Raising girls who feel valued in a society that portrays the feminine in less than desirable terms can be a real challenge. These tips are great reminders and relationship builders for mother-daughter pairs, though with a little healthy forethought they can also be used successfully by parents:
1. Keep communication open and flowing
Communication is such an important piece in building any relationship and is critical to the parent-child relationship. Despite this, when my daughter was in that pre-teen stage, she started to withdraw and act like someone I didn’t like. She truly believed that she was the problem and a part of me even swallowed the idea that this stage was inevitable. As we got further away, I realized that she was giving in to a societal belief about pre-teen girls and not following my heart.
I scheduled an appointment with my rolling-eyed daughter so we could sit down and have a very open, heart-to-heart conversation. I told her that she had never been a parent to a teenager before and that she really didn’t know what she was doing most of the time. I discovered that I was at least half the problem (correcting her, giving her homework when she walked into the room, sharing unsolicited advice) and that what she really needed from me was acceptance, information, and honest communication. That day I changed from mother to mentor and what a difference she has made.
To help with these moments of ‘open discussion’, it can be helpful to set up a Girls’ Club where no topic is off limits and no repercussions are experienced from what is shared. This gives her daughter the opportunity to verify what her friends are saying, gain access to her wealth of knowledge (without a lecture), and gives her the chance to discover that she really doesn’t know all the answers.
Sharing your experiences with your daughter does not ‘spark ideas’ or give her permission to make the same mistakes you did; it simply opens the door to trust and openness between you.
two. Talk freely about negative stereotypes.
Openly discussing how women are portrayed in movies, magazines, billboards, etc. increases connection, self-awareness, and opens the door for great discussions.
An activity you can do with your daughter is to look at magazines and talk about who looks happy, who looks real, speculate about why she isn’t happy, etc. When my daughter and I had these conversations, they led us into a discussion about her Bratz dolls, teen behaviors in shows, and of course Barbie.
Dove provides some videos on how far the means will go – removing blemishes, changing hair, altering facial features and even lengthening the neck – in an effort to create natural beauty! This leads women to strive for an unattainable version of beauty as if it were physically possible. Talking to her daughter about this can prevent eating disorders, self-esteem issues, and make her the go-to person for important information.
Another great topic to discuss is the Divine Feminine and how this beautiful energy, required by all of us to live a balanced life, has been downplayed and portrayed as weak and undesirable.
You can search together for information on this topic and enjoy the beautiful and positive impact it can have on both of your lives. Simply put, the Divine Feminine is what allows us to gracefully receive, connect with others, fully embrace pleasure, and care for others. It’s a huge topic and worth learning more about.
3. Focus on loving and accepting your daughter as she is
When you love someone unconditionally, you accept who they are even when they don’t behave exactly how you’d like them to. You won’t always agree with your daughter, and sometimes you may not really like the way she’s behaving. As her father, she is always in her right to set limits and provide guidance. Only do this while still accepting and loving your daughter for who she is.
Acknowledge your very real responses to your daughter as you progress through the different stages. When you don’t like the way she’s behaving, ask yourself: is she a safety issue or a moral threat? If so, enforce her boundaries without attacking her as a person and stand by her decision. If not (which is often the case), allow him the space to be who he is, make his own mistakes, and live with the consequences.
You won’t always like or relate to the way he behaves or the decisions he makes, but you can allow him the space to fully live his experience without fear of rejection or ridicule from his strongest supporters.
Put your energy into focusing on what you have in common and enjoying those things together. Host a spa day, either at a spa or in your own home. Enjoy face masks, hair treatments, body scrubs, pedicures, all of which can be done on a shoestring budget. Take a walk, play a game, bake, or make a meal together. Find something you’re both willing to participate in and make it happen.
Take this time to talk with your daughter about what’s going on in her world and share some of the stories you remember from that time in her life. This is not an interrogation or a lecture, but an opportunity to really connect and build something special.
When you spend time with your daughter and keep communication open and flowing, you’ll find that your relationship flourishes instead of drifting apart at a time when you really want your guidance to be effective.