irls just want to have fun - don’t they? And is there anything wrong with that? After all it’s just a bit of fun – isn’t it?
That is something that doesn’t change, no matter what age they (we) are. But is that all they want? What about knowing they matter? A study into the proneness of teenage girls to unplanned pregnancy and other risk-taking behaviours noted that nurturing, acceptance and reasonable parental expectations were needed to decrease the risk of a teenage girl becoming pregnant unexpectedly, and engaging in other risk-taking behaviours.
Is that all we should be concerned about? When a young girl is taking risks with her health and life, this is sure to affect her health and wellbeing in the long term.
In my experience as a mother of girls and a counsellor, girls do just want to have fun, and they also just want to be ‘in relationship’; to be loved. Nothing’s wrong there.
I have to agree with Dr Tim Hawkes who says parents are the “firm islands where a son or daughter will return to get their bearing on life”. Yet I hear so many parents say, ‘I couldn’t tell my daughter to do that’ or that they have to give their daughter that phone/device/access to social media, because ‘all their friends have it’, as if that is an iron-clad defence against all rationality in parenting.
But what is it our daughters really need? Do they really know what is best for them, and can they really have the wisdom to navigate their way through the tumultuous teenage years? I thank the good Lord social media wasn’t around when I was a teenager, clueless and fun loving, and just wanting to “have fun”.
In a world that is unable to move unless the obligatory “selfie” has been taken and posted, or every funny, sad or embarrassing moment has been captured and “grammed”, our daughters need to know and believe that they are valued and important, and that what they do really does matter, to us and to the wider community. Primarily, girls want to be loved and boys to be respected.
So take heed. Your daughter needs you to be her safety net in an increasingly fast-paced world where the pressure is on to be perfect and beautiful.
Make it your business to take the time needed to build that relationship and be there for your daughters. Nobody else will care what happens to them as much as you do. Nobody else will do it out of unconditional love, with no thought of personal gain.
Ten things your daughter really wants to hear and know from you (even if she doesn’t think so right now):
- You are loved, unrepeatable, unique and important. Especially to me.
- You have gifts you can use for your life’s important work. Take time to find out what they are.
- You can help others by being yourself. You don’t have to be anyone but yourself. We can learn and respond to others – but not change who we are. Your gifts and talents are grown and shaped, especially when giving to others. So find something to do for others, volunteer or donate.
- You deserve to be respected and treasured. If you are not, you can and should walk away. Don’t post/gram/tweet or upload anything you wouldn’t be proud to show your Grandma or Grandpa, or your children. Ask what would Mum and Dad think – before you post! Or, don’t post! You are not a body part and should never be treated as such. You are a whole person.
- Your values, beliefs and ideas are part of who you are; don’t ever feel you need to compromise them for anyone. If you do, you will surely ask yourself ‘why?’ one day.
- You deserve to rest, eat healthy food and find exercise you enjoy. Nourish and nurture yourself – you are worth it.
- It is OK not to feel happy all the time. That’s part of life and sometimes you will not have all the answers. Be comfortable knowing you don’t have to ‘know it all’ or ‘have it all’. Know that feeling restless, nervous, sad or uncomfortable is part of a normal healthy life. If you are seriously distressed, you can and should seek help from a trusted adult, friend or counsellor.
- It is ok to need time away from it all – don’t overburden yourself carrying everyone else’s load. Take a break and return refreshed.
- Save for a rainy day and get good financial advice.
- Remember to have fun, be safe and laugh, at yourself and others, in a spirit of kindness.
One day, my daughter, you will grow into the amazing woman I know you are, with all the richness of the personality you have been given. You will know the importance of your treasured-ness, and how this will flow into your life as mother, carer, lover, friend and daughter, the woman you are meant to be. Women, once believed to be the weaker sex, are strong in their capacity for love, nurturing, laughter, caring and so much more! You are well poised to take on the world when you believe in your own abilities and uniqueness.
Don’t ever despair as a Mum or carer of a young girl-becoming-woman that you don’t know what to do. You, by the every fact that you are her mother, have what it takes. You, by giving it more than a cursory thought, are already beginning. As mothers, we may feel we are powerless, but we are the foundation than underpins their scrutinised world. You do have what it takes. You care and that is what is most important. Your child can tell if they matter to you. Who ever said parenting was easy? As for teenage girls – makes climbing Mount Everest look like a walk in the park!
Take a breath and remember you are the right person for the job, and a little effort on your part can iron out those issues that arise.
Encourage your daughters, granddaughters and friends. No matter how awkward it may seem, do what you can to encourage and inspire your teenager, so that they are empowered to do all they can and are meant to do. Our role is never unimportant, and as women, we have so much to offer to others, in love and fun.
Bronwyn Melville is the Pastoral Care Worker at St Pius X High School, Adamstown. Dr Tim Hawkes is the headmaster of The King's School in Sydney and the author of 10 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son.