After raising 2 daughters of my own AND after 20 years of leading mother-daughter events, speaking to thousands of moms and girls, and partnering with Sorotimists and Girl Scouts of Northern California, I have written this list of the top 10 things a preteen and a teen girl needs. The items are not in any particular order; they are ALL essential. This list is my springtime gift to my readers and followers! I offer this list to you, with love.
I recommend that you read the list regularly and work to incorporate all of these areas throughout your daughters’ preteen and teen years.
YOUR DAUGHTER NEEDS:
- A STRONG FAMILY LIFE: She needs a strong and comfortable family life to use as an anchor. She is changing in so many ways: school life, friendships, body… and all of these changes are out of her control. A family setting where she knows she belongs and is accepted will become a safe haven for her. Note: define family however you want. I’ve worked with all configurations (none are perfect), yours will do just fine!
- LOVE: She needs to know she is loved. Radically loved. Always. (You don’t have to like behaviors, but please do NOT make your love conditional.)
- EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: She needs to learn how to express her feelings in a way that is good for her while being respectful of others. She needs to learn how to let go of stuck emotions and how to build up her emotional intelligence for going forward.
- SELF UNDERSTANDING AND SELF-ACCEPTANCE: She needs to understand that she has both strengths and struggles and that it will always be so, because it’s true for all of us. She needs to learn what her strengths are and where her weaker areas are too. AND finally, she needs to accept that this is how life is; there’s always something to learn and we ALWAYS have our strengths to lean back on.
- FEMALE ROLE MODELS: She needs strong female role models: family (mom, grandma, older sisters, aunts), community (teachers, coaches, adult friends of yours), global (look at world leaders and important women in history), spiritual role models (look for those in your specific faith tradition), and friends (yes, you are right and your mother was right – we do become like those we hang around with, so her friend choices ARE important).
- PURPOSEFUL AND POSITIVE PARENTS: This type of parenting is based on values, positive practices that will build your daughter up, clear boundaries, love, and lots of support and guidance to help her manage the preteen/teen years and the pressing issues of the day while she becomes increasingly independent. Yes, it’s a big job!
- STRONG BODY IMAGE: She needs to be knowledgeable about and comfortable with her changing body. She needs a deliberate approach to maintain a positive sense of self (positive body image) in the face of cultural forces, pressure from friends, and an overall expectation of female perfection that pervades those in her age group. This area needs near constant attention because your girl is beat down daily by the cultural messages related to beauty and body shape.
- HOPES AND DREAMS OF HER OWN: Your daughter should have dreams and hopes for her future. She also needs to learn how to realize her dreams/goals so she has a positive sense of personal power with an understanding that she can control her future by setting clear goals and learning how to move forward toward them (even when there are obstacles).
- USE HER VOICE: She needs to learn how to speak up to represent what she knows, what she wants, and how she feels.
- FRIENDSHIPS: She needs to try out new friendships, decide what qualities she wants in her friendships, learn to let go of friendships that no longer work for her, and learn how to seek out and start new friendships.