My sweet, smart, self-confident daughter turned 13 and our family jumped on the roller coaster of life with a teenage girl. I thought I had prepared her for the adolescent years. We talked openly about being true to yourself, and I felt she was well on her way to successfully navigating this time of life. What I did not count on was the fact that even though we are not biologically related (she was adopted as an infant), she has my same brain. That brain is overworked with thinking and planning on thousands of “what if” scenarios. I so wish her brain, unlike mine, had an off switch at the end of each day. But I also believe that a higher power brought her into our family, and maybe because of my brain, I am uniquely qualified to be her mom.
What is it about 13? I get the hormones and changing body. I was once a teenage girl too. But 13 now feels very different. There is so much more to navigate than when I was a teenager. Social media keeps everyone constantly connected, but there is a real drive to only portray your best self, your perfect self, and keep the rest hidden. Those perfect connections can cause real anxiety and sadness. Because guess what folks? We are not always our best selves and no one is perfect.
So how as parents do we help girls navigate the teenage years? That is the magic question. I remember asking a friend who is also a social worker about a friend of my daughter who is transitioning from a girl to a boy. How do I keep her safe in a world I do not even fully understand? His response? Two words. Unchartered territory.
My goal is to be present for my daughter, even when she tries to push me away. She may act like she does not need me, but deep down she does. I am also forcing the lines of communication to stay open. No topic is off the table (although there are some my sweet husband would like not to be on the table during dinner), and I will always listen and offer advice. The easiest advice to give and the hardest to follow? Always be true to yourself, even if you are not sure who you are at the moment. If you can be true to yourself, you will come out of the teen years returning to that smart and self-confident person again.
Want to chat about parenting in the teenage years? Check out the Let’s Talk Parenting link and get in touch. I would love to talk with you!