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(this post was updated March 2019 to offer more information and new, supporting resources)
‘Wait, Is that an eye roll I just saw?’
You’ve made it through some challenging milestones of parenting.
The newborn stage was intense, but you got through it.
You survived the toddler years and managed the transition to school life.
But, then – as if out of the blue – you have a TWEEN GIRL.
The tween years come with so many changes– emotional, physical, social.
Your daughter is seeing herself and the world in a new way. She’s also starting to seek more independence and privacy. Friends are becoming of increased importance and influence. Her emotions are intensifying and her moods are fluctuating.
On top of that, a significant, often overlooked aspect is that the tween years bring big changes for moms too.
You need to navigate the shifts in parenting that go along with all of your daughter’s changes.
And, there are the emotions that come up around your daughter growing up and not being your ‘little girl’ anymore, the triggers to your own difficult tween and teen years, and the fears around wanting so passionately to help keep her true spirit alive through all of it.
There’s no avoiding the reality that adolescence is looming on the horizon.
Free Resource: Check out the Strong Relationship Packet
When I first wrote this blog post, I focused on ‘self-care’ for moms and shared the following…
‘Practicing self-care can be difficult and often guilt-inducing when you’re a busy parent. Yet, it’s one of the most important and powerful things you can do during this time.
Your daughter may not be as open to listening to your advice, but she’s soaking in everything you do.
She sees how you respond to things, how you approach problems, and whether you’re present or distracted.
When you bring yourself back into balance you are more present and patient. You’re able to make conscious choices to model the behaviors and values you want to see in your daughter.
TIP: Start with a small step towards creating a daily self-care practice. Give yourself the gift of 5 minutes alone, without your phone. Take time to breathe and clear your mind of thoughts, plans, concerns and to-do’s.’
I still believe this is crucial. Self-care is one of your most powerful parenting tools.
Yet, I’m now seeing how important it is to highlight how self-care is one aspect that falls within the category of personal growth.
This quote by Anne Lamott captures the essence of how important personal growth is to parenting…
The most profound thing we have to offer our children is our own healing.
When you focus on your own growth and healing, you will improve your relationship with your daughter in many ways:
More independence creates the need to establish more boundaries and rules. This can sometimes lead your daughter to view the relationship as all lectures and lessons.
During this transitional time, don’t forget to balance out your connection with play, spontaneity and fun.
Help your daughter enjoy the time she spends with you! This will strengthen your bond, and increase the chances she’ll listen to you when you do share those valuable lessons.
TIP: Make a plan with your daughter to do an activity together that’s related to something she loves. Let her take the lead in planning, and even if it’s something you don’t understand, relax and let yourself go along for the ride.
As your tween girl begins to want more privacy, she may shy away from the outward displays of affection she used to embrace.
IMPORTANT: This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t need or want your love!
Let your your daughter know you love her in ways that feel comfortable for her. This will help you keep your connection strong and alive even as she’s becoming more independent.
TIP: Try some of these ideas to show your tween girl love behind-the-scenes: Hide a love note in her school backpack, put a coupon for getting out of one of her chores on her pillow, or surprise her with her favorite meal.
How often do you listen to your daughter without giving your opinion, trying to teach something, or trying to change her mind?
It can be so difficult! At times, you likely don’t even realize you’re not present and listening to your daughter.
When you listen to your daughter, you get the chance to learn a lot about her.
You’ll discover what she loves, who she listens to, and what she thinks of herself and the world.
When you listen your tween daughter knows and she feels validation of her true self.
TIP: Do a listening experiment. Commit to spending one day listening to your daughter without judgment. See what you discover!
Related Post: How to Keep the Lines of Communication Open with your Tween Girl (hint: one of the ways is to listen ;-))
Your tween girl is starting to experience changes in her emotions and moods. This can feel scary and something she may feel the need to hide.
Often as parents, we want to be strong for our children and not let them see our weaknesses.
Yet, when you let your daughter see your vulnerability and express your emotions in a healthy way, you teach her through example.
Let her see you make mistakes and how you learn from them. In this way, you can show her it’s safe to experience her full range of emotions and that it’s ok not to be perfect.
TIP: Let your tween daughter express her fears, her insecurities, and her doubts, in a two-way conversation (remembering the non-judgmental part from #4). Share your feelings with her. Take a chance with your vulnerability and witness the conversation that can unfold.
With so many changes happening at once, there’s no escaping the reality that the tween years are challenging.
Yet, when you’re willing to make some shifts in your awareness and approach, this time can be joyful!
You’re on a unique and challenging journey AND, you have the unique opportunity to build an even deeper kind of connection with your daughter.