The 3 Things Mothers Need to Teach their Daughters: Familiarize yourself with Facebook, Twitter, texting and all the other ways your daughter communicates with her friends.
Apr 30, 2012 08:18PM
● By Jennifer K. Jackman
After more than a decade of working closely with girls of all ages, I am often asked to name the most important lessons mothers should reinforce with their daughters. Extracting from the more prominent themes that arise in psychotherapy, I answer with these three topics:
To BFF or not to BFF?
We see it all over the place on T-shirts, stickers, almost anything designed for a girl: BFF (Best Friends Forever) is everywhere. Certainly there is nothing wrong with close connections between particular kids. But girls need to remember that it is OK to have more than one best friend; no relationship should be so exclusive that it rules out meaningful relationships with other kids. Girls wrestle with the notion that one friend should be everything to them, especially as they grow and meet new kids with similar interests. The BFF designation has become a kind of ownership, which often results in girls vying for the position and making sure they are never usurped. The BFF craze is cute, but there are lessons within. If you are the mother of a girl, it presents a perfect opportunity for you to explain to her, beginning when she’s young, that it is OK to have several close friends, and that no single friend needs to be crowned “The BFF.”
Mirror, mirror …
Does the mirror really tell the whole story about a person? Girls continue to battle with their appearance and self-esteem, and most girls I see for therapy believe they are overweight when they are far from it. As role models to their daughters, mothers must remind their girls that it is essential to take care of themselves for more than just vanity’s sake. Being healthy and strong should be as important to them as being pretty—if not more so. More and more moms are active and taking good care of themselves, but unless they have an open dialogue with their daughters about the importance of health, the girls will see primarily exterior motives for their mothers’ actions. Sadly, some girls actually feel competitive with their mothers. If you have a daughter, remind her that beauty without health is not beauty at all.
This modern catchphrase speaks the truth. Girls’ relationships can be very intricate and often require a roadmap, but keeping up is difficult because the terrain is always changing. Many times, girls resort to bad behavior to navigate that difficult landscape. That’s why if you have a daughter, it is important for you to stay on top of all her friendships as much as possible, so that you can provide guidance about how to approach different situations. Even when your teenage daughter doesn’t want your advice, be a good listener; hearing herself out loud can be very therapeutic for her and help her with problem solving. Familiarize yourself with Facebook, Twitter, texting and all the other ways your daughter communicates with her friends. Someone gossiping about her at school is very different from someone saying something about her on their Facebook page, for example, and understanding the difference is crucial in terms of the advice that you give her as she copes with the problem. Before you offer that advice, try to learn as much as you can about the context of the situation—and hold on tight because, of course, “it’s complicated.”
Jennifer K. Jackman is a licensed clinical social worker and owner of Apple Tree Therapy, located at 3630 Hill Blvd., Suite 204A, Jefferson Valley, NY. Contact her at 914.302.2858 or visit AppleTreeTherapyGroup.com for more info.