Watching our children grow up can be bittersweet. As much as we cheer them on as they reach each new milestone, a part of us acknowledges a painful truth: with independence comes distance.
As girls enter the tween and teen years, this widening gulf can seem particularly great between mothers and daughters. How can we stay connected to our girls as they navigate the often tricky path of adolescence?
Here are five ways to keep your tween and teen daughters close on those days you feel you are growing apart:
#1: Connect without words. During adolescence, words often drive us further apart, can sometimes be misconstrued or can just add to the “noise” in all our lives. Give her a hug or a pat on the shoulder to tell her you care without saying anything. Touch can send her a powerful set of messages: I’m here. I see you. I love you.
#2: Write her a love note. We all need encouragement, our girls included. Put a loving note in her backpack, her lunchbox, in her toothbrush holder, in her underwear drawer, on her pillow or in another location you know she will see it. With all our busy schedules, we can miss each other in those hectic hours after school. When she is feeling empty, as many girls do during this tumultuous stage in their lives, kind words can fill her up and encourage her to come to you for support when she needs it.
#3: Listen more. Look her in the eyes and ask her, “What’s on your mind?” and give her your undivided attention as she answers. Try to avoid thinking about what you are going to say next or what advice you might give her. Many times she doesn’t need an opinion, a solution, a judgment but rather just to be heard. As she has the chance to reflect (which doesn’t happen often for any of us), she gets to know herself better and grows more confident. If asking about her day doesn’t go over well, try asking her, “What’s wrong with adults?” and see what she has to say. You might learn a lot!
#4: Spend time with her. Surprise her with something she would like, whether it’s taking her out to lunch during the school day or telling her it’s time to go to tutoring but taking her to get ice cream instead. If something spontaneous isn’t in the cards, ask her to come up with something fun to do together and try to make it a regular “date”. Keep your digital distractions at bay when you are together by putting your phone on silent and away so you can enjoy each other’s company.
#5: Lighten up. One of the reasons our girls seem so stressed is that everything seems high-stakes, whether it’s making the volleyball team, getting a part in the school play or acing the physics test. Help her be more lighthearted by bringing more play and fun into your family life. Laugh at her jokes. Use your sense of humor. Make fun of yourself. Be willing to look silly or ridiculous. Show her that not everything is a big deal. Being a kid (and an adult) is supposed to be fun!
Even from a distance, it’s awe-inspiring to see our girls discover the unique and special people they are becoming, right in front of our eyes.
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This post was written by Barb Steinberg exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC