Parenting: How To Parent Teenage Girls

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Raising Strong, Confident Daughters

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Being a teenager is rough. If I had to guess I’d say that right now you’re probably struggling with fickle and cliquey friends, a boyfriend who makes you feel bad at least a few times each week, pressure to excel at school, massive amounts of homework, fights with your parents over how little independence they give you, pressure to look like digitally enhanced images in magazines, and the feeling that everyone else is better looking/smarter/funnier than you (they’re not by the way). It gets better. In the meantime, here are some things you need to know…

How You Look Isn’t Nearly As Important As Who You Are

Your weight is the LEAST interesting thing about you

Your weight is the LEAST interesting thing about you

Your weight is just a number. It isn’t the most interesting or amazing thing about you, it’s not even the 100th most interesting thing about you. People are in your life because of who you are, not how you look.

Eat to fuel your body, exercise for fitness and health, and keep a healthy distance between you and people who make their weight the focus of their life. Don’t let their weight issues weigh you down. How amazing you are can’t be measured by a bathroom scale. Never forget that.

Live a Balanced Life

Have you ever heard that expression ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’? Well there’s something to it. Making one person or one thing the focus of your life is dangerous, it makes you vulnerable. It means that when something upsetting happens, it hits you hard and it will feel like your whole world is falling apart. Having lots of parts to your life makes you resilient. When something bad happens it will still be upsetting, but the other important things in your life will help to keep things in perspective.

Don’t fall into the trap of neglecting what’s important. When you get a boyfriend, don’t neglect your girlfriends, there are some things in life boys just don’t get and your girlfriends are irreplaceable. School is important but there’s more to life than study. Work hard but make time to do things you enjoy as well.

Change Your Attitude Not Your Body

Stop trying to change your body, change your attitude instead

Stop trying to change your body, change your attitude instead

Let me let you in on a little secret –diets don’t work. Your body is pretty clever, it has a “set-point” or a pre-determined healthy weight range that it fights to keep you within. When you’re in your healthy weight range and you restrict your diet, your body will work hard to stop you from losing weight.

Your metabolism slows down and your muscles work more efficiently to conserve fuel. It’s sort of like when you disconnect your laptop from a power source, it switches to an energy saving mode to conserve power so that your battery lasts longer. When you start a diet it might look like you’re losing weight initially, but what you’re losing is water weight. You haven’t actually changed the structure of your body.

Changing your body won’t help you to feel more body confident. Changing your attitude will. Stop counting calories, see food as something that gives you energy to live your life. Don’t exercise to burn calories, exercise to feel fitter, healthier, and stronger. And most importantly, when you look in the mirror, don’t fixate on the parts of your body that you don’t like, look for the parts that you do like.

You’re Fabulous Just as You Are – You Don’t Need the Side of Drama

You will have days when it feels like everyone else has a more exciting life than you. On these days it will be tempting to get involved in other peoples dramas or even create drama in your own life so you have a few good stories to tell. Don’t do it. The excitement that goes along with drama is usually short-lived and your friends will lose first their interest and then their patience.

You’re fabulous just as you are. Don’t sell yourself short with drama.

Don’t Rush Into Sex

Make your own decisions, and when you do, make them for the right reasons

Make your own decisions, and when you do, make them for the right reasons

How long you wait before sleeping with someone is a personal decision. It’s also an important decision so before you make it, ask yourself – why do I want to sleep with this person? Do you love them and feel ready, or is it more that you want them to like you more?

If you’re thinking about sleeping with someone to make them like you more or to save your relationship then you should know that SLEEPING WITH A GUY WON’T MAKE HIM LIKE YOU.

If he doesn’t like you enough to wait, he is not the guy for you. You should also know that sleeping with someone too soon can backfire. You might end up in the ‘casual’ box when you really want to be his girlfriend.

Only you can decide when the time is right, but for the record, no guy is worth sleeping with before your ready.

Teach Others to Treat You Well

I wish I could tell you that people will always treat you with the respect that you deserve, but the truth is people will treat you how you let them treat you. Never be afraid to stand up for yourself. If your instincts are telling you that someone isn’t treating you well, listen to them and take action. People can only treat you badly if you let them.

Surround yourself with people who value you and who make you feel good about yourself. People who don’t treat you well don’t deserve to be important people in your life.

Have a Positive Attitude

When everything around you feels like it’s going to crap you have a choice. You can focus on everything that’s gone wrong or you can find the positives and focus on the things you’re still grateful for. Does this mean pretending that what’s happened doesn’t suck and everything is rainbows and butterflies? No way, being unrealistically positive is nearly as unhelpful as self-pity. It’s not about pretending and faking it, it’s about interpreting a situation in a way that makes you feel strong and hopeful, not helpless and defeated.

If you’re used to focusing on the negatives then a positive attitude is something you’ll have to work at, but master the skill now and you’ll be unstoppable.

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Choose your friends wisely. Make sure you choose people who will bring out the best in you.

Choose your friends wisely. Make sure you choose people who will bring out the best in you.

The friends you surround yourself with will influence who you are, how you act, and how you feel about yourself. Rightly or wrongly, other people will also judge you by who you’re friends with so choose them wisely. As a general rule (and for your own sanity) steer clear of hot/cold friends. You know the ones, the friends who want to be your best friend one minute and give you the cold shoulder the next. It’s a stress roller-coaster you don’t want to be on and you deserve better.

Takers don’t make good friends either. They’re happy to take your support and are demanding of your time in a crisis but they hardly ever reciprocate. Long-term, it’s a recipe for a disaster. Unless you’re a robot it’s hard to be friends with a taker.

Friends who bring out your rebellious side aren’t so great either. You might like the thrill you get when you’re with them, but anyone who makes you feel like you have to do crazy things to be cool isn’t worth your time. The trouble that follows them can be a bit of a drag as well.

And maybe most importantly be wary of mean girls. You might laugh when they say mean things about other people, but if she talks about her ‘friends’ this way, what is she saying about you when you’re not around?

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.