Somewhere in middle school our sparkly, energetic little girls seem to get lost in sadness and moodiness.
Follow this map to show them how to come out of adolescence as a new and improved confident, amazing young woman!
Did your happy go lucky little girl seem to disappear into insecurity, silence and moodiness somewhere along the line? Was she once happy and friendly and could laugh and smile easily and often? And somehow, somewhere, she seems to be lost? Middle school age girls often lose their sparkle and dissolve into sad, moody, withdrawn, isolated, grumpy human beings. What a sad process for parents to watch! Standing by on the sidelines and hoping your daughter will return to her amazing little girl self is a brutal reality of parenting a teenage girl.
The sad truth is she won’t ever return to the same little girl you loved so much. She won’t ever wear her Cinderella dress to the grocery store again. She probably won’t climb too many more trees, or have a stuffed animal tea party or wear lady bug boots to jump in puddles. She is growing up. But the great news is that she can emerge from adolescence a young woman who is more capable, more confident, and more sure of herself; if she has a path to follow and a map for getting through the other side of the very difficult years of middle school. You are her map!
Follow these guides along the way and your daughter will come back more amazing than ever and hopefully you will see that silly little girl pop back in every once in a while!
Insist on time to just be.
Our daughters are busy every minute of the day. They are busy socially, academically, physically, emotionally. They are constantly balancing friends and emotions. “Busy” has become more intense for this generation. Teens no longer have to wait even seconds between interactions and receiving information from their social world. They have constant pressures through social media to stay aware and informed so that they don’t get left behind. They need down time. They need moments in the day when they can rest from the social, emotional, physical and academic pressures. They need to curl up in a chair and read, or watch mindless TV, or perhaps color a picture or better yet, play. When given a whole day with no commitments, my daughters find the funniest ways to play! They will practice hair styles on their American girl dolls, they will take the dog on a walk and come back soaked to the knees because they tried to get the dog to walk the plank at the pond (poor guy) or they will attempt to create a zip line from the old rotten swing set to the back deck. But they are together and they are playing.
Show them adventure.
Show your daughters they can accomplish things. Show them that they can conquer things. Show them they have power, physically and emotionally. Give them an experience they have never had and show them the thrill of accomplishing something new! Put them in a canoe, or in front of a rock wall, or behind the wheel of a go-cart, or give them a tool to fix the lawn mower. Teach them to set the iPad with a YouTube step by step by step guide for doing something adventurous! Do it together. Change a tire just so they know how. Climb up onto the roof just to see how far you can see. Take them somewhere far away with no internet connection! Simply, hop into the car with them and have them navigate their way somewhere new. Girls tend to get so wrapped up in texting and keeping up with the nothingness that is the day to day life of teens, they have no time for new experiences. Show them the thrill of adventure!
Provide opportunities to give back.
Doing for others teaches kindness, empathy and tolerance. Give your teen opportunities to give back. Maybe that’s within her own family, at school, in her town or within the world in general! She does not have to be paid for making dinner or doing dishes that is part of being a family. Everyone works together for the common good. Give your daughter a chance to contribute to the family just because she is grateful to be a part of this family. Help her organize a drive at school or participate in the ones offered. If there is a fun run, have her participate. As a family, gather things you don’t use anymore or food and donate to the local shelter. Have her come along. Have her donate items that have value, not just the junk she doesn’t want anymore. Perhaps give her a gift on her next birthday in honor of something bigger. Donate the money for food or education in another part of the world in her honor. Find ways she can give back and offer her those opportunities.
Give them a soft spot to land.
Our girls venture out into a scary world every day. They are physically growing and changing every day. They face enormous social, emotional and academic pressures every day. They hear about friends cutting, peers partying, crass conversations, sexting rumors, friends who are depressed. They need a soft place to land at the end of their day. They need a place where they can shut down and relax. They need a comfy chair and a safe atmosphere and a willing and ready listener so they can take a break from all of those pressures. Be their soft spot.
Know when to offer an opinion and when to just be quiet.
Ask questions, learn about your teen, find out what makes them tick, what bugs them, what they want from the world. But more importantly, zip it and be ready to listen. Your daughter will most likely start talking at the most unlikely moments. You could schedule a Starbucks date every afternoon and give her 45 minutes of your undivided attention, but you will actually get the most information at strange, unexpected times. Maybe it’s the five minute ride to a friend’s house when she opens up, or she may say something really important as she strolls by your bathroom door as you are about to dry your hair and you need to get to work on time! Those are the moments to wait for, look for, and be open to. She needs you and will find you in the most unlikely moments! Be ready.
Your little girl is growing into an amazing young woman and that sparkle you miss so much is coming back in new, beautiful, confident ways! Keep showing her the map and she will shine again!
Joy Hartman is passionate about empowering girls to become strong, confident women. She works with girls of all ages as a family therapist in Wisconsin and has the unique experience of raising two soon-to-be strong, confident teenage daughters of her own. For more fun and support on this crazy roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers, join Joy and hundreds of other parents at: