Ready or Not Here I Grow: Understanding Teenage Girls
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By Mia Bolaris-Forget
Girls will be girls, in fact many women are (still) little girls deep down inside, but whether they’ll grow up to be “good” girls or not may depend on YOUR understanding of them during adolescence and how you nurture their adolescent nature.
They are frequently “cranky” and “confused”, moody, and quite commonly misunderstood. Torn between being daddy’s girl, or Jessy’s girl, the apple of your eye, or the object of someone else’s attention and affection, they frequently falter between feelings of security (at home) and insecurity (in the world). And, according to experts it’s all about mind over matter, it’s what’s on their mind, and understanding their thoughts, that really seems to matter.
1. Too “Sexy” For Her Shirt (or at least her age): I’m no prude, but I was flabbergasted while window-shopping at the mall not too far back. Browsing through a popular child’s fashion retailer (geared at girls) I couldn’t help but notice belly shirts, thongs, and tiny little shoes featuring cleverly crafted 2-inch heels. Then, I noticed a sign that read, we carry sizes 6 and 6x. Why would a child that young need a thong, to expose her midriff (does she even have one at that age?), and high heel boots? Is it any wonder that these barrage of explicit styles, blatant advertisements along with perspicuous television and radio content have turned our girls into petite mini-divas? Coupled with the continued phenomenon of early development and physical maturity, girls begin to notice boys noticing them and these initially uncomfortable thoughts (with the help and hype of the media) are conveniently (at least for the boys) turned into curiosity.
Girls and their insatiable thirst for knowledge can also more readily realize and “accept” the changes in their bodies, as they look in the mirror and as marketers continue to encourage their development with visually appeasing and pleasing fashions and intimate apparel.
Still, while outwardly interested and seemingly confident about their apparent sexuality, many girls remain shy and reserved about “sex”. Sure, they think about it, probably every time they look in the mirror and realize the power and appeal of sex appeal. And since girls are more vocal, your daughters are more likely (than your sons) to make their thoughts and feelings known. In fact, your girls probably won’t stop talking about boys (until they get married and revert back to thinking they are “yucky”).
According to experts however, your daughter’s interest, even her obsessive vocalization is not only healthy but also normal and natural. Women are emotionally expressive and by expressing herself she is allowing you into her world and is opening the door for communication and maybe even a few suggestions. Studies show that with girls, their bark is often worse than their bite. They, for the most part associate sex with intimacy and emotion, though experts caution that, the only “danger” with that is that frequently a girl will feel she “should” sleep with a guy she “loves”, because he (ultimately) expects it. The good news however, is that many girls are, via discussion, redefining what love is (and is not) and (according to recent polls) as many as 73 percent of female teens claimed to (still) be virgins and out of that percentage nearly half expressed pride in their decision.
Still, that doesn’t mean your daughter hasn’t been or isn’t thinking about “other” forms of “sex”, justifying oral or perhaps anal sex as not legitimate intercourse. It’s your job to keep her talking….and NOT doing anything else, especially with the boys. Encourage her to voice her opinion and concerns and DON’T be shy about sharing the more pleasant side of female sexuality with her, maybe help her “cultivate” her appeal and femininity and bolster her self-esteem. Never undermine her curiosity and interest, and always emphasize how “sexy” intelligent, accomplished women can be, and let her know that “powerful” women who are in control of themselves (and their relationships) will ultimately enjoy the pleasure of powerful sex with the right person and in a loving, monogamous, and caring relationship.
2. Stars In Their Eyes: While both sexes are enamored with status, success, and “fame” girls have the added advantage of not only wanting to be famous, but dreaming about being with someone famous. Although boys may fantasize about poster girls, when it comes to surging hormones, almost “any” girl will do, but girls are much more “eclectic” when it comes to whom they see themselves coupling and copulating with. In fact, according to professionals, girls often attribute their self worth to the type of man they attract. They want to prove themselves to themselves and their peers. Keep in mind, with guys, it’s all about the wheels (which will get them the girl)…with girls, it’s all about the guy. The hotter, the richer, the better…it’s the concept of “Mo Better Boo”. And, recent research reveals that, this technologically savvy and worldly generation has not only surging hormones but also unrealistically surging expectations, one’s that may be damaging to its self worth and self- image.
