3 things your daughter wants to tell you but won't
As you can imagine, I hear a lot about the ins and outs of daily life for teen girls. Often there are things going on that they have no desire to share with you, which can be very difficult to accept.
However, over the years I have noticed 3 themes that continually come up. They would actually like you to know but most likely will never tell you...
I like when you punish me for breaking the rules
This might sound hard to believe and I never would have thought girls would verbalize this until it started happening in my office.
10 years ago I was watching the Real Housewives of Orange County (stop judging me...) and there was a mother daughter situation in which the teen daughter kept behaving dangerously... sneaking out, drinking, mouthing off, etc... Mom was struggling with it but didn't want to "upset" her daughter further so she never really did much about it but yell and argue. Mom made a lot of threats but never followed through.
The daughter was talking to the camera and at one point she said "I don't really know what it would take for my parents to punish me. I don't know the limit. Sometimes I even wonder if they love me." That stuck with me. Fast forward a year later and I am working with teen girls more and I am taken back when I start to hear similar comments from them.
On many occasions I have had girls tell me they didn't know the limits because their parents either didn't set them or didn't enforce what was in place. Let me be clear... they will never tell you this and will fight you on it but deep down they do realize that you give them guidelines because you love them and care. The feeling loved piece is critical. Appropriate, consistent boundaries communicate love and girls get it deep down.
Excessive, too restrictive guidelines, rules and punishment is a different issue to be discussed some other time but in general, they need boundaries and need to know when they have hit them.
I'm scared I will hurt your feelings
Time and time again I am discussing family life with girls and inevitably we start talking about how everyone in the family handles their emotions. When I ask her about how her parents handled a certain issue she was having with them she responds with "I didn't talk to them about it". To which I question her reasoning and she responds "because I didn't want to hurt their feelings".
Believe it or not they do care about your feelings and often girls are afraid to discuss certain problems or confront a situation because they fear mom or dad's feelings will be hurt.
For example, let's say dad loves to go fishing with his daughter and has since she was little. Now she is 14 and isn't as interested in it as she used to be. She might not say anything directly to dad about not wanting to go but instead spend the week before being grouchy and then on the trip be disengaged and distracted. She doesn't tell him that she doesn't want to go because she is afraid of hurting his feelings.
This happens a lot in the college planning process. Girls will agree to visit schools or look at majors because their parents are really excited and pushing it. They feel guilt because mom and dad are paying a lot of money for school so they just go along with it. Meanwhile anxiety and stress are building... they won't say something because they are afraid to hurt feelings.
It's important to create a home environment where she can be open about her likes and dislikes. Her intention is not to hurt feelings. Often times the issues are not directly personal and it's important for mom and dad to be open to her differing views. This doesn't mean agreement with them but it does mean respectful discussions.
I am terrified of growing up
I think as adults we tend to easily forget what life was like as a teen, mostly because our brains are now developed and we can think and reason more clearly. It's very difficult to see life through their eyes but it is critical that you try or you will have a hard time connecting.
It wasn't until I started spending so many hours a week talking with girls that I realized just how scared they are about growing up and their futures. They face extensive pressure at school about grades so they can go to the "right" school and find a career and a spouse and have kids. They think about this stuff all day long.
They talk about it to each other constantly but I think part of why they don't talk to you about the fear is that they some how believe they shouldn't be afraid or that their fear will be minimized or discounted if they do bring it up.
Watching the lives of the adults around them doesn't always help either. I often hear about how "adulting" looks horrible so why would they want to try it. They crave the independence but don't want the responsibilities that come with it. It's important that they are seeing the value of growing up.
Sometimes their behaviors will tell you a lot about the fear of growing up. For example, anorexia in teen girls can often have an underlying fear of growing up and becoming a woman. School refusal, poor grades, lack of motivation, substance abuse can all be symptoms of a fear of growing up.
Know that girls don't intend to shut you out about these issues, they just don't know how to bring them up most of the time. It can be helpful to know that the random acting out could be due to some of these underlying thoughts.