Growing up in the 21st Century is a whole different ball game from your turn in middle and high school. For one thing, social media keeps guys and girls plugged into the universal drama of their lives 24/7. On top of that, a new culture is doing a number on teens and because of this, younger and younger girls feel the necessity to look “sexy” so they can “get” a boyfriend.
As parents, we must make our ethics and values known to our daughters and sons. They need to learn from us what is and isn’t fitting in the Girlfriend/Boyfriend Zone. While the very thought of your innocent middle school girl with a boy may be too much to digest, you can’t use that as a justification not to present the guidance she needs and wants. Here are a few tips to help you foster your child more efficiently in this dicey area:
- Notice: Understand and recognize the pressure she’s under – Talk about all the texts your daughter gets from her colleagues, family members, the media, and from within about the significance of having a boyfriend vs. not dating anyone. These discussions help daughters begin to understand what they’re up against.
- True self-esteem rises from within: Encourage your child to continue examining her interests. Support those beneficial interests in every way you can. The more direct involvement she has in using her unique talents and gifts, the more transparent she’ll be about who she really is and where she’s really going. With that self-confidence, she’s less inclined to let anyone else label her.
- Be a reliable person to talk to: When you promise that you will listen with an open mind and an open heart as they express feelings of insecurity, confusion, anxiety, rejection, and anger, you help them process emotions in useful ways.
- Where is her father?: Girls who consistently get attention and support for their leadership, intelligence, sense of humor, creativity, knowledge, etc. from father (or other adult males in the family) are far less likely to be “carelessly” seeking attention from boys.
- Guidelines: The word “friend” is in”girlfriend” and “boyfriend” for a reason! – Too often, girls ground their boyfriends’ standards and accept outrageous behavior just because they want a boyfriend so bad. Help your child set clear guidelines for what is and what isn’t a decent boyfriend material. A healthy relationship is based on trust, mutual respect, shared values, honesty, and open communication. Your child needs to know this. She also needs to be ready to give as good as she gets when it comes to respect, trust, etc. Hopefully, you are walking the walk in the good relationships you have in your own journey. If you’ve made blunders (and who hasn’t?) talk about them in age-appropriate manners. Discuss with your child what you’ve understood about healthy connections.
- Model wholesome stress-management skills: Show your child that even when you’re upset, you know how to take good care of yourself and the souls around you by soothing down and thinking instead of freaking out and responding. Do this, and you finally show her how to administer feelings and obstacles in responsible, thoughtful ways.
- Find teachable moments: Whether it’s considering the Q & A in “Dear Abbe,” or talking about love in a passionate comedy, you can use third person sources to improve your daughter’s relationship smarts.
- Be clear about your expectations and your values: Let her know where you stand when it comes to teen dating and teen intimacy and the reason behind it. If you’re not sure, then figure it out as soon as you can and communicate with your daughter.
- Be consistent in your compassion and empathy: Face it, you wouldn’t want to be a teen again. This is an emotional and rough phase. Understanding, compassion, patience, and a lot of meditation and deep breathing can strengthen and sustain the bond between you and your child. That’s a good thing because she wants you now more than ever!