Young ladies nationwide are entertaining the fantasy of achieving fame or dating their favorite fame fatale as easily achievable. They spend copious hours speculation, plotting and orchestrating “chance” encounters, as well as devising a dynamic to “diva-hood”.
Use to getting most everything they want, especially plenty of sexual attention, they “deceive” themselves into believing that their “fantasy” is not far from reality. Not once do they think about the stars lack interest in them, or about all the hard work, and frequent rejection climbing to the top entails.
Professionals point out the need to encourage and nurture, but remain realistic. If you truly feel your daughter has talent and potential, it’s wise to seek out skilled instruction and direction and offer her the opportunity to fulfill and realize her dreams and truly examine what it entails and if she likes it and is cut out for it. Don’t forget to also point out the “downside” of her more “superfluous” dreams, and the less than admirable qualities of a particular lifestyle or a favored individual, such as trouble with the law, alcohol or drug abuse, multiple breakups or divorces, etc., things she may not be aware or too fond of, and may help shed new perspective on her perception and fascination.
Another advisable option is finding ways to make other career options appealing. Ask your daughter to volunteer at places of interest and challenge her to make a difference in an industry that offers more “promise”. Maybe even get her involved in your workplace and demonstrate why your job is rewarding and important.
3. Mommy and Daddy’s Little Princess: With more and more two income households, parents feeling “guilty” about not spending enough quality time with their children, and an increasingly demanding devoir to keep up and surpass the Joneses, what “we” looked forward to as a special holiday or birthday treat, today’s generation feels is part of their unalienable rights.
Your daughter will easily accumulate a list of needs (that will undoubtedly help her succeed in life) and the only “want” she’ll reveal is her “want” for you to provide it all.
According to officials, material possessions and access to products that will help her feel good about herself and encourage positive development are essential in helping her establish positive self-esteem; yet they note that’s it’s just as imperative to teach her that she can not expect to go from your care, to a man’s care, and look forward to others providing for her. Instead experts agree that you need to teach her to be self-sufficient, and to place more value on inner beauty, character, and charisma, than outer beauty and things that money can buy. Let her know that she can enjoy these things as long as she contributes by doing errands, or securing a job (once she can work). Furthermore, experts suggest that you discuss with her how much YOU are willing to contribute and make that amount based on her behavior, scholastic accomplishment, and involvement around the house.
4. Having A Soul Purpose: With many young “adults” being part of families whose family were part of a “selfish” generation of excess, known as “The Me” generation (and yes, by the way, I’m one of them). Today’s teens, especially young women, despite, their focus on fame, fortune, and fascination with “bling”, are seeking internal and more altruistic inspiration.
Exposed to severe world situations that affect their friends and peers alike, they frequently seek to fulfill their spiritual appetite and officiousness. No doubt young ladies are spending more, but they are also putting their heart and soul into their lives and that includes their (choice of) purchases. Styles they find “fashionable” are those that have something to offer other than trend-setting “sophistication”, such as brands that support specific charities, causes or organizations. They want to be associated with what’s cool, and what’s cool (for most) is products and people with a purpose and conviction.
Empower your daughter (daughters) by illustrating the same dogma of faith in various arenas. From religious involvement to earth healthy products, give her the confidence in approving her “adult-like” choices by following her lead.
5. Artistic Expression: Even when she has “nothing” to say your daughter is speaking volumes loud and clear. Just keep an eye on her notebooks and her room. From her choice of textbook cover, what she doodles on pieces of scrap paper, to the décor of her room, it’s all part of her outer expression of her internal reflection. Professionals point out that most girls seem to have a creative spirit, one that surges in adolescence and is used to communicate their thoughts and feelings.
According to experts, remain weary and leery of any “questionable” or “dark” art, depicting turmoil, depression and the such. Also take heed of any excessive somber tones and décor in her clothes and in her room. This, they note, may signal trouble, especially if she’s become, quiet, reserved, and distanced. Otherwise experts say get use to posters of the latest Hollywood heartthrob (some things never change), collages of her friends (some things “do” change) and themed rooms replete with murals and artifacts of her most current cause or interest. And, they note, that pride in her room and surroundings means an inclination to show it off to her friends and make it their habitual hangout. Count your blessings, it’s one way of keeping an eye on her and her friends, and knowing what they’re up to.
