I am the mother of a teenage girl. Some days, I can’t say that without gritting my teeth or having my lower lip tremble, and some days, I’m crowing it from the rooftops as pride swells my chest. It’s a never-ending rollercoaster ride, this puberty thing, and it can take a lot of fortitude to communicate through the storm sometimes. Here are five important things to remember when you talk to a teenage girl:
1. Perspective is everything – and she doesn’t have it yet. It’s very easy to sit here with decades of life behind me, and not see every little bump in the road as an insurmountable mountain. For my daughter, it’s not so easy. Some of those bumps came out of nowhere and jostled her in ways she’s never experienced before. They’re startling and derailing and making her re-evaluate the road she’s on constantly. And that’s a good thing and a growing thing, but it’s also a frustrating and occasionally frightening thing – for her, anyway. She may be “all about the drama” some days, and I do my best to try to help her put all that in perspective when it arises. Getting her to see the bigger picture isn’t always easy (or welcomed) but it’s necessary for her to develop her own sense of balance.
2. Her feelings are valid, even if you disagree with them. This goes hand in hand with developing perspective. Sure, the odds of her marrying her date for the eighth grade formal are slim, but when she tells you this person is her everything right now, believe her. When she talks about reconsidering her first career choice because her friends don’t think it’s cool, or that she hates a certain teacher who surely hates her back – you need to resist the urge to tell her that her feelings may not be based in fact. Feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just are. What she’s feeling is very, very real. The action she takes in the wake of those feelings is the important thing, here, and that’s where facts and perspective need to be gently addressed. Whatever you do, don’t tell her that what she’s feeling isn’t real or valid, because it is. To her, it really is.