10 Tips For Teaching Your Daughter Relationship Smarts
Growing up in the 21st Century is whole different ball game from your turn in middle and high school. For one thing, social digital media keeps girls and guys plugged into the social drama of their lives 24/7. On top of that, pop culture is doing a number on childhood so that younger and younger girls feel the pressure to look “sexy” so they can “get” a boyfriend.
As parents it’s our responsibility to make our values known to our daughters and sons. They need to hear fromus what is and isn’t appropriate in the Boyfriend/Girlfriend Zone. While the very thought of your middle school daughter with a boy may be too much to deal with, you can’t use that as an excuse not to provide the guidance she wants and needs. Here are some tips to help you parent more effectively in this dicey area:
Recognize and appreciate the pressure she’s under – Talk about all the messages your daughter gets from peers, the media, family members, and from within about the importance of having a boyfriend vs. not having one. These conversations help girls begin to understand what they’re up against.
True self-esteem comes from inside – Encourage your daughter to continue exploring her interests. Support those healthy interests in every way you can. The more direct experience she has in using her special gifts and talents, the clearer she’ll be about who she is and where she’s going. With that self-confidence she’s less likely to let anyone else define her.
Be a safe person to talk to – When you show tweens and teens trust that you will listen with an open heart and an open mind as they express feelings of confusion, insecurity, anger, rejection and anxiety, you help them process emotions in healthy ways.
Where is Dad? – Girls who consistently get recognition and approval for their intelligence, leadership, creativity, sense of humor, athleticism, etc. from Dad (or other trusted adult males) are far less likely to be “desperately” seeking attention from boys.
The word “friend” is in “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” for a reason! – Too often girls lower their standards when it comes to boyfriends and accept unacceptable behavior just because they want a boyfriend so badly. (See #1) Help your daughter set clear criteria for what is and what isn’t good boyfriend material.
It’s a 2-way street – A healthy relationship (the only kind worth having) is based on mutual respect, trust, honesty, shared values and open communication. Your daughter needs to understand this. She also needs to be able to give as good as she gets when it comes to trust, respect, etc. Hopefully you are walking the walk in the healthy relationships you have in your own life. If you’ve made mistakes (and who hasn’t?) talk about them in age-appropriate ways. Discuss with your daughter what you’ve learned about healthy relationships.
Model healthy stress-management skills – Show your daughter that even when you’re upset you know how to take care of yourself and the people around you by calming down and reflecting instead of freaking out and reacting. Do this and you show her how to deal with feelings and problems in responsible, thoughtful ways.
Find teachable moments – Whether it’s discussing the Q & A in “Dear Abby,” or talking about relationships in a romantic comedy, you can use third person sources to increase your daughter’s relationship smarts.
Be clear about your values and your expectations – Let her know where you stand when it comes to teen dating and teen sex and why. If you’re not sure then figure it out ASAP and communicate with your daughter.
Be consistent in your empathy and compassion – Face it, you wouldn’t want to be a teen again. This is a rough and emotional phase. Compassion, understanding, patience and a lot of deep breathing can sustain and strengthen the bond between you and your daughter. That’s a good thing, because she needs you now more than ever!
Annie Fox, M.Ed. is an award winning author, educator, and online adviser for parents and teens. Visit AnnieFox.com to read excerpts from her books: Too Stressed to Think? and the new Middle School Confidential series. Download (free) her entire book: Teen Survival Guide to Dating & Relating. Listen to her podcast series “Family Confidential: Secrets of Successful Parenting” at FamilyConfidential.com