6. Mirror, Mirror: Girls are constantly looking in the mirror, and while many of their male counterparts may deem this as an “egotistical” obsession with themselves, it’s quite the contrary. In fact, girls are “obsessed” with their looks because of their “insecurity”. Young ladies are constantly comparing themselves to their peers and to Hollywood “Hotties” and assessing their inadequacies.
I can remember, back in my hay day (hay day, because it dates as far back as to when there were still an ample amount of farms here on Long Island), that I would start getting ready for a night of “clubbing” at least two to three hours before I was being picked up by my friends, and if, as much as ONE hair was out of place, it was back in the shower, and back to the “drawing board”.
Eccentric, probably, considering my customary coif these days, consists of a scrunchie and a ponytail. Yet, most young women share a somewhat similar experience.
Most have poor body image, stemming from a poor self-image, and most are trying to look like favorite celebrity, without realizing that even she wouldn’t look “that’ good without her entourage of glamour gurus.
Help your daughters by pointing out women who are sexy because of their accomplishments, instead of their looks and emphasize a healthy balance. Teach them about proper hygiene and beauty and hair-care techniques, as well as dressing for their age and body image, and, in accordance to the occasion. Keep them feeling good about their body, by feeling good about yours, eating healthy and staying in shape. In fact, experts suggest making health and fitness a priority, perhaps joining in fun, yet active family activities, exercising together or even collaboratively joining a gym or heading to the Y. Whatever you do, refrain from focusing on her flaws (and what needs improving) but instead point out her assets and start by discussing how to enhance those.
7. A Whole New World: I bet you can remember a time when her whole world revolved around YOU. You were her best friend; in fact you were her only friend. And as far as you’re concerned that’s how you’d like to keep it (forever). Hey, there are plenty of mothers and daughters who share the bond of friendship, but that develops with time. Let’s face it, there was once a time, when you first met your spouse, that “he”/ “she” was your best friend, but now, most likely your best friend, (the one you initially abandoned for him/her) is your best friend. And, if you look at more “mature” couples whose friends have moved on, the two are once again best friends.
Life is a cycle; your daughter is simply in the middle of a cycle that doesn’t often include you (at least as much as you’d like).
Her circle of girlfriends and guy friends validates her maturity. At home, she’s still your “child”. With her friends she’s an equal, one of the crowd, with a voice and a valid opinion of her own, especially about things you no longer or never had any interest in.
Your daughter wants to feel and be accepted as a “woman”, an identity her body has already been helping her identify with. And unless she’s out of college, working, married, and/or living on her own, bottom line, she’s still your “kid”.
Give her the time, space, and courtesy to establish herself as a bona-fide individual. You’ll be surprised at how may of your values and ideals she’ll carry with her, if you’ve done your job right. And, if you want to make it less “ threatening” or “imposing” for her to spend (quality) time with you, try to treat her as the maturing woman that she is. Take her advice, ask for her opinions, show and interest in aspects of her generation, including learning the lingo, and above all maintain a positive, youthful attitude, one that is not embarrassing to her. It’s also not a bad idea to “win her friends over” with a pleasant and enthusiastic disposition or by hanging out with their folks; chances are if her friends think you’re cool, she probably (eventually) will too.
8. Beau Ties: Besides her looks, the only other obsession your daughter will display is boys, boys, boys.
She will likely have lots of cares, questions and concerns about the opposite sex, and while you may see them as a “marital obligation”, she’s at a point where she still sees them as a proverbial fascination.
Notes, emails and instant messages to her girlfriends can reveal her innermost thoughts, and infatuations. And, while most of her exchanges are likely harmless inquisitions, you may want to consider that inquisitions rarely end up harmless, just look at one that started in Spain.
