Seems like it was just yesterday you first laid eyes on your baby daughter, but last month you celebrated her first double digit birthday.
She has grown from the sweet giggling toddler, to a chatty and lively nine-year-old, to a teen that answers your “How was school today?” with a monosyllabic “Fine”.
Then, you don’t see her again until dinner time.
How many times have you found yourself at wits’ end trying to find ways to deal with your adolescent daughter?
The Encyclopaedia of Psychology states that the goals of parenting – regardless of different practices of the world – are similar: to ensure children’s health and safety; to guide children’s transition into adulthood; and to integrate values and cultures in their lives. Parenting an adolescent is not without its challenges.
Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, is famously known for his theory on psychosocial development. He postulated that during adolescence (12-18 years old), teenagers are exploring and seeking their own unique identity.
“Who am I, how do I fit in?”, “What do I believe in?”, “What are my goals?”, “What are my values?” – are examples of some reflections teenagers may have.
As they go into puberty, they are presented with significant biological, physical and emotional changes. These changes along with the struggles of understanding themselves may cause confusion and challenges hence guidance from parents is paramount during this period.
Here are some important issues that can be discussed with your daughter.
Body changes and body Image
Mothers, aunts and elder sisters are often the people teenage girls confide in when it comes to discussing the changes in their bodies that are happening as they grow.
The common experience shared by both parties makes this discussion just a little bit more comfortable for these young ladies.
Fathers can still play a part of course – by modelling a positive attitude towards the image and changes your daughter is going through.
Avoid teasing about body shape or skin colour – like how plump she is, or that the colour of her skin is nowhere near yours (we must always be mindful that even if these comments are made in a joking manner, they leave a strong and negative impact on the child).
When your daughter understands the changes her body is going through, she is more likely to accept that having acne is similar to losing her milk teeth – a phase everyone goes through.
The rise of social media platforms adds another challenge to parenting teen girls.
It is crucial to have their social media accounts monitored as incidents of cyberbullying as well as being exposed to inaccurate and inappropriate information is also rampant.
Single parents may want to rally help from family members or close friends to assist in representing a mother/father role in discussing body changes and body image.
It is also important to empower your daughters to inculcate healthy eating habits, consume nutritious food and lead a healthy and active lifestyle.
All this emphasises the importance of feeling good and not just looking good.
Relationship with friends
Do you notice how your teen daughter lights up and becomes lively when she is amongst friends?
As she becomes more independent in her daily activities, she may steer a little further away from parents and family.
Friends have such a big impact on teenage life and connecting with peers is a natural part of adolescence.
Good friendships establish a strong foundation in choosing the right kind of friend, whilst building communication and socialisation skills. It is also a normal part of developmental process for teenage girls to develop interest in the opposite sex.
Try to get to know your daughter’s friends. Use special occasions such as birthdays as an excuse to invite them over. Or organise a pizza party at home and have her friends come by.
It is advisable that all screen time should be done in a communal area such as the living room, so you can supervise what is being watched.
Talking about respect and being safe in friendships and/or relationships will give them clarity about safe and healthy interactions.
With all the changes your daughter is going through, combined with the increased need to be approved or accepted in a certain group – life may seem like a roller coaster ride for an adolescent.
It is important for parents to focus on their daughters’ strengths and their ability to do something well, rather than highlight their mistakes or weaknesses.
Noticing and acknowledging your daughter’s good qualities such as kindness, helpfulness and paying attention to detail help to encourage her to value her inner self rather than her physical looks.
These qualities become the core and foundation for her confidence.
Mood swings are often a by-product of physiological, physical and emotional changes as well as the experience of navigating various relationship dynamics.
Parents play a huge role in guiding their teenagers to regulate emotions.
This can be done by modelling good coping skills and stress management; and encouraging them to learn and practise these important skills.
Parents are encouraged to be aware of prolonged low mood, changes in sleep pattern and appetite, loss of interest in things they enjoy and diminished concentration or focus – these may be signs of depression.
If this is noticeable, it is best to seek professional help.
Remember those times when your daughter was still a toddler refusing to clean up her toys, or challenging your requests?
As she grows into a teenager, this behaviour may morph into something more intense.
You may notice that your daughter has started to have her own style of dressing, engaging in disrespectful behaviour such as slamming doors, yelling, rolling her eyes when speaking to you or being more vocal about her opinions and beliefs.
Naturally, these characteristics result in parent-child conflict as they seem to be deliberately done in order to challenge parents’ authority.
Openly listening to your daughter’s opinions, being non-judgemental and having an open discussion indirectly teaches her about respect; managing expectations and consequences; problem-solving; and making informed decisions.
Parents are advised to be good role-models and engage in positive behaviour when resolving conflicts to ensure things do not spiral out of control.
No doubt that rules and boundaries are essential, however, parents may want to consider setting age-appropriate rules for teens to understand that responsibility is a key factor in mutual trust.
At this stage, teenagers seek freedom and are forming their own unique identities. Teenagers strive to feel understood, hence parents should discuss, compromise and proceed to create rules and consequences which are mutually agreed upon.
Choose your battles, parents.
Know that your buttons will be pushed and try not to take it personally or else everything will end up in a fight.
Nurture your teenager
The prefrontal cortex – the area of the brain responsible for judgement and decision-making – is still developing throughout the adolescent years and usually only matures completely in the mid-20s.
This proves how significant parents’ role is during the teenage years – imparting skills for solving challenges, making good judgements as well as informed decisions.
On another note, failures and missteps are necessary, as the experience opens up opportunity for them to learn from mistakes, experiences and develop resilience.
Parenting teen girls is not an easy task and these few years can be hard on parents.
Remember, it will pass and with your guidance, your daughter will grow to be a confident and responsible young lady.
Maintain a positive parent-child relationship with your teen daughter as this will pave the way for a solid foundation, which will strengthen her future relationships.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting teen girls, but what is clear is that it requires patience, compassion, empathy and care.
Nur Arfah Zaini and Dr Dhanya Pillai are from Perdana University–Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland School of Medicine’s Department of Psychology and Behavioural Science. This article is courtesy of Perdana University. For more information, email email@example.com. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
Did you find this article insightful?
100% readers found this article insightful