Being a teen girl did not give me a leg up on parenting one! But, thanks to some very fine professionals plus some dear girls who are teaching me, along the way, I’m learning some important stuff about parenting teen girls. Three helpful things to remember are:
1. For the year or two before and after her hormonal cycle begins, her emotions are likely to be something of a roller coaster ride. Along with that, her emotions are not well “calibrated.” If you asked, on a scale of one to ten, where a hang nail, a brain tumor and breaking up with her boyfriend rank, you might be surprised!
Besides that calibration issue, she often experiences “spill over” emotions. For example, “No one saved me a place at the lunch table; my carpool mates didn’t wait for me at my locker; I was the second slowest runner at P.E. and now I’m home (where I feel safe) and everyone, even the dog is going to catch what I couldn’t show
KEY CONCEPT: We most heartily abuse those whom we love most and trust to stick with us. It is a perversity of Nature that it is often our mom!
2. Teen girls (and maybe women in general) experience what is called,
“emotional thinking,” that is, “If I feel it is true, it must be true.” For
example, “Daddy doesn’t love me as much as he loves Scotty.” Why would she
think that? Because Dad invited Scotty to go camping, which our girl hates to do, and now she feels left out. Dad tries to reason with her about it but cannot be successful… for the simple fact that she isn’t reasoning… she is feeling. Possibly, a more effective approach would be for Dad to ask her, what would it take for you to feel I loved you, because of course, I do?
Emotional thinking whips our girls around for years. Consider the whole
deal of “Am I pretty/sexy/lovable?” On a day when she is not on the emotional
roller coaster, it might be useful to teach her to distinguish between
emotional thinking and reasoning. Sometimes a friend’s or sister’s behavior can
serve as a clearer example than her own.
3. The “coin of the female realm” is talking, sharing her stuff, that is telling her confidences to those to whom she feels close. It’s how she measures how connected she is to whom and whether she’s “in” or “out.” Sharing her stuff (commonly known as talking) is also part of her social learning; she experiments with telling stuff to different people, some of whom turn out to be good confidantes and some of whom turn out not-so-well. Telling her stuff can also become a power tool. For example, if she and mom have been close but mom makes her mad,she may not speak to mom or may only tell inconsequential things. Mom, because she’s a girl, knows she’s being snubbed, a victim of The Silent Treatment. Dad and brother, on the other hand, just consider it a relief from her perpetual chatter! Likewise, Dad may not recognize that when she does tell him her stuff, as insignificant as it may seem to him, it is an indication that she considers him close and chooses to confide in him.
After writing a book on teen boys, I was advised by my husband that what is really needed is a book to help understand teen girls. I have to confess that I’m not there yet! Next blog I’ll continue with “some things I know about teen girls, part 2” but NOT to be mistaken for knowing everything! More like I’m a student of teen girls.