9 Supportive Tips You Can Share With Your Teen Daughter as She Heads Back to School
If your adolescent daughter is getting ready to begin middle or high school, it is very likely that you are both feeling the natural tornado of excitement, peppered with a dose of anxiety these days.
Indeed, even if middle or high school is not new to her, there may be some anxiety associated with friendships that have changed over the summer or tensions that have recently arisen, all in addition to the normal fears associated with being able to handle the academic and extra-curricular demands of a new school year.
In any case, these are important transitions and challenges on the adolescent path and many moms have begun asking me what they can do to support their daughters as the first day of school quickly approaches.
Every suggestion I make is offered with the caveat that the advice you give your daughter must be modeled through your own action in order for it to be taken seriously, particularly during her adolescence.
It is essential that you check in with yourself in advance and commit to modeling any bit of guidance you offer your daughter. While this may sound like a huge undertaking, the pay off will be well worth it.
Just think - if you view this experience as a time of personal reaffirmation for you and a time of important personal growth for her, this potentially stressful time of year can become an especially rewarding time of the year.
Here you go…
1. You can pick your friends. Although there is a tendency in adolescence to measure ourselves (and others) by the number of friends we have, in friendship more than anything, quality trumps quantity. Encourage your daughter to create a personal list of criteria she desires most in a friendship. Remind her that if someone is not meeting her criteria in some way, she is not obligated to maintain that friendship.
In fact, she may be giving that person permission to treat her poorly if she does not either voice her objection or remove herself from the relationship. This will be great practice for assessing healthy and unhealthy relationships, friendship or otherwise, in her future. In my REALgirl® Empowerment Workshops we recommend American Girl’s ‘True Friend Test’ as an effective tool that is simple to use: http://www.aneabogue.com/moms-resources.php
2. Time management is the key to consciously creating each day and fulfilling our commitments. One of the most intimidating challenges of middle and high school can be the juggling of heavier loads of homework along with growing extra-curricular commitments and the need for a healthy social life. As daily demands increase, life can quickly start to feel overwhelming, underproductive and sort of like it is moving on auto-pilot. Teaching a girl how to be the ‘captain of her own ship’ who consciously creates each day and regularly sets and meets goals is a fundamental life tool that will serve her on many levels.
Before the school year begins, encourage your daughter to start using a day planner that also has room for a daily ‘To Do’ list. At the beginning of each day (or the night before), she can create her list, discuss with you if necessary and establish a good sense of how she needs to block her time. Developing this daily routine will help her to use her time effectively and fulfill her commitments – both of which are tools of empowerment for today and into her adult life.
3. ‘Me time’ is essential! While we are on the topic of time management, a great habit to establish as an adolescent girl and carry into womanhood is something I call, ‘ME time’. It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of school, friends and activities.Encouraging your daughter to take at least 30 minutes per day of time alone to disconnect from her phone and Facebook and reconnect with herself (read a book that’s not connected to school or take a bubble bath, for example) will go a long way. It is especially important that you model this one, Mom!
4. Commitment to a healthy body goes far beyond P.E. class. Creating time for rigorous exercise 3-5 days a week (which P.E. class often does not provide) is valuable at every age, but in adolescence it can be a lifesaver for all parties involved. Ensure that your daughter realizes that exercise will support many aspects of her inner and outer wellbeing. Research has shown that exercise improves memory, concentration and learning and diminishes stress and mood swings. Beyond these important benefits, exercise will help her stay more connected to her body, which is essential as she gets used to its many changes throughout her adolescent years.
5. Knowledge is power…and freedom. One of the most common items on the wish list of almost any adolescent is freedom. While it can be difficult to impart the value of the abstract reality of algebra or the seemingly distant reality of ancient history, communicating the connections between knowledge, power and freedom usually has an impact. So, in case your adolescent daughter is dreading the academic component of the pending school year, remind her that her education is her ticket to a future in which she will have greater power and freedom to create her own unique path in the world. Knowledge is also one of few things no one can take from you once you have it.
6. There is no excuse for getting gratification at someone else’s expense. Although my personal belief is that ‘mean girl’ behavior is not inevitable, for a variety of reasons, including low self-esteem and media socialization, the incidence of girls attempting to prop themselves up by knocking someone else down is not uncommon. The concerted effort we make as mothers to model strong, supportive relationships with other women is essential to guiding our daughters toward greater camaraderie with other girls. I always remind the girls I work with that as women, we have enough obstacles in the world without being obstacles to each other.
7. Every experience can be an investment in our future. It is not uncommon for the anticipation of a whole new set of teachers to cause your adolescent daughter a great deal of anxiety. Reminders of past experiences she has had with the transition from the teacher she loved in 4th grade to that unknown teacher ‘who couldn’t possibly be as good’ will help her to put the transition into perspective. As there is the very real possibility that she will end up with a teacher or two with whom she does not ‘click,’ share with her the reality that there will be employers in her future with whom she may not see eye-to-eye and thus, dealing with the dreaded science teacher can be looked upon as valuable practice for her future.
8. There are few things more important than understanding and honoring our bodies. You may be wondering what this has to do with back-to-school. Everything! It is essential that an adolescent girl understand that her ‘moon’ (menstrual) cycle is a cycle. That is, it is not just about a 5-7 day ‘period’ but rather, a 28-plus day movement through hormonal transitions that impact the way she experiences the world physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
There is tremendous value in her comprehension of the fact that the estrogen ‘phase’ she moves through in days 7-14 will likely lead her to feel more energetic, self-confident and outgoing, versus the latter progesterone ‘phase’ during which she will tend to feel more introspective and less tolerant of the ‘outside world’. This knowledge and understanding will enable her to honor the power of her body and feel less frustrated or confused by what seem to be random, uncontrollable mood swings and powerful reactions (and interactions) that impact every aspect of her life.
9. New beginnings are the ideal time to set new goals. Perhaps the best way to counter the apprehension your daughter may be feeling about the beginning of a new year is to help her see one of the brightest sides of new beginnings – a fresh start! Encourage her to make a list of the things she would most like to do differently than last year and set three goals for the coming school year.
Talk her through a daily approach to achieving these goals and emphasize the fact that this is one of many ways she has the ability to create the school year and the life path she desires.
Anea Bogue is an acclaimed self-esteem expert who specializes in working with women of all ages, including adolescent girls. The mother of a teen daughter and 3 year old daughter, Anea is passionate about the empowerment of girls and women and has dedicated more than half her life to this cause. She brings 20 years of experience to her work as an educator (middle and high school teacher for 10 years), certified life coach, consultant, writer and speaker. Anea is also the creator and director of REALgirl®, a revolutionary empowerment program for girls ages 9 – 16, yielding incredible transformations in girls. Anea is currently writing a book titled ‘9 Ways We are Screwing Up Our Girls and How We Can Stop’ based on her Master’s Thesis which was dedicated to the self-esteem crisis among women and girls. Whether through her upcoming television special, her forthcoming book, featured articles or speaking engagements, or as a highly-credentialed coach, confidant and consultant, Anea is committed to helping each girl and woman discover her authentic self and reach her highest potential. To learn more about Anea please visit www.AneaBogue.com.