Trusted teen

What if you could really trust that your teen was going to turn out all right?
How would your life be different?  And hers?

How many stressful conversations would be avoided if you weren’t trying to alter the behaviour of your teen?
How much better would your relationship be then?
Might that not have a more positive impact on your child than telling them what to do (however subtly)?

With all the best intentions in the world, can you be sure that your attempts to influence your teen will lead to the best outcome?  Can you be sure?

Ozkan Deligoz copy

How might your teen see herself differently if you had faith in their ability to make the right choices (even though they might not be your right choices)?
Think of the many adults that you know who have horrendous tales of their teen years, but who have made fulfilling lives for themselves as adults – and maybe not in spite of their adolescent experiences but because of them.
How many adults do you know who were ‘good teens’ but are not happy adults.

So can you be sure that what you think is right for your child, is what is right?

Notice when your advice to your teen is driven by fear – fear that she won’t make her own right choices, fear that she won’t know what is best for her, fear that she’ll do something regrettable.
Do you want your child to live as a fear-based adult?  Do you want her to be limited that way?

Do you trust her to want the best for herself?  Are you sure that what drives her decision-making is not as good as what drives your decisions for her?
Would you having faith in her maybe encourage her to take responsibility for herself?

Children do want the best for themselves – even when it doesn’t look like it.

If you feel irritated with me while reading this, because what do I know about your situation, then you’ll be having the same response that I have when I read this kind of stuff.  But, do you know, it works!  I resist it, every time, and it makes me cross while I read it, but if I let it affect how I think, then it makes a difference.  My relationship with my teen softens.  Conflict disappears.  And I don’t wake and worry.


Photo: 123RF by Ozkan Deligoz

Posted on 10 July 2014
Musings: Parenting girls, Parenting teenagers
Tags: , , ,

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She’s gaining weight – should I say something?

No!  Not unless you want her to worry about her weight her whole life long.
Tell a girl she should watch her weight and she is more likely to become fat.

A new study has found that simply labeling young girls as ‘fat’ makes them much more likely to be obese ten years later. (Hunger, J. A., & Tomiyama, A. J. (2014). Weight Labeling and Obesity: A Longitudinal Study of Girls Aged 10 to 19 Years. JAMA Pediatr)

We live in a slim-obsessed culture, so it is easy for a mother to worry when her daughter starts to show signs of weight gain.  Knowing how harsh society can be towards over-weight people, it is understandable when mothers try to protect daughters from this by encouraging them to watch their weight.  Sadly, this not only perpetuates the tyranny of never feeling slim enough – that many women carry through their entire lives – but it also raises the chances of a girl ending up heavier than if nothing were said.

It is normal for pre-teen girls to gain weight as they enter puberty.  A woman’s body does not look like a girl’s body – or at least it shouldn’t – so you would expect a girl to gain curves as she enters her teens.

For many the weight gain precedes the growth spurt that is part of puberty.  Some girls go out before they go up, and they will never again have the shape of a girl –  a shape that is sadly idealised in the fashion and celebrity world.

Encourage your daughter to have a good body image

Body image is how you feel about your body, not how well your body measures up to impossible ideals.
There is real beauty in seeing someone who is comfortable in her body.

Ryhor Bruyeu

Body comfort comes from eating well, sleeping well, and exercising.
Body comfort comes from feeling loved, cared for, and accepted.

Stop worrying about her weight unless you want to consign her to a lifetime of worrying about her weight.

Photo: 123RF by Ryhor Bruyeu

Posted on 26 June 2014
Musings: Parenting girls
Tags: , , , , , ,

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Would you know if your daughter was being bullied?

Too many children who are bullied tell no-one.
A bullied child often feels shame and believes that she is to blame for being bullied.  The impulse then is to cover it up.
Too often a child’s experience of tentatively reaching out for help served only to make the situation worse.  She’ll be less likely to tell next time.
Teens are even more likely to take bullying as a sign of their own personal weakness, won’t want others to know, and believe they should be able to handle it themselves.

Too many parents complacently believe that their child would come to them if they run into difficulties.  Perhaps they are unaware how hard it is to speak out.  They miss the signs.

Vladimir Voronin

How can you be sure to know if your daughter is struggling?

Read the signs.  Pay really good attention – her behaviour should alert you.
- you’re an expert on your daughter, you’ll notice when she is acting out of character

Trust your instincts – if you feel something’s not right, then it very well may not be.

Take unusual behaviour seriously – avoid your temptation to think it unimportant.

Don’t put challenging behaviour down to ‘being a teen’, ask yourself what might be up.

