What Your Teenage Daughter Needs Most from You
April 1, 2020 | by sheri mitchell
If you have or have had a teenager, you know that those years can be tumultuous, terrific, and transformative. Having a teenager isn’t all bad, but it IS different than having a child of any other age. The introduction of hormones changes your child, and therefore, changes the dynamic of your relationship. Parents are often left feeling a bit blindsided by all the changes that seem to be happening in the life of their precious child.
I recently sat down with a group of young women in their 20s. These ladies not only clearly remember their teen years, but they also spend time with teenagers regularly through work, family activities, or volunteering. I wanted to hear their perspective on what they felt they needed from their parents in their teen years, as well as what they hear from the teens they spend time with.
As I visited with these young ladies, I asked them what they wish they could have said to their parents when they were teenagers. Here was their collective response:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I know I can seem a bit overdramatic and hyper-emotional right now. Hormones are SO weird! So much of what I am feeling makes the world seem as if it has gone mad, and I often don't know how to handle all that I am feeling! My body is changing. My thoughts are changing. How I am feeling is changing. My interests are changing. Most days, I am not sure what is up and what is down. What is real and what is purely emotional. I feel pretty. I feel ugly. I feel happy. I feel sad. I am angry, and then I am laughing. Everything I have ever known seems to no longer exist as I once knew it.
I know I often act as if I don't want anything to do with you. Honestly, you seem to have become stupid overnight. I KNOW you aren't, but I can't help thinking you are. And I know that can be super irritating. I am sorry, but I don't know how to change how I feel! Can you still press in to love me, even when I am being awful? I really need to know that someone, somewhere still loves me, even amid all this madness and chaos. Give me hugs. Tell me you love me. Please don't shut me out just because I can be snarky and obnoxious. Those are the times I need you most. I just don’t know how to tell you that.
Dad, I know it is strange having your little girl become a woman. (You should try being me!!) Please don’t stop giving me hugs or telling me I am beautiful. Tell me I am smart, strong, and capable. Please make the time to take me on dates and show me I am important to you. When you take the time to speak those words to me and spend time with me, you show me how a real man should treat me, and that helps me know what I am worth and how I should be treated in my relationships.
Mom and Dad, your words are incredibly important to me. I need you to tell me that you believe in me, that you are proud of me, that you see me, and that I am important to you. I need you to listen to me when I speak, not to tell me I am being ridiculous or where I am wrong, but simply to let me know you care about how I am feeling and what I am thinking. When you listen to me, speak, and when you encourage me with your words, you make me want to share things with you more.
I also really need you not to freak out when I mess up!! Seriously, I already know I made a mistake. What I need in those moments is for you not to make me feel worse, but to still let me know you love me. Yes, I know I will have to face the consequences of the choices I make. I actually WANT you to make me face the consequences because it helps me understand how the real world operates. I just don't want you to freak out or yell or try and make me feel worse than I already do.
Mom, I love you, but please don’t take it personally that I don’t want to be like you right now. I know it feels personal, but it isn’t. I am simply trying to figure out who I am, and that means trying NOT to be like my mom right now. Someday, when I am older and wiser, I will see you more clearly, and I will be thankful for all the ways you are so amazing and wonderful. That day isn’t now. Right now, I don’t want to be your best friend or mini-me. I want to be me...whoever that is.
Give me space, but hold me close. Let me talk, but don’t make me have a conversation with you. Invite me to join you, but don’t force me to spend time with you. Share your wisdom with me, but don’t tell me what to do. Give me greater freedom as I get older, but don’t abandon me to myself by leaving me without boundaries and responsibilities. Give me room to figure out who I am, but don’t make me feel like I don’t belong with you anymore.
See me. Celebrate me. Encourage me. Correct me, lovingly, when I am wrong. Engage me in meaningful conversations. Treat me more and more like the adult you want me to become. Prepare me for the world I will be living in someday. Tell me you love me, even when I don't say it to you.
These years are going to be bumpy and intense, but they can be really enjoyable if we choose to work together and let love be our guide.
Love you, Your teenage daughter
Originally printed in the April 2020 issue of Simply Local Magazine
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Sheri is a wife of 27 years, a mother to 4 terrific adult children, and mother-in-law to one precious daughter-in-law. Using her experience to fuel her passion, she writes, mentors, and speaks to encourage and help other women to succeed, thrive and see the joy in their own journeys of marriage and parenting. She is also an avid sports fan, enjoys a good historical novel and truly loves everything her husband cooks.