August 28, 2012

Ten Thoughts on Raising a Teenage Daughter. ~ Gabrielle Albano

Photo credit: 23am.com

1. I shall begin with the totally new, totally weird experience of walking down the street with your teenage daughter and you realize the guys in cars are looking at her, not you anymore.

Meanwhile said teenage daughter is oblivious to the whole thing, (which is a good thing because she doesn’t see me give these guys the middle finger and the “keep right on driving dude” look.)

2. The teenager’s friends are eating machines, but not necessarily food. Stock your kitchen with chips, pretzels, tortilla chips and salsa, chocolate and unholy beverages like Coke, Pepsi and that scary colored Mountain Dew.

You never know when they will stampede in. We may have gotten away with serving fruit juice, homemade muffins and veggies cut into cute shapes up until now, but man that ship has sailed.

3. Always have extra pillows and blankets for those impromptu sleepovers. And plenty of horror movies. Disney movies are so over, although Tim Burton films seem to be a current teen favorite.

Also for those sleepovers, have on hand an assortment of take-out menus. It is your duty as a mother of the teenager to know who makes the best pizza in town with the fastest (and cheapest) delivery.

4. Skinny jeans, ripped jeans, tight T-shirts, retro 80’s styles, hipster clothes… give up now on trying to state an opinion on what your kid is wearing half the time. It’s a losing battle. I’ve learned to just smile and nod.

I’ve also learned if I’d saved all my boho-hippie tops/Madonna/Cyndi Lauper-like outfits and now “vintage” concert T-shirts, I could probably have quite a nest egg saved up from unnecessary trips to the mall by now.

5. Argh. Behold these glorious days of piercings and tattoos. “Everyone has them” is what you’ll hear often. This is a personal choice between you and your teenager, but know that you can say “not gonna happen” and your daughter will still love you. It worked for me.

6. The demonic addiction to Facebook. Don’t stalk your teen’s wall. You won’t learn anything anyway because your daughter will simply block you from seeing statuses that she doesn’t want you to see.

This is where that open line of communication you started back when she was two years old will come in handy. No scary secrets, but by this age they’ve earned their privacy and we must respect that.

7. Boys—aside from the fact that you risk dying of a horrible disease from having sex with the wrong person, I can honestly say nothing much has changed. Think back in time and draw from your own experience as a teenager. There is a goldmine of information there. Times change, but people don’t and I cannot stress enough that whole communication thing you’ve got going on with your kid.

If you can’t talk to your teenage daughter—start now, right now. It’s not too late. In this world of peer pressure and those charming heart palpitations of first loves, trust me, your daughter wants to talk about it.

8. When I was a teen, it was cigarettes, pot and beer. Now there’s fruity, yummy vodka coolers, crack, cocaine, pills stolen from parent’s medicine cabinets, A.D.D. and bipolar meds that kids themselves are on and share with their friends; plus a bunch of homemade concoctions they develop themselves by mixing different over-the-counter medications together.

Scary shit? You betcha’. But if you’ve raised your daughter to respect her body, mind and future; to be able to see beyond next Friday night, then all those lessons will come into play during these crazy years. Know the signs, Google them if you don’t know them and don’t be in denial. If your kid comes home glazed-eyed or walking into walls or not at all, something is wrong. Pounce on it.

9. Punishments/Grounding/Yelling a lot. To make this an honest post I must admit that my daughter drank once with her friends (of the fruity vodka, easy-to-drink beverage variety.) Now, I’ve never spanked or hit my daughter in her life….ever. So I’m certainly not going to start now. And my own mother was quite the screamer, thus never resolving anything.

I realized I am extremely lucky that my daughter came home and told me she drank. So how do you create an appropriate punishment for that? It’s ultimately up to you as a parent, but I will tell you the consequence I decided on for my hatching. As everything about our lives is non-conforming, off-beat and “out of the box”, I chose a rather unorthodox consequence for her alcohol experimentation.

First of all—house arrest. No leaving, no cell phone, no computer. I cut off all communication from her friends for a weekend. Next I gave her a large piece of Bristol board and a huge stack of magazines; a glue stick and scissors. Her punishment was to make a vision board—that’s right, a vision board.

I instructed her to visualize who and what she wanted to be after high school and to represent her future by cutting out pictures and filling the Bristol board with images that resonated with her. Of course she bucked the whole idea and called me “lame” and “weird”, but when offered the alternative punishment (being grounded for two weeks), she agreed to do the vision board project.

And might I say it turned out to be a great learning experience? So great that she actually thanked me for insisting she made one. It opened up a clear visual picture in her mind’s eye of a path for her to navigate her way through high school. She is now able to visualize and stick to her ultimate goals (one of which is not succumbing to AA meetings by the time she’s 30).

So the lesson here is, punishment should fit the crime, but sometimes a teenager’s punishment can be a huge growth experience rather than a negative reinforcement of their straying off the beaten path, so to speak. Or better yet, a diversion to following the more popular, well-worn path of many teenage girls in this day and age.

10. And finally, love. Love unconditionally. Teens are very intuitive as to who really loves them and who is just going through the motions. And they want to be loved, all of them. No matter how much they may act all-knowingly independent and grown up, most of them are unsure about this big scary world that is waiting in their future.

When a teenager knows, really knows in her heart that she truly matters, it can make all the difference in her life, her behavior, her choices and ultimately her budding future towards a happy and full-filled adulthood.

Gabrielle is a freelance writer, having been published several times in local newspapers in her area of Southern Ontario, Canada. She also has a blog where she has been regularly documenting her journey as a single mother since 2006. She and her daughter (now 16), enjoy a non-conforming lifestyle of free thinking, tree-hugging, literary loving mother-daughter bonding. In their small town, apartment-living and not owning a car has set them apart from the rest—which explains the non-conforming aspect of their lives. They live with their Chihuahua named Bella and their cat named Gilbert.

Editor: Jamie Morgan

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