Perspective: Parenting Teenage Girls
I was talking to Chelsea a 15-year-old girl a few days ago. She’s gorgeous and tall, yet she looked small sitting on my office couch. I asked her what was going on. She looked out the window and said,
“Everyone hates me at school. I am completely alone.”
I knew Chelsea had a vivacious personality and was well-liked by everyone at school. So why did she feel this way? What I found out was one of her close friends Rachel had talked trash about Chelsea at a party. To top this off Chelsea recently broke up with a long-term boyfriend.
It’s easy for adults to know it’s not the end of the world for Chelsea. We tell our daughters, “It’s not true, lots of people like you.” Or if she is driving you nuts, you say, “stop being so dramatic!” You know boyfriends come and go. You know girls can turn on each other. If a friend lets you down, there is a good friend right around the corner.
It’s really hard for teenage girls to have perspective.
There is a physiological reason for that.
The prefrontal cortex of their brain is not fully developed which means they have a hard time seeing the big picture. Without that perspective, they can’t see that you have good days and bad days. She doesn’t have the benefit of looking back at her life and seeing things work out. Her formal thinking is not fully developed so her thinking is concrete (black and white – You hate me or love me) thinking. Combine this with raging hormones and it’s the end of the world.
But Mothers lose perspective too.
1. You lose perspective with your daughter.
You forget she is still a work in progress.
You fear that her worst behavior is who she is going to be.
Your daughter fails a test and you think she will never get into college.
Your daughter comes home smelling like alcohol, you’re sure she will become an alcoholic.
2. Both you and your daughter lose perspective when fear hits
When your daughter says, “Everyone hates me. I am completely alone,” the fear slams you. You’re afraid there is really something wrong with her and she will never make it.
Your daughter needs you to have a long-term perspective. You are her anchor when she is lost in her teenage storm. She needs your reassurance that she is going to be fine and this too will pass.
***This is a great time to tell her a story where you were blown off by a friend and how you came out stronger. This will help her know that you were able to move past that situation and there are lots of opportunities out there for her.
3. You lose perspective on your life.
It is hard to see things from a long-term perspective because we live in a culture that expects instant change.
Lose 30 pounds in 3 days! Make 30,000 dollars in a month! Meet the man of your dreams today!
And what happens if you don’t see instant change?
You get defeated. You give up. Or you don’t bother to begin.
It really is about having a long-term perspective. And when you do you can celebrate your victories no matter how small.
You can celebrate each pound you lose, each dollar you make, and every person you meet.
So how do you get perspective?
1. Step back and reflect.
Too often we are too in it to have perspective.
Chelsea was consumed by her drama. Mothers get consumed with their daughters. You get consumed with your work. You get consumed with the busyness of your life.
When we are consumed we lose perspective.
2. Expand your vision or focus from what you don’t have to what you do have.
After meeting with Chelsea, she was able to see that she had a lot of other friends besides Rachel. She was able to turn her attention to her other friends and when she did she found that she really did belong and there were lots of friends who loved being with her.
- The friends you do have.
- The five pounds you did lose.
- Your daughter’s still in process.
- You only started your business a year ago.
- How many people you have helped.
3. Celebrate small victories
When you have a long-term perspective you can see the little things count. Celebrate what you have accomplished. Celebrate what you do have. Let yourself feel good. Too often that means voice robs you of good feelings. “Yeah you lost 5 pounds but you are still fat.”
4. Practice hope
Having a long-term perspective gives you hope for the future. If you lost 5 pounds in the past month then you can lose 5 pounds in the next month.
How about you? Are you feeling consumed right now? Write down 25 things that you or your daughter have accomplished in the past year. They don’t have to be big things.
Celebrate the small victories. It will give you perspective and perspective gives you hope.