.”

“Learn another language.”

“Look for the good in everyone.”

“Find a way to relate to people who you think are different.”

“Don’t judge others.”

“Be careful what and who you criticize because it is most likely a part of yourself that you don’t like.”

“Junior high and high school can suck. It doesn’t mean the rest of your life will.”

“I remember thinking that life couldn’t get any worse. I was surrounded by mean girls, my parents didn’t understand anything, and I dreaded waking up in the morning. All I wanted was a way out. All I can say is thank God no opportunity presented itself for messing up my life for good. You may have those days or even those years, but they are such a small part of your life. It gets much better, just hang on and I promise you will see.”

“These are NOT ‘the best years of your life!!!’ For me, they were the absolute worst. But all of the most interesting, funny, smart, and successful adults that I have ever met have had a terrible time during adolescence. So even though it sucks for this short amount of time, you should have lots of hope for a happy future because you will be a fantastic person after surviving your teen years!”

Most parents (if not all) wonder what they will say to their girls when they hit the teen years. The quotes we have compiled may not be a comprehensive guide for what needs to be said, but they can serve as a basis for getting a conversation going, which sometimes can be the hardest part. Given that a lot of the women we talked to emphasized the fact that the teen years were some of their hardest, we wanted to leave you with this quote from one of them: “Dare to dream, because dreams do come true.” 

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