If you can, ask her friends or others who know her.

Create opportunity for her to tell you - but she still may not be able to.

Don’t try to handle it on your own – find support (your friends, child helplines, on-line)

A message from a young friend: “Bullying is horrible.  It makes you want to die.  But you can’t tell, you just can’t.  If you think you know someone is being bullied, don’t pretend it’s not happening, even if they tell you that nothing’s wrong – if you think there is, then do something.”

Photo: 123RF by Vladimir Voronin

Posted on 17 June 2014
Musings: Parenting girls, Parenting teenagers
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Teenage girls’ opinion of themselves is shocking

In my work with pre-teen girls, their sense of themselves is still relatively positive.  This is why I like to begin my work with them at this age, to strengthen them against what is to come.

It’s a different story when I talk to teen girls.  Too many have learned to hate themselves:
they hate their bodies
*  they don’t seem to know their own best qualities
*  they focus on what they perceive to be their weaknesses
*  they rarely feel good enough
*  they have lost some of the trust they once had in their friendships
*  their feelings for their parents are more ambivalent

Samo Trebizan

Who gets the blame?

Teen girls are fiercely self-critical and then blame themselves for not feeling good.  Life for teens can be intensely challenging.  Sadly, when the pressures are too much to bear, many girls blame themselves and, worse still, some then punish themselves as a way of coping with the strong feelings.  Rather than looking outside of herself for the reasons for her distress, she makes it her fault.  Rather than looking outside of herself for support, she tries to cope on her own, finding ways to numb the feelings.  No wonder eating disorders, cutting, drinking, drug use, promiscuity, and suicide attempts are on the increase.

Self punishment

One in ten 16-year-olds surveyed in a new study at Queen’s University Belfast has considered self-harm or taking an overdose. “By far the most likely reason why young people self-harm remains self-punishment. This suggests that young people with mental health problems keep blaming themselves for these, rather than appreciating external stressors such as pressures arising from school work or financial difficulties,” researchers said.

The key findings of the 2013 survey on 16-year-olds’ mental health include:

  • 28 per cent of 16-year-olds said that they had experienced serious personal, emotional or mental health problems at some point in the past year.
  • Just over one third of these respondents had sought professional help for these problems.
  • 13 per cent of respondents said that they had, at some point in the past, seriously thought about taking an overdose or harming themselves, and 6 per cent had thought about this in the past month.
  • 13 per cent of respondents said they had self-harmed — 5 per cent had done so once and 8 per cent more than once. The most likely reason (60 per cent) given by these young people for doing this was that they ‘wanted to punish themselves’.

Endless pressures

We know that the pressures on teens can be high.  We want them to study hard, we test them endlessly, push them to do well in exams, and even then a job is not secured at the end.  Teens need money, to keep up with the right phone, clothes, and outings.  We expect more from them at home.  Meanwhile they are shifting their attention to their social world with peers, navigating an increasingly complex emotional landscape, where gossip is rife and alliances are made and fail repeatedly.  Teens have little down-time, with the demands of social media invading the home and the night.

When we adults fail to reduce these pressures, or to support them in living through them, then teens seem to be blaming themselves and then punishing themselves.   For ten percent this may even be life threatening; but actually when I listen to teen girls talking, their quality of life is seriously affected by their view of themselves.  It’s very troubling.

How does this affect girls?

Teens low self-opinion is affecting the choices they make every day:
what they will do
what they will eat
who they will meet
what they will venture
what they will study
what they will sign up to
what they will watch
who they will spend time with

Teens low self-opinion is profoundly affecting their futures.
We can change this. It is never too late.

What can you do?

Every time you interact with your daughter with love, it supports her.  Each time that you are able to empathise with her — you feel her feelings with her without being devastated or trying to solve them — you help her to learn how to manage her feelings and to take her feelings seriously.

Although your daughter may have many faults, and her behaviour may appall you, and you may hate how she is running her life, still look for her strengths and her gifts.

You may need to strengthen yourself to endure some of her worst behaviour, so surround yourself with supportive people.  When in your daughter’s presence hold in your mind that any bad behaviour is a sign of her suffering, and focus on what is good in her.  Spare her from your comments about how tough she is to parent, and share them with your best friend instead.

Never miss an opportunity to tell any teen girl that you know what you like about her.  She may squirm, but she’ll still hear you.

Many grown women are afflicted by not thinking highly of themselves, underestimating what they are capable of, running themselves down, constant dieting, and continued numbing out activities.  Let’s interrupt that cycle.  Figure out how to stay connected and communicating with your teens, even when it seems impossible, and let them know that you care.

