In the last blog, cleverly titled, “Some Things I Know About Teen Girls, Part 1,” I talked about teen girls and their struggles with calibrating their emotions, their tendency to indulge in emotional thinking, and the female social inclination to share their stuff (read: chat, gossip, giggle, cry together, etc.). Following that line of consideration. . .
It’s terribly important for parents, especially mom, to remember that parents are not friends. Sooner or later, our precious girl will run cross-wise and a parent must take the side of her safety and decency. At that point, our daughter may be furious. And her fury may shake you to the core, her criticisms far more accurate and wounding than your son’s. To stand firm, it helps to recall:
1. Do NOT get caught up in her current social stuff (who is having a tiff with whom; who got invited to spend the night, who got dumped by whom); all of these social gyrations are part of her learning. Step back and let her figure it out, even if it means she gets dropped by a group of friends. (Does this involve safety or decency? If not, it’s not your department!) When parents get involved, it gives these social fluctuations much more weight. And, let’s face it, are you still friends with all your eighth grade chums? Social learning, moving from one set of friends to another is a life time skill. Let her practice. Acknowledge successes; listen through failures. She is learning, practicing.
2. Stand FIRM for what adults know is right and good. Do not be swayed. For example, you KNOW that people do not like or trust people who don’t tell the truth or who are not kind to others. When you stand firm, she may not like you for a while. But, she doesn’t have to like you all the time for you to be a good parent. In fact, if she likes you every day from here to thirty years old, someone did something wrong!
3. Do NOT be afraid. She will have days when people like her and days when people don’t. She will learn how to be socially acceptable, kind, caring and involved with people who will like her and connect with her. In the face of dozens of kids her own age who don’t any more have a clue than she does, she needs to feel your certainty that she’s going to be okay (notice that is reassurance about a future state). Like all of us, she doesn’t have to be a perfect friend, she has to be a good-enough friend. You can encourage her to be that and to get better as a friend, sister, daughter, each day.
4. Finally, make “home” an available, welcoming refuge where she doesn’t have to “get it right” to be loved. As parents, we can never predict what social turbulence our daughter may encounter. But we can create a haven where she can catch her breath, recollect her confidence, and steady herself for the next social foray. And we can speak to her future success, based on real social strengths we see today (kindness, a sense of humor, patience, energy, generosity).