How to Empower Your Teen Daughter (and Conquer the Fear of Letting Go)

 Photo by Raul Varzar on  Unsplash

Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

My daughter recently said something that made me stop and think about the unique parenting challenges that come with raising teen girls.

“Mom, you always encourage me to live my best life, yet I feel like when I want to be more independent, you’re the one holding me back!”  

My initial response was: 

“What? How can this be? I am the biggest champion of your dreams, always reminding you to follow that big, beautiful heart!  How can I be the one holding you back?”  

But then I stepped out of my ego and took her words to heart. I checked in with myself and I realized that she was right.  

I was saying one thing, yet my actions were clearly conveying the opposite. And when I got honest with myself, I realized I was operating out of fear - and rightfully so! The world can be challenging for our young girls. And, naturally, the protective mamma bear wants to come out. But there was also another fear operating under the surface - and that was the fear and doubt that crawls in around my abilities as a parent.  

Do you ever experience this? That little voice saying: “You are not enough. You should have/could have done more.” So often as parents, we worry that we haven’t laid out a solid foundation.  

Well, first I would like to remind you that more often than not:

Fear is a liar! You have done enough and are doing the best you can. 

Here are some ways you can empower her while simultaneously quieting those fears.

When it comes to parenting challenges, be real

Sounds simple enough, yet it’s so undervalued and often times overlooked! 

The one thing I have always noticed with the girls I work with and my own daughters is that kids really love and need adults who are willing to be real with them. They need grown-ups they can look up to that are willing to be vulnerable. 

Think about your own experiences. Think about the people you choose to follow, look up to, or seek advice from, both on social media and in real life. They are people who are brave enough to share the truth with you. Those who are honest about the struggles that come from being human. This is a quality I personally appreciate as well.

One of the things that I love most about my relationship with my daughters is that we are able to be ourselves around each other, in good times and bad. We can be super silly with one another and also have real and deep conversations about the things in life that are not so easy. They also feel safe to express their anger and upsets in the realest ways. 

Of course as a parent, you will use your best judgment on what is appropriate to share based on their ages, level of maturity, and cycles of your life. But the most important thing for them to understand is that mom is human.  

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With the rise of social media, girls today have an even greater pressure to appear perfect. They are striving to achieve a level of perfection that is not even real. Even we as adults sometimes need to be reminded of this. And if we do, they need this reassurance even more.  

Our girls learn best by example. And showing them that it is ok to not be ok is such an empowering lesson! 

There is beauty in the imperfection. This keeps our girls grounded in reality and not some false idea of having to keep up with outside appearances.

Model strong boundaries

This has always been a challenging one for me.  

Growing up with a family that had no boundaries and infringed on mine – I had to learn this on my own. It is also something I continuously strive for and am determined to master. It is important for us to build and respect strong boundaries for our girls.  

How to do this? Lead by example. Remember that she is learning more by what you do and how YOU carry yourSELF, than what you say. One big way to accomplish this is to honor your YES and honor your NO.  

Oftentimes as women, we feel bad saying “no”. When someone has worked hard on something we are embarrassed to speak up and say we would like for them to do it again. An incredibly important distinction to make here is that saying “no” to others is saying “yes” to you. It is making sure you get what you need, what you asked for, and what you deserve. It is assuring that you set precious time aside for self care. It is making certain that you are not spreading yourself too thin. It is speaking up in those difficult situations and maintaining clear cut expectations in all areas of your life.  

How would you like your daughter to feel in times of uncertainty? Would you want her to speak her truth when she is in the midst of peer pressure leading her down the wrong road? Do not forget to do this for yourself and allow her to follow your example even in those difficult moments when perhaps you are setting guidelines that she is pushing up against. Those are the greatest learning opportunities.

She is going through a time of great flux. Be her constant. Keep showing up. 

Your daughter is going to trigger you and challenge you. She is going to bring up feelings in you that you didn’t even know were there. But the biggest gift you can give her is your consistency. 

When you imagine the people that you love most in your life. They are most likely those who are always there for you - that you can depend on.  

That is what your daughter is looking for from you at all times. And while for most of us, this comes instinctively from a mother’s intuition, navigating teen life can be extremely challenging. It can throw off that natural response.  

The changes are scary for you but even more frightening to her. At times, she may even show up in a way that is completely unrecognizable to you. I have had periods of feeling like, “Where is my little girl?” 

I am sure you can relate! But I promise you, if you show up 100% and be that dependable source for her, eventually she’ll always find her way back to you.  

Don’t get me wrong. This is not always easy to do. When people push us away, it’s only natural to want to retreat in the other direction. Do not take this personally and use your best judgement. It may make sense to gently create that space she is craving. However, continue to reassure her that you are there for her and periodically check in. Don’t stop loving no matter how hard she may push in the opposite direction.  

Have you ever told someone never to call you again but then feel offended when they did just that? 9 times out of 10, that is the case with your daughter. However, if you feel there is something going on with your relationship specifically, do not be afraid to inquire what she needs from you.

Realize that trying to control the things that cannot be controlled is futile 

If there is one thing that make me feel anxious, it’s the feeling of not being in control.  It’s like boarding an airplane. If you are anything like me - I always like to peek in the cockpit and smile at the pilot and get a feel for whether or not I can rest and feel safe. However, as I make my way to my seat, I have to have faith that everything will turn out ok and I will arrive to my destination without incident.  

The same applies to raising girls.  While we wish we could control every aspect of their lives and know that they will always be safe, here, we too, need to have a little faith. Trust yourself. Believe in the foundation that you set for her. She is learning to find her way, discovering who she is, and what is important to her.  

It is so scary to watch them go off on their own, but trust in the tools that you have given her and remain that solid foundation for her. Worrying never made anything better!   Focus on the only thing you can control - YOU! 

Now over to you: what has been your biggest fear around your little girl growing up?  If you’d like to take this a step further and you have a mom in your life, you can ask what her fears were for you growing up. This will sure put life into perspective and bring it full circle!