Parenting is all about preparation – as long as you realize you’ll never be fully prepared.
Early on, our jobs are crystal clear. We learn our child’s likes and dislikes and anticipate their needs. We get the bottle ready before they wake up. We pack an extra set of clothes in case of a diaper blowout. We always carry snacks.
Then there's a subtle shift when your child realizes there's an entire world outside their front door. It’s at this point where every sentence they string together ends with a question mark.
It’s easy at first. “Why is the sky blue?” (Asked Siri.) “Where does money come from?” (Googled it.) “Who cleans up the dog poop in heaven? (Easy. Dogs don’t poop in heaven.)
The questions never end, and they only get more challenging to answer.
Some of the queries are factual, such as where babies come from, or why do men have penises. While uncomfortable in subject matter, these can be answered with a specific and swift statement.
But sometimes the questions are harder to answer and more subjective in nature.
Now I’m spending my time preparing myself for questions. Questions that can be awkward. Questions that are important and will shape my daughters’ lives. Questions where I often don’t have the answers.
It’s not shocking to know that most older kids report feeling they cannot talk to their parents because they won’t listen, will overreact, brush off their claims, or the universal “they just don’t understand what it’s like to be me!”
So when your daughter comes to you, it’s important not to lie, evade, or ignore, even when you’re not sure how to bridge our uneasiness about the topic with their expectations for an answer.
Having “the talk” with your daughter is something I think most of us dread. It’s one thing to talk about sex with our girlfriends over a glass of wine, but it’s a whole other issue when you’re trying to decide how to tackle it with your baby girl.
There is a time when all of us need to have “the talk” with our kids. The best advice I’ve received is don’t do it in one fell swoop: spread it out over time so you encourage ongoing communication.
But what about other questions? Questions that relate to body image or friendships or self-confidence? Questions that come out of nowhere when you’re least expecting them and can break a young girl’s spirit if handled inappropriately.
Here are five questions every mom of daughters should be prepared to answer. I don’t have all the explanations, and I think it depends on your personal life choices as to how you want to respond, but be prepared.
I work hard to try to promote a good body image for my daughters, but I totally flubbed this simple question. What I was thinking was: “Mommy needs to cover up all the wrinkles and dark circles, so I don’t scare people.”
Instead, I fumbled through, talking about covering up a few blemishes and making my eyes look bigger.
What I wish I would have said: “I use makeup to enhance the features I already love, and it gives me an opportunity to express myself depending upon the occasion, but I’m way more concerned if people like me for who I am on the inside.”
Ugh. A wide variety of studies shows that girls as young as nine are dieting. That is messed up. Yes, the media is largely to blame; but as mothers, we have to do a better job of setting the tone.
Even though you may want to dismiss her concerns, don’t end the conversation with a simple, “No,” or, “Of course not!”
I’m not normally a fan of answering a question with a question, but in this instance, it’s important to delve deeper into why the question was asked, which is more important than the answer itself. You may want to ask your daughter if she feels fat or if there is a reason she's asking.
We all know we need to focus on healthy eating and exercise, but when it comes to body image, we need to walk the walk and talk the talk. Modeling a strong body image and healthy lifestyle is the most important thing we can do for our young girls.
Try offering to walk with her after dinner or encouraging her to join you at the grocery store. Focus on the benefits, such as feeling good and spending time together, not on losing weight or changing her appearance.
We need to stress that women are much more than their physical appearance, our health is more than just our weight, and our character is more important than the size of our skinny jeans – until the question becomes irrelevant.
This is a tough one. I think we need to honor the girl code with our daughters when it comes to what they wear, but sometimes it's just a matter of taste.
Take a barometer reading of your daughter’s attitude towards what she has on and act accordingly. Does she seem happy and confident or fidgety and unsure? Make sure your response isn’t critical of her body type (i.e. "You don’t have the body to wear crop tops") and instead make a few suggestions on what may better flatter her assets. You may even want to let her try on your fancy scarf or new hat so she can figure out her own personal style.
Many parents often brush off comments when kids sound like their world is falling apart, but two researchers at UCLA discovered that social rejection registers as bodily injury or pain in the brain. That means your kid can be physically hurting from the social rejection they perceive.
It is important to determine if your daughter is just having a bad day (and may be a little dramatic) or if something else is going on. You may want to talk to her teachers or other parents you trust. Try to find out why she feels that way and make suggestions on how she can improve her friendships, but most importantly don’t write it off. There could be an underlying issue you may need to address. And remember, kids of any age do not realize that there is a life beyond their school years.
Girls often like to push the boundaries a little earlier than their male counterparts, but quite often they are looking for structure. This is the one time you do not need to offer an explanation. Just say no if you don't think it's appropriate. Sometimes as parents we fear our kids will be left behind if they don't have something or do something like their peers; but the truth is, when just one parent is brave enough to say no, the others often follow.
What scary questions have you had to answer?