The teen years can be tough, so how can we help our girls navigate their way through adolescence to womanhood?
Your daughter slams the front door shut, throws her bag across the hall and storms up to her bedroom before you can even say: ‘How was your day?’
You knock on her door but she screams at you to go away.
You shake your head and wonder: What happened to my lovely little girl?
As any parents who’ve gone through this will tell you, the teen years can be tricky.
Your once-lovely little ones are grappling with heightened emotions — and dealing with everything from school to social media, peer pressure and body confidence.
In fact, mental-health specialists say that rates of stress, anxiety and depression are rising sharply among teenage girls in a deeply worrying trend that is far less pronounced among boys of the same age.
So what can parents do to help guide their daughters successfully through puberty and adolescence?
In her book From Daughter to Woman, former counsellor Kim McCabe gives practical advice on how to help navigate girls into womanhood…
Take time out
Once a month, schedule some mother-daughter time. It doesn’t matter what you do. Whether it’s curling up on the sofa together with popcorn and a romcom or simply walking the dog — these one-on-one moments will make her feel loved and important and may help her to confide in you.
Lead by example
Your daughter will be watching you closely as she grows up. Your decisions, emotions and how you live your life will all influence her.
Think about the kind of daughter you want to raise. Do you want her to be able to stand up for herself? Do you want her to be kind and considerate? If the answer is yes, then make sure you put all of these things into practice in your own life. They will soon rub off on her.
Let’s talk about sex
It can be difficult to approach the subject of puberty, periods and sex, but it’s important to find the courage.
Share personal stories of when you got your first period. And when she experiences her first one, mark the occasion by making a care package full of the little things she loves, such as chocolates and her favourite book. Or perhaps cheer her up with a spa day or new haircut.
Help her to love herself
Too many teenage girls have learnt to hate themselves. They dislike their bodies, focus on weaknesses and don’t recognise their best qualities.
Kim says: ‘When I listen to teenage girls talking about their lives, I can tell that they’re often held back by a lack of confidence.’
Set an example by not criticising your own body in front of her. Limit the amount of time and money you spend on your appearance — and make sure you exercise and eat for health benefits, rather than to lose weight.
Keep a level head
Remember that, during this time, your teen is trying to answer some big questions like: Who am I? Do people like me? Do I look OK?
Unfortunately, most teens are plagued by these anxieties and lack the life experience to know how to handle these emotions.
They may act irrationally or shut you out completely, or they may find other ways to cope, turning to alcohol, drugs or self-harm.
Kim says: ‘Keeping a level head is the best way to deal with your teen’s mood swings. It may seem impossible, but remember, it’s not about you — it’s about her.’
Build her an army
Teenage girls are desperate to talk to someone, but not necessarily a person who’s as close as a parent.
As a mother of three teens herself, Kim says we should surround our daughters with strong, nurturing women, including aunts, grandmothers, godmothers and friends. This creates a tribe of supportive role models that they can confide in.
Kim also stresses the importance of listening.
She says: ‘No matter when your daughter chooses to talk — be sure to listen. Make the most of the opportunity, as you may not get it again.’
Edited by Rosie Evans
From Daughter to Woman: Parenting Girls Safely Through Their Teens, by Kim McCabe, is published by Robinson, priced £12.99.