My daughter is turning eleven, and is in the full throes of tweendom. She and I have a very close bond, but I’ve noticed during the last few months that that bond is starting to experience inference with her hormones (ugh!). As hard as I try to remember what it was like being an eleven year old girl, things are certainly different from how they were when I was a tween. Back in the 80’s, we had our share of issues, but with the perversion of current media trends and its fascination with Kardashians, reality TV, and the like, I can only think of how hard it must be to be a tween girl these days.
Over the years, I’ve tried to instill a sense of girl power in my daughter, and I know that during her tweendom, that will become even more important. I’ve got her back no matter what, and I want her to know that she is powerful, even in a world that may not show her.
1. Don’t be afraid to be honest
Honesty is the best policy. Sugar coating, I have found, doesn’t always bode well when your daughter is coming to you for real answers. Be honest. The truths she hears should come from you rather than someone else, so keep it as real as possible, albeit age appropriate. It may feel uncomfortable for a moment, but later on, she will appreciate your honesty. Because the backbone of it came from love.
2. Share a diary
When my daughter has something to tell me that she is embarrassed about, I have her write it down in a notebook. If she has a question or wants to tell me something that she is afraid to, or is too shy to, she writes it down, and then leaves it outside of her door when she goes to school. I read it and leave her an answer in the notebook and place it on her bed, so when she gets home, it’s there for her to read. It’s a way that works for a super sensitive tween girl like mine, and it works well for us.
3. Open door policy
When my daughter says she wants to talk to me about something, even when I am busy, I stop what I am doing and I give her my full attention. I never want her to think that I am too busy to listen to her or for her to ask me a question. Giving her my full attention, looking her in the eye, and acknowledging her needs is most important, especially during these years. No matter the time or day, if I am up against a deadline, or I am deep in “my world”, she knows I have an open door policy and she can come to me at any time to discuss anything.
4. Show her the real
When we are at the mall and I see an airbrushed model on the store windows, I point it out. I want her to know the real definition of beauty versus the one that ads and the media place before us. We often look through magazines and I point out the images which have been enhanced so she isn’t aspiring to be a “fake” version—I want her to know beauty comes in different shapes and sizes and colors.
5. Write her notes
I write notes to my daughter all of the time. I let her know how beautiful she is inside and out, and how blessed I am to be her mom. I leave these notes in her room and she loves getting them, and she in turn leaves me notes, too. She still has a post-it note from two years that I wrote her on her shelf about how wonderful a friend I thought she was after she shared her lunch with someone who didn’t have anything to eat. She still goes back to read that note from time to time, and I know it instills plenty of girl power in her.
6. One on one time
“Book” some one-on-one time with one another and make it a regular habit. Once a month, my daughter and I do an activity on our own. We’ll go to the movies together, or go get manis and pedis together. Sometimes we’ll go see a play or spend time volunteering together. Whatever it is, make sure you do things together one-on-one so she can get some much needed bonding time in with you.
7. Show her your heroes
We often talk about my heroes, people I look up to. We talk about Maya Angelou, Debbie Allen, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama, the list goes on and on. Some of my heroes have become her heroes, too, and it’s awesome seeing her look up to positive women who have intelligence, moxie, and a creative spirit, things I want my daughter to have as well.
8. Get active
Getting active with your daughter and participating in sports and other things she likes to do is a win/win for the both of you. My daughter likes to jump rope and play soccer, so when the weather is nice, I make sure to get out there and get active with her, too. I get to burn off some calories and she gets to show me how well she can jump rope and play soccer. We both end up having a good time together, too.
9. Travel together
My daughter and I often travel together. She and I have been on many trips alone, including Los Angeles, Orlando, Chicago, New York City, etc. It’s awesome seeing new places with one another and doing different things outside of the norm. And I love to see how much learns during our excursions.
10. Be vulnerable
It’s okay to say that you don’t know something. Or to cry in front of her. These are things that make you mom and make you human. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability. Because in that vulnerability comes strength. Emotions are healthy, and her seeing you have emotions will help her deal when she experiences them, too.
I’m a boy mom (now a man mom since he’s 20) and a girl mom, and I can tell you that both are challenging. But raising a girl these days is tough, man. And when they are a tween, they’re running hot and cold. It’s not the easiest time to be a parent, but you will get through it. Use the tips above to love, nurture, and bond with her. She’s going to get a lot of her girl power from you, so share your superpowers with her.