Inside this post: Here are 10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know as we enter the teenage years.
Here we are, on the cusp of you turning teen.
Things have been moving fast, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
You’ve learned some pretty important stuff so far.
You are learning about resiliency and safety and how to take care of yourself. You are getting ready to go to high school and learn how to drive and maybe even have your first crush.
I think we’ve been doing pretty well so far. We’ve covered the basics. Like how you smell is important, so take a shower at least every other day — and always assume you have morning breath. Or eating a rainbow does not necessarily mean a pack of skittles, although sometimes that is an acceptable lunch alternative. Or nothing good ever comes from sneaking around–and that your Mom almost always finds out.
You’ve also learned some pretty important life skills, such as learning to help your friends who struggle in the classroom. Playing on a team can be fun even if you lose. And perseverance and hard work often pay off.
I’m watching you become more independent, more determined, more ready to fly off on your own.
And that is a bittersweet experience for me. I’ll always be there for you, but before you know it, you’ll be flying out of the nest just like those other baby birds.
Over the next few years, you’ll be making more decisions for yourself.
There are going to be a lot of distractions: friendships, dating (ack!), cell phones, social media, hormones, driving (woah!), and so many other things will ring loudly in your ears. It is going to be tough to hear me — and sometimes you’re not going to listen — but I’ll never stop trying.
Although other moms have warned me that this part of parenting is hard — perhaps the hardest — part of having a daughter, I think we’re ready to tackle it.
But I hope you know that I do remember what it was like to be a teenager, and I’ll do my best to remember that this is the first time for you.
So, as we move on to these crazy teenage years, here are some things I want my daughter to know:
1. Your decisions are important.
One decision can change the trajectory of your life. It takes courage to decide you are not ready for something, and courage to decide to make yourself vulnerable and try something new. Always be courageous.
2. Maintain your digital privacy.
If you would not walk into the lunchroom and shout it out, don’t ever text or share it on social media. Your “friends” list will not adhere to the same standards of discretion about your life as you expect, particularly when hitting the forward button is so simple. And never hit send on an email before double checking who is in the “to” field. Trust me.
But also don’t forget you should maintain your friends’ privacy as well. Don’t screenshot private messages or forward along a photo you know someone else wouldn’t want to get out into the world. Just remember, you can apologize for something you said, but destroying someone’s digital reputation can live forever.
Life is not measured in the amount of likes you get on Instagram, numbers on a scale, or even your GPA. And there isn’t a “thing” you can buy with the money you make that can fill a void in your soul. Always remember that life is about the impact you have on others, so work on building your brain and growing your heart, and the rest will fall into place.
4. Always believe the best in people.
Girls can be mean. Well, really, people can be mean. There will be a million times when someone says something or does something or you are told about something that rips your heart to shreds.
Give that person the benefit of the doubt, and then offer them grace — because when this stuff happens, it is not about you, sweet girl. It says infinitely more about them.
5. Use your voice.
Never sit idly by while someone else is being treated poorly. Period.
I hope when you see something, you’ll say something, but be smart about it. If you are concerned about your safety, leave an anonymous note for a trusted adult, talk to law enforcement, or please come to me. There’s nothing we can’t solve together.
6. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
I often feel that all those cheesy shows on the Disney Channel and Netflix have watered down your brain cells, but this is one lesson they constantly show that I hope has resonated with you. It feels good to fit in and it feels good to be liked, but you will find that being accepted only when you are pretending to be something you’re not is an exhausting, unfulfilling experience. And if I ever catch you acting dumb or helpless to attract a love interest, I will ground you. Just kidding (not kidding.)
7. Take charge of your own mental health.
No one can make you happy. It is a choice you have to make and it is hard. Trying to fill a void in your life with a person — or with another tangible such as food, alcohol, drugs, etc. is a lost cause. Find out what makes you the happiest, and then do that. A lot.
But you are becoming more responsible for taking care of your own mental health. That means getting enough sleep, monitoring your social media usage, understanding triggers for anxiety and doing a check-in when you feel “off.”
Always do things that feed your soul. Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself. Put your phone down for a few hours each day. Exercise. Eat something that grows out of the ground every once in awhile.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is more important than your mental health. Protect it at all costs.
8. Never diss your sisters or your girlfriends.
Because one day, life will happen. You may find out that you have a debilitating illness or your husband had an affair. You could be sexually harassed by a co-worker or face a challenging decision.. You may have to relocate to a faraway place or just totaled your car.
You might sink into the darkness of depression and anxiety. You might lose yourself in the depths of motherhood. You might face unfathomable grief or distress or despair the likes you can’t even imagine.
And just when you think you have nowhere to turn, a hand reaches towards you and pulls you out. They reach and pull you out because they showed up—as you always have for them. Treat your friendships with kid gloves, dear daughter. They can offer the richest experiences of your life.
9. You are enough, exactly as you are.
At a minimum of 50 times each day, you will be told you are inadequate, and Photoshop will change what you think is normal. You will feel that your teeth are not white enough. Your hair is too flat. Your boots are cheap. Your thighs touch. Your makeup is wrong. Your voice is too high. Your face is too thin. Your boobs are too big. I wish I could say it gets better, but it doesn’t. Do not let these feelings break your spirit and fight against the urge to conform. Love yourself for who you are in this exact moment because you are perfect.
This is a lesson that most of us learn after having kids, but I’m letting you in on it now.
You are a gift to this world, and if you ever forget, just ask. I know I’m just your mom, but I have a long list of compelling reasons why you are awesome.
10. The best is yet to come.
The next few years will have a lot of highs and lows, but rest assured that no one wants to peak in high school, and you have the best that life has to offer sitting before you.
And as it becomes less often that you reach back to grab my hand or beg me to lay with you for just five more minutes, or think I’m the smartest person in the whole wide world, I’ll always be there for you — even when I let you fall before raising you back up.
I can’t wait to see what’s next for you dear daughter. Thanks for bringing out the best in me.
Parenting teens is hard. We like this book, Parenting Teens with Love & Logic, as a resource. About the book: Parents need help to teach their teens how to make decisions responsibly―and do so without going crazy or damaging the relationship. Parenting Teens with Love and Logic, from the duo who wrote Parenting with Love and Logic, empowers parents with the skills necessary to set limits, teach important skills, and encourage decision-making in their teenagers. Covering a wide range of real-life issues teens face―including divorce, ADD, addiction, and sex―this book gives you the tools to help your teens find their identity and grow in maturity. Indexed for easy reference.