Teenagers are fun.
I mean that. They are so much fun! I have loved every stage of development my children have gone through in their race to become adults, but the teen years are the most exciting. It was such an adventure to raise Blake and Brandon through those teen years. Now, I am on a different kind of adventure raising my daughter. She is 16 and taking Ron and me on the ride of our lives!
Being a “boy mom” had a lot of challenges, but overall it was a pretty straightforward gig.
I cooked their favorite foods, ate with them, listened when they needed an ear, and gave as much advice as they could handle at a time. Then, before I knew it, they had grown up and moved on with their own lives. I am so proud of the men they have become. Based on my experience with my boys, I was pretty confident in my abilities to raise healthy and successful children. I quickly discovered that what worked with my boys, was not working with my little girl.
I cooked, we ate together... and she didn’t talk.
Wait. What? I cook. We eat. You talk. That is how it is supposed to work. This worked for me for 20 years, so I was completely baffled when it did not work with my daughter. I needed to connect her, but connecting with her seemed so… well, complicated. She isn’t wired the same way the boys were. Her needs are not the same as my son’s needs. I knew how very fast these years go by, so I got busy figuring out the best way to connect with my Breezy girl. Now, I know you to invest in her life so she knows I care.
What I discovered is that there is not a single strategy that will work for every child.
There is a recipe that will help you figure out the best way to connect to your unique daughter. Building healthy, strong connections takes time, energy and a willingness to KNOW your child. Being connected to your child doesn’t mean always agreeing on everything. It means even when you do not agree, your daughter still knows she is loved and she is secure in your love. Connecting to your daughter brings stability to her in the middle of a highly unstable season in her life. The teen years are especially brutal for girls as they battle with their body image, acceptance, and identity.
There are a million ways to connect with your daughter—here are the ways I connect with mine:
1. I share my faith with her.
I do this both through my lifestyle and with my words. Teaching your children your faith is the foundation of our belief system is vital to help establish a healthy relationship. When she knows where your beliefs come from and why you make the choices you make, it provides her with an unfailing compass. Your judgments and decisions are not random, they are consistent with your faith. She can even anticipate your reaction to her choices because she knows what you believe. If you do not know what YOU believe in, you are much more likely to be indecisive and inconsistent. Neither of those builds healthy relationships. So for some of you, step one is becoming firm in your faith and convictions, and then step 2 is sharing them with your daughter. My daughter knows my faith is in Jesus, so she can rely on my actions aligning with my belief system.
2. I share my time with her.
I am deliberate in putting all electronics and other distractions away when I am home or out with my daughter. Sharing your undivided attention with your daughter is critical to creating strong and lasting connections. When you set all the distractions aside, you are letting her know she is important to you. When you are attentive, you can listen for understanding, pick up on non-verbal cues, and engage with her in a meaningful way. Even though my daughter has complained about spending too much time with me for some weeks, that time has opened ups so many doors for her to share her world with me.
3. I don’t judge her experiences.
I listen to her share how she feels, what is important to her, and what she wants, and if it doesn’t put her in danger, I keep my OPINIONS to myself. Your daughter needs to know she can share who she is with you and still be accepted by you. She might feel angry about not getting to participate in an activity that all her friends were involved in or elated that she doesn’t have to take a class you wanted her to take, or sad over something you are glad about. She is her own person who is learning to form her own opinions. You are getting to know her as she becomes an adult, so listen to her as she figures it out.
Yes, provide guidance and direction, but do not dictate or control her life, emotions and her experiences. When you are baffled by an emotional or opinion your daughter has, ask her to share more about why she feels that way or why she wants to do something. As you gain more understanding, you gain more insights into what she enjoys and her perspective. Instead of sharing your opinion, you can let your daughter know she is heard by repeating back to her what she said, “I heard you say that you are ________.”
4. I support her in her pursuit of the things she loves.
I am not an athletic person, but my daughter is. So, I do everything I can to support her; show up at games, practice with her, find YouTube videos to help her become better. When you join her by supporting her in reaching her goals, you are sending her the message that she is important to you and you believe in her ability to reach her goals. Things don’t always work out the way your daughter envisions them, but when she has your support she will be stronger whether she wins or loses.
Connecting to your teenage daughter is the best way to help her avoid some major mistakes in her journey toward adulthood. - Cathy Tijerina
When daughters feel connected to their moms, they care more about how the way mom feels about decisions they make—which means they think twice before doing something really stupid. There is no perfect parent, so don’t sweat the small stuff. Enjoy your teenaged daughter as you walk alongside her toward healthy, responsible adulthood.
I am rooting for you!