Over the last several years, I’ve worked closely with teenage girls and their mothers and I’ve compiled a list of things (with the help of some colleagues) I wish I could tell mothers of teenager girls to stop doing, immediately:
1. Trying to socialize with her. Stop liking her pictures, retweeting her tweets, communicating with her on Facebook. Sure, you should monitor all of her social media but you should not interact with your daughter as if you are 16. Or her friends. Interact at the dinner table or take her out to coffee, sans phones, and talk about her week. Even though she’d never admit it, she doesn’t want you as a friend, either. She wants you as a safe and secure place to fall when the going gets tough. And she needs you to tell her when the tough should get going. She wants you to be the adult, I promise. Because she needs you to be her ally, her confidant, her cheerleader. But she doesn’t need another friend.
2. Wearing her clothes. With few exceptions, teenage daughters and their mothers shouldn’t dress a like. Certainly, everyone wants to look cute – but age appropriate. I promise, when you show up to the basketball game in a halter top, short shorts and cowboy boots the other parents and school personnel are noticing. And talking. And not only does it look bad for you, it looks bad for your daughter as well. Too often, inappropriate clothes on teenage girls is met with the question, Well, have you seen her mother? It is embarrassing for you to call attention to yourself by trying to wear her clothes and act younger than you are. Friends share clothes. Mothers and daughters should not.
3. Criticizing her body. Sure, she may eat an entire pizza. And gallon of ice cream. With sprinkles. Unless your daughter needs medical attention for weight issues, don’t say it. And please, don’t say it in front of people. Even the most menial criticism will linger for years. Don’t make fun of what she’s eating or wearing or the weird crookedness of her smile. Don’t compare her or her body to other girls. Trust me when I tell you that her inner monologue is loud enough; she doesn’t need you to validate what she already thinks about herself. Learn to love all of those things you would change about her – because chances are, your real criticism is with yourself.