By Ann Luban, MSW, MAJCS, JCFS Community Services Program Specialist
Parents of 9 to 12 year-old girls know "Tween Girl Drama" even if they cannot define it. They see it in the struggles their daughters have negotiating friendships, their changing bodies, and their growing desire for independence. They experience it in the moodiness and seeming over-reactions to the littlest of things. Here are 7 tips for supporting your daughter (or even your son) as she navigates these challenging years:
1- Talk to Her. And really listen to what she says. If she is upset about something, empathize and help her make sense of the situation. Rather than rushing to give advice, help her develop the confidence in her ability to figure things out for herself. Hint - That time at night after the lights are out but just before she falls asleep may be when she is most willing to open up to you.
2- Be sure she is getting enough sleep. It feels grown-up to stay up late, but lack of sleep will make it harder for her concentrate the next day, make her more on edge and make it more difficult for her to cope with challenging situations.
3 - Nurture her passions. What does she like to do? What is she good at? Help her develop her own interests, not just those that other girls think are "cool." This will not only develop her self-esteem and confidence, but give her a safe haven when she needs it.
4 - Set Boundaries with Technology. From addictive computer games to texting her friends at all hours of the day and night, to even deciding when and what kind of access to technology makes sense, she needs your help to make good decisions, disconnect and to protect herself online. You may not be able to stop her from receiving hateful messages, but you can limit the likelihood that she'll read them alone and late at night.
5 - Don't take it personally. If she hasn't said it yet, she will - "You just don't understand!" This isn't really about you. In fact, most of what she says isn't about you; it's her hormones and emotions, her fears and insecurities, and her need to develop her own identity separate from you. Take a deep breath, stay calm and model the self-control that you want to see in her someday.
6 - Know When to Step In. Sometimes kids are mean, and many times there are hurt feelings and tears. While you cannot and should not step in every time, you need to pay attention, and when things are getting out of control, inappropriate, or dangerous, then you need to take action. Talk to your daughter about what you are going to do and why you need to do so at that moment.
7 - Be there. Throughout these years and into the teenage years, the most important thing you can do is to be there for her, through the ups and the downs, and make sure she knows you support her completely and love her unconditionally.
Ann Luban is facilitating BeTween: The Jewish Tween Girls Planning Initiative, made possible through funding from the Jewish Women's Foundation.