Life Actually: What teenage girls wish their mothers knew

I have a friend who studied city planning and the purpose of bridges.

She explained how bridges are needed as a city grows and expands. They connect one part of a community to another and offer a safe passage.

We related this concept to raising teens and why bridges matter in the parent-teen relationship. As a child grows up, their world expands and separates them from their family and familiar territory. They need bridges that take them home and safely back to the people who remind them of who they are.

As a writer for teen girls and a mom of three teen daughters, I’ve long looked for ways to build bridges between their hearts and mine. I’ve seen how disconnect begins when we try to give guidance without awareness of their thoughts, desires and feelings.

Teenagers don’t care what we know until they know that we care, and one way we earn a voice in their lives (and build bridges that last) is by listening, empathizing and putting ourselves in their shoes to understand what it’s like to be them.

So how do we tap into that inner world? How do we unlock the mystery of a teenage daughter? Clearly every girl is unique, but as I surveyed girls on what lingers below the surface, they agreed on some common things they wish their mothers knew.

1. Even if we don’t say it, we appreciate little surprises. For example, when you have our favorite food waiting at home for us after a hard day at school.

2. Don’t criticize trivial things. We already criticize ourselves enough, so save your criticism for when it really matters (and be as tactful as possible).

3. Don’t get mad at us. We are tired and trying, even if it looks like we’re doing nothing.

4. School sucks the life out of us. Please understand.

5. Don’t tell other moms about our issues. When you break our trust, we want to pull away and not share details about our lives.

6. We want you to be involved in our lives but not smother us. We need our alone time and space to just chill.

7. We like for you to support and encourage us when we’re passionate about a hobby or creative outlet. For example, ordering paint and canvases when we express interest in art.

8. Sometimes just listening is best. Don’t try to fix everything or lecture us … just sit with us in our emotions and let us be sad.

9. We like it when you randomly ask us if we need any clothes and want to go shopping (even online). We may not ask, but we’re always game for shopping.

10. Don’t compare us to our friends or other people. It makes us feel like you don’t appreciate our good qualities when you only point out the good things about our peers.

11. When you catch us doing something you like, point it out and tell us. This makes us feel appreciated, like you see our strengths and abilities.

12. We like it when you understand what we’re going through and help dad understand it from a female point of view.

13. We wish you gave us more credit for the good decisions we make and…

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