And while the statistics are sobering, I like to remember that the majority of teens are coping magnificently well, despite the pressures.  So while I want to stay alert to the signs of girls needing extra support through their teens, I also celebrate the strength of our girls to withstand the stresses of adolescence.

Photo: 123RF by Sasin Tipchai

Posted on 21 May 2014
Musings: Parenting teenagers
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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New ‘Girls Journeying Together’ group starting soon

Best Friends Forever

Every year around June time, I start another of my year-long Girls Journeying Together groups.  A dozen or so 10-12 years olds sit in a circle in my sitting room nervously wondering how we will pass the afternoon.

We meet monthly, so they’ll get a sense of what monthly feels like, and we cover all manner of things over the year.  Their needs and concerns help to determine their year’s programme.  Over the year I provide the space for each girl to:

  • dream into her future
  • clarify her values
  • learn about the changes that puberty brings
  • discuss the pressures of peers, media, and parents
  • prepare for her first period and support one another in their bleeding time
  • get to know each other really well; well enough to dare to speak their innermost fears and heartfelt hopes
  • (only if the time is right) talk of dating, safe sex, diets, drinking, drugs, cutting, exam pressures and other teen concerns
  • share her experiences
  • laugh and cry and dance and feast
  • find mentors
  • and in time become a mentor herself.

A year later we finish with a celebration and those dozen girls are full of affection for one another and feel well-prepared for what lies ahead.

“At first I didn’t think I’d like it, but it’s brilliant, we talk about things, really talk, so you realise that others feel the same way.”

“I’ve made friends for life I’d say.” 

“I was nervous about growing up – I’m not now.”

“You can ask anything.”

“We’ve had loads of fun, and learned stuff but it hasn’t felt like learning.”

“It got me thinking about who I want to be - what I want to do with my life.”

Every girl needs a circle of women, and the company of other girls, with whom to learn about womanhood.  Some girls are lucky to live in communities that naturally provide this female support.  Many girls are not so fortunate.  When families have busy lives, lived far from extended family, and children spend most of their time in the company of children, then a girls’ group can fill the gap.

I wish that coming-of-age groups were commonplace, then girls would expect it as their right, rather than needing their mothers to encourage them to try it out.

We focus on teaching our children algebra, tectonic plate movements, and what befell the wives of King Henry VIII, and then leave the fundamental issues of maturation up to chance chats with family, the modeling of soaps and films, and the immature influence of peers.  We give swimming lessons before diving into the sea, and driving lessons are mandatory before taking to the roads solo – so why not insist on structured adult support in the preparation of our children for adulthood?  Most religions and many tribes still recognise the importance of guiding our children safely towards adulthood, and offer them a rite of passage while they are actively engaged in this maturation process; but we have lost sight of it, blinded by the chase for qualifications.  I feel sad to find myself in a culture that often values grades, awards, and medals over relationships, and developing a healthy sense of self.

The more ‘developed’ we become, the more we abandon our teenagers and leave them to invent their own idealizations for adulthood – and to make their own markers to prove their adulthood (often using drink, sex, driving, and other risk-taking).


Girls look to the women in their lives to give them a sense of what it is like to be a woman.  The women they like, they emulate; and the women they don’t like, they strive to be different from.

Many girls find themselves with only one woman who knows them well, their own mother.  If fortunate, a girl will also have a smattering of aunties, grandmothers, godmothers, cousins, friend’s mothers and mother’s friends who know her and care for her.  She may also have a special teacher, tutor, or coach.  Even then, many girls rarely have the opportunity of hearing women speak of their dreams, their passions, their relationships and their bodies.  And yet, we want our girls to find their own futures, to know what is important to them, to discover what they love to do, to form firm friendships, and to like themselves well enough.  Too often seeking these vital goals are left to chance, or left in the hands of schools, or the influence of social media.


Rites for Girls has an open trial session for any girl aged 10-12yrs living near Sussex who might be interested to join the next Girls Journeying Together group.

Girls’ Journeying Together
– a year-long exploration
with a small group of girls your age

Who?      Pre-teen girls; aged 10-12yrs (in year 6 and 7)
When?    Monthly, 3 hours at the weekend, starting in July.
Where?   Forest Row, Sussex
When?    Trial session with Mums:  2:30-4:30pm Sat 14th June 2014 

I am a trained facilitator, youth guidance worker, counsellor, 5 Rhythms movement teacher, and a mother of three.

To book or ask more contact Kim 01342 810505  ☙



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Photo: 123RF by Lisa Young

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Posted on 9 May 2014
Musings: Coming of age, Parenting girls
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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