Encouraging your daughter to pursue the object of her affections can be beneficial. If you are excited for her, chances are (just to spite you) she’ll lose interest, or she’ll be confused but elated at your open-mindedness and feel free to discuss her amorous intentions. This will give you the opportunity to further discuss and define appropriate boundaries, and proper “sexual” conduct. You can also make her aware of options of protection including abstinence. Don’t hesitate to share your “experiences” and perhaps “not-so-wise” choices and decisions and their effects. Above all, experts emphasize being forthright about serious consequences (of promiscuity) including pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Make it clear that oral and anal sex are clearly sexual acts (to be avoided) and that engaging in lipstick parties and other illicit activities are also dangerous, inappropriate, and unacceptable. If you take HER seriously she’s likely to take YOU more seriously and heed your advice and warnings.
9. Worldly Women: Today’s teens and young women are both eager and ambivalent about their role in society, their future and the world around them. Remember, “The Lords Of Flatbush” was a movie about societal teen misfits, who were, for the most part, few and far between, and kept on the DL. Not to mention that most adolescents and young adults were rarely, if ever, confronted with or “threatened” by adult issues and experiences. Today, street gangs are pretentiously prevalent, as is promiscuity and a plethora of other perilous behaviors. There are also greater health concerns, even among children and their peers, the increased fear of being “abducted”, school shootings, openly violent boyfriends, and even date-rape drugs slipped into drinks. Being a young adult, especially a young woman, in such a nefarious environment, has become much more demanding, confusing and scary.
According to experts, teens face not only the difficulty in figuring out themselves, their place in the world, but also with being either a contributor or a solution to world issues. Teens, especially young women, need to know their feelings are not negligible, and that they have a world of other girls and women to look to for encouragement and support.
Professionals assert that speaking openly and honestly to your girls and NOT shielding them from life’s realities is an excellent first step in shielding them from making harmful and detrimental decisions. Another is taking them to hospitals, hospices, boarding homes for single moms, runaway homes and shelters, etc., and giving them a first hand taste of the consequences of poorly thought out actions.
Experts further advise watching educational television and news programs with them and discussing the impact on them and the world and how they feel they can improve things, if at all, as well, as keeping them well informed. Make sure they read the newspaper, or read it with you and don’t forget to subscribe to a magazine promoting positive choices and empowerment, especially for teens and young girls. Inspiration and “example” (primarily at this age) are powerful tools….and don’t forget to take the opportunity to encourage discussions about anything and everything.
10. Independent State: While most women would agree that they are eager to have a daughter or feel blessed to have had one, they also would concur that raising girls is much harder than raising boys. Sure boys may be more “difficult” in some areas, but girls are also demanding, stubborn, and out to prove themselves.
Our society has consistently reinforced boys as independent, while we nurture our girls to be more subtly “dependent” and “fragile”, yet to make their own way in life. These “mixed messages” frequently foster an attitude of adamant assertiveness.
Boys will easily demonstrate a soft spot for their mothers, and cultivate a mutually rewarding friendship with their fathers (especially as they get older), whereas girls may often feel reluctant to show their vulnerability as they mature and are expected to (eventually) take on the role of nurturer and caregiver for their significant other and family.
They frequently sense that they have to affirm themselves to the world and that often infiltrates and influences family life as well. Girls can be staunchly steadfast in their opinions and, unlike boys, will not always be “agreeable” to keep the peace. They are (as young as they may seem to you) women, hear them roar, and you WILL.
Yet, they remain quite vulnerable and tender with a soft spot for those they love, and believe it or not mom and dad, more often than not, top the list. She actually LOVES the fact that mom and dad have certain family traditions and rituals, and even “insist” on making her part of them, she looks forward to family dinners, holidays, and quality time…and yes, she secretly thinks it’s cool that mom (and dad) care about how they look, how the house looks, buy neat little things, and work on neat little projects. Despite the intermittent “distance” and the consistent and frequently frequent lectures, accompanied by the quintessential rolling of the eyes and attitude to boot, it’s because she REALLY loves you (and even admires you and is trying to live up to and exceed your standards so you can be proud of her) and only wants the best for you.
For girls, home (theirs or yours) is truly where the heart is…and until they get old enough where they get comfortable publicly expressing it and being proud of it, it’s probably going to remain their best-kept secret. Your job is to simply accept it, wait, and continue to give her lots of (good) reasons to feel good about her family foundation and where she’s inevitably headed.
Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles
Ready or Not Here I Grow: Understanding Teenage Girls