Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mothering Teenage Daughters

One of my favorite mother quotes is the one pictured to the left "Life doesn't come with  manual, it comes with a Mother".

Isn't that true?! I know I have had a few mothering moments, that I wish I had a manual for.

The best things I had going for me when I became a mother, was that I had a great mother myself.

When we mother, we are mothering generations.

When I started having all girls,( we have 8)  I received a lot of comments about how terrible the teenage years were going to be for me. Our first four daughters are 3 years apart due to having our first two  15 months apart, and then twins. I  had so many sympathy blessings given to me in dread of what was to be the worst and most painful part of my whole mothering career: the teenage years.

I am embarrassed to admit, when my children were little, I lived in fear of those years.  How was I going to safely navigate that time safely with my sanity it tact??

I am happy to report that after successfully navigating the waters of 6 teenage daughters so far, that it has been a pretty good experience. I have been pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed my teenage daughters, and their friends. In fact, I can honestly say, I feel it is one of my favorite stages of motherhood, instead of my worst, which I feared it would be. 

The teenage daughter years can be great!! Here are some ways we found to navigate the waters successfully.

1.   Begin early to have a positive open relationship with your daughters: 

A primary goal we should have as parents, is to have the kind of relationship with our children, so that they want to be with us, and want to talk to us, sharing many feelings, thoughts, and experiences.
That creates a rich, close family bond.  It is really the ideal family experience that will only grow with time.

Don't you want your children to talk to you?  Don't you want to have a relationship with them, where they will come to you for needed advice, counsel, or the best- maybe just to talk  for fun? 

You shouldn't wait until your children are teenagers for that kind of relationship.  If they talk to you, it is because that is a relationship skill you have developed long before the teenage years.  It starts early, so that the flow into the teenage era goes naturally with out a hitch. 

Keep in mind that, girls like to talk. Make time for it. It is usually after school, when you are busy doing something, bedtime, and anytime! That is one way they deal with their day to day experiences.  They are complex, and sometimes they are seeking for answers, but mostly they just want to be understood.  It has taken my poor husband 25 years to understand this, and sometimes he still forgets. 

My daughters all want to talk  and discuss with me (and their dad) their problems.  We know a lot when it comes to their personal lives, because they tell us almost everything. They want to talk to us! Now, I am not naive enough to think they tell us EVERY-THING. I know they don't. I do know, however, that they feel we are a safe zone if they need to talk.

What does a safe zone look like? 

A safe zone is a place where your children can come and talk and you : 1)listen more than you speak. This creates a feeling of safety that they are not going to be attacked with words or punishment before they get their story out  2) you won't rush to judge or condemn unnecessarily  3) love them through the conversation with body language, facial expression, and an attitude they will feel that they are loved no matter what, and 4) when the conversation ends, they somehow feel in charge, and ready to handle their own problems with tools and advice you have given. Sometimes just listening, helps them discover this on their own. 

2: How to keep your children from NOT talking to you:

Before writing this post, I asked my adult daughters, what keeps kids from wanting to talk to their parents about things? Their answer surprised me a little, but then it made total and complete sense. Keep in mind this is geared to the teenager-adult children spectrum, but it's good advice for anyone.    When parents start controlling their children's decisions, kids withdraw, emotionally and physically. It could be a self-conscious instinct.  

We all seek to be able to exercise our own free will to choose. It's a super tricky parenting skill, and relationship skill in general. Tell your children what to think, control what they do, cut them off as they are talking to tell them what you are thinking instead,rush to judgement on their ideas, or make them feel stupid for an idea they have. They will make a note to themselves: "Don't tell mom or dad.... (fill in the blank) " and they will start keeping information from you.  These are  tricky waters to navigate, and it is our human nature to want to control (help) our children. 

When they are young, we do need to govern their lives,  but this needs to change when they get older. When our children  marry our role changes up a bit again. We sit back more, letting them figure things out with their spouse, but being ready for advice when they come asking for it.  Invite but don't control.  Definitely don't control, scold, or put them in their place. At  this point, you are building on the friendship side of your relationship you built and invested in earlier in life.

 It is a hard part of good parenting.  There are of coarse, tough parenting situations, which I don't feel qualified  to speak about. We have been blessed more or less, with not too hard of kids.

3. Have fun and lighten up  a bit

Don't forget to enjoy the ride of parenting.  If you are too overloaded with too many one is having any fun! Believe me!  Focus on the most important things and enjoy the journey a bit.

4.  Have expectations & Have your own family rules: :

It is a proven fact, that a person will rise as far as he is expected to rise. We have always had high expectations for our children, and boundaries they needed to stay within. There is safety in that concept.  Don't worry about what all they other neighbors and parents are doing or not doing. Do what is right for your family. 

Have chores, cooking, and family responsibilities for your family.

But remember: your children are always watching to see if you are practicing what you preach! Live the rules you are asking them to live.  

Come up with rules of living,  to be a strong happy family. Don't give in to the pressure to follow society or neighborhood trends. Good parenting comes in having good relationships.

An example of having your own family rules for us would be sleep overs. We used to be a huge sleepover family when our four oldest were younger. I never really loved them to be honest. I liked knowing  my children were safe in their beds at night, and I wasn't a big fan of sleepovers at my house. Many times, the kids coming over were hoping for a rule-less night of fun, and that always clashed with our family dynamic. We don't have a lot of harsh rules, but we have a sense of order we like to function by.  I found sleep-overs stressful for me on both ends.

Everyone is doing it. But we decided to not to.  We still have family sleepovers with cousins, and we have sleepovers occasionally if a friend needs a place to stay, or their parents are out of town, etc. It's not a never, but we generally don't do them.

This is just an example. Look at your family and make sure you know why you are doing what you are doing, and you aren't just following a trend.

5) Be Prepared for the Hormones

All jokes aside, its a real part of life with teenage daughters.  Once a month the hormones will hit. Usually it is not the emotional aches, but the body aches.  Be prepared with the obvious supplies, plus medication if needed. We always have a quart jar for really severe tummy aches.  The weight and heat of the jar-  together -soothe when nothing else will.  (fill a quart jar with water, microwave for 3 minutes, add lid and ring and put on lower tummy area)  We have had cysts, and surgeries for cysts, etc. It's a real thing! Watch over your daughters health in this regard.

6) Love your girls!!

We love our girls more than words can say!!  We have built our lives and house around raising them. Every part of the journey is fun and memorable. When they leave the house, it doesn't stop! Then you have son-in-laws and grand-babies. Family is a wonderful investment!  It is what we are here for. Be grateful for who the Lord gave you to raise and love!