Becoming allies. Sounds good, doesn’t it? An ally is one who knows the enemy, understands the territory and the battles and is always ready to lend a hand.
Statistics and stories confirm that today’s teenage girls need allies more than ever. By the time a girl is 15 years old, she likely will have confronted a plethora of scary realities: sexual harassment and aggression, drug and alcohol abuse, friends that come and go and dangerous liaisons via high-tech connections.
You know her best
You are the ally your daughter needs. You know what foods she likes and how she arranges the pillows on her bed. You watched her discover ladybugs and chocolate pudding. You’ve prayed about her grade in algebra and reminded her to wear her retainer. You told her about Jesus. You encouraged her to take piano lessons and be cautious with the new girl who moved in down the street. You know your daughter’s strengths and weaknesses.
You taught her. You loved her. Deep in your heart you believe that ought to count for something. It does. All of your knowledge, teaching and love have led to this moment when your daughter needs you more than ever. Yet financial pressures, a failed marriage or the loss of a spouse, long hours at work and daily stresses can convince you that you are an inferior parent who’ll be fortunate to survive the teenage years, much less be a powerful influence on your adolescent children.
Seize the moments
One of the most overwhelming influences on teenagers is the culture. Like a steady intravenous drip, the culture influences your children through movies, music and magazines. Yet you may be surprised to learn that culture can become one context in which you can most powerfully connect with your daughter — forming an alliance that will help guide her to emotional and spiritual maturity.
You may be tempted to feel angry with or overwhelmed by the influences that surround your children. If you use your energy, however, to fight the culture, you can alienate your daughter. The truth is, you can use those situations to your advantage. Here are three ways to connect with your daughter:
Know the culture. What’s out there? What music, movies, magazines and celebrities does your daughter like? Listen to music and watch movies with her. Talk about what you each like, dislike and think as a result of a song or film. Find a particular celebrity who highlights a virtue you would like to see in your daughter. Find out more about that individual. Talk about what it might be like for him or her to walk against the tide of Hollywood values. Compare that to your daughter’s world.
Look for something positive. If your daughter believes you are on a witch hunt to find the negatives in what she enjoys, she may wall off part of her heart from you. If you approach the culture with curiosity and humor, your daughter will be more likely to watch and listen for your response.
Connect the culture to stories. Use positive movies, magazines, music and celebrities to talk about your life story, your daughter’s story or the story of an entertainer in relationship to values, life goals or beliefs. As you connect her faith to real people and issues, she’ll be better equipped to resist temptations.
I thank God for my daughter and for the opportunity to be her ally during her transforming teenage years. By using the culture rather than allowing it to infiltrate unaware, I hope to set her up to be wise and discerning in her choices. You can do the same for your child.
Sharon A. Hersh is a licensed professional counsellor and author of Mom, I Hate My Life! Sharon lives with her family in Lone Tree, Colo.