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Are Girls as Hard as they Say?

Updated: May 7

Raising Tweenagers - the myths and truths

Yes. There's the short answer so you can click away and get back to work or scrolling.

The truth? All individuals are individual. My daughter is challenging in ways that I was warned about. There are moody days, big emotions, and unreasonable outbursts, but I could be talking about myself with those descriptors too.

All young people will have difficulties managing life, it is a wild ride after all, and all parents will have fears about the future. Twice, just this week, I've been asked by other parents, "Are girls as hard as they say at that age?" I know they are just asking from a place of worry about their own little girls, but it is a little off-putting. How can I sum up the challenges and wonders of my daughter to reassure or educate this stranger? I cannot. So, I say yes. Inevitably whoever they are, they are going to experience hard times with their little girl. I don't stop there though...

Based on my experience as a mother of two girls, here are some things I've learned you can do to support your girl and survive and thrive through the tween years.

Talk Often & Start Early

Relationships are built on shared values and experiences. Taking time to connect is vital to keep lines of trust and communication open with your girl as she grows. The more confident she is that you'll be there for her, the easier it will be for her to lean on you for lessons and love.

Starting early will make this easier on you, it's much easier to keep game night or Sunday dinners going than it is to implement them when you start to feel her drifting away. If you do want to start a new tradition, I recommend being laid back and persistent. Insist they participate, but avoid a nagging tone or using the time to unload worries and expectations. This time together should be fun, but you will set the tone. Tweens are notoriously skilled at letting parents know how lame they are, but if you can play around and ignore their resistance, they will likely come around. The truth is, their childlike self isn't that far removed and they do value play time with family still.

Some of our family's favorite connecting activities include hiking and biking. Getting outside encourages everyone to exercise, get off devices, and keeps things a little less intimate but still about the bonding. Art projects, Husband doesn't love this, but we include him as best we can. Gaming, of course. This can cause some unhealthy competitive energy, but home is a safe space to explore that. Sometimes we push through and sometimes we turn off the game, either way, we learn about limits.

Avoid Power Struggles

Another tip to start early. Having clear and well-defined boundaries is sanity-saving, and potentially life-saving. Some of the simplest places to start defining boundaries are around personal cares and bedtime routines. When your child knows what to expect at home and what you expect from them, you will have a foundation to grow out of. It may be difficult to implement routines for various reasons, but I have found that as things get more and more complicated, having routines grounds us during chaos.

An example of how this has helped us - my daughter has always had a strict bedtime. This removes the conflict at night when I'm tired and keeping my emotions and energy regulated is most challenging. Having the expectation established removes the opportunity for conflict and teaches healthy habits. There are plenty of things to argue about, but the basics don't need to be one of them.

In addition to all that, as she has gotten older and asked for a later bedtime, it reminds me to consider her age and abilities. This consideration then unfolds into other areas of her life. Now that she can stay up until 10 pm, she can also handle these new chores, these new apps, this new allowance. The routines are benchmarks that remind us to maintain our center while we evolve.

Be ready with explanations for your routines as they grow, because authority challenges are not a myth. Simply saying, because I said so typically doesn't fly at this age, but something simple like, 'Because I care about teaching you healthy habits,' or 'Because I didn't take care of myself at your age, and I've learned that this is important.' might work a little better. Telling the truth and being vulnerable is usually a good bet to encourage connection, compassion, and respect from your child.

Seek Support

Connecting with other parents to laugh and cry about the struggles you experience is a massive help. There are support groups, Facebook groups, PTA's, family, friends, therapists, and doctors, all with their own need to connect and support other parents.

If you'd rather go it alone, take my tip to be vulnerable with your child to heart. Our children are good, and letting them know what you're feeling can help them relate to you while learning to be compassionate and emotionally literate. I've found that telling my daughter when and how I screwed up tends to level us so we can start over.

Remember that no tactic will work every time and not all situations can be handled alone or simply. Engaging a therapist for yourself, your child, or your family can be a good way to keep things in perspective and under control.

Keep on Keeping On

Try your best to remember that time will pass and things will keep on keeping on. The challenges of today will be tomorrow's memories. Not everything needs to be challenged or solved. Not all problems your child has will be something you can help with. Not all struggles will be solved easily or neatly.

Although we can't know what the future holds and we want what's best for our children, I have always found comfort in something my therapist once told me, the fact that I care at all is half the battle. Take comfort yourself in knowing that you mean well and want your child to be happy and healthy. We can't get it all right, and we can do everything our best and still end up in difficult situations. There is no magic bullet to parenting, but there is a lot you can make up for with a little humor and a lot of love.

Having ways to recharge yourself away from the stress of raising tweens is one of the biggest helps I've found. At some point, she'll be through the worst of the hormones and on to other things and I'll need to carry on as myself.

A Great Read!

Need more? My all-time favorite tween/teen parenting resource is the book Untangled, by Lisa Damour, PhD. I have listened to the audiobook on Audible three times. Each time we're at a different point of development and new lessons resonate. I think anyone with a young girl in their life can benefit from this read.

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