My friend asked me for advice on books to read regarding girls and all the social issues that go with being a “Tween” girl. I responded to her question and she suggested I put it on the blog hoping others might benefit from it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do that but I’ve had a few different conversations lately about the social pressures for the “Tween” set and figured maybe it’s helpful for all parents to hear. (This goes for boys too but I wrote it about daughters and I thought putting he/she everywhere would be annoying. But make no mistake, all of this is true for sons as well as daughters.)
Here it is…
Here’s the thing I’ve learned (and been told by doctors) – if your child feels accepted by her peers, that’s the icing on the cake but what she really needs in order to feel confident is to be accepted by YOU (her family). The world can be a cruel place but if she comes home and feels safe and loved and accepted, if she can laugh and be authentic and be supported by her family, she will be confident. (The opposite of this is if she feels her parents think she is weird or different or if they are pressuring her to be friends with people she doesn’t trust or if they are pressuring her to do things she is not comfortable with or if they are making her feel like she is not good enough.) I would say (and I’m still trying really hard every day to follow this advice) to listen to her and then listen to her more and validate her feelings. I wish I could take back all the times I said, “Oh, that’s ridiculous.” or “Why aren’t you doing what they are doing?” I’m sure she could feel the times when I was wondering why she wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing. I wish I would have been present in the moment, listened, and said, “that must be difficult” or “I’m sorry you are feeling sad.”
The other thing I’ve learned is to trust my daughters.There’s nothing better in the world than feeling like your mom has “got your back”. Trust that you have set a good example and taught her how to be kind and that all of that will show up in her. That she has the ability to make good decisions and that when she tells you someone is “not nice” and she doesn’t want to be with her, to just trust her and her reasons. They need us to choose them. They are ours. We have to be on their side. That gives them confidence.
I have no doubt that I will struggle with these questions for my whole life. I don’t pretend to have any answers, just ideas to help you avoid some of the regrets I have. The best advice I have is to pray, pray, pray. There is a whole series of books about the “power of the praying____” and the “Power of the Praying Parent” is great.
I find it necessary to retreat from the crowds-the neighbors, friends and schoolmates-every once in awhile. To have time that’s sacred for family. To rest. Read to her in bed, snuggle, watch tv, make pancakes. They are under tremendous pressure to perform in every way. Stay focused on her and don’t concern yourself with anyone else. She is your priority. She is invaluable and your greatest gift. Tell her that…everyday! And trust yourself. Who wouldn’t be confident when they know a mom like you is on her side?