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It’s Thursday night. 16 years old Kim has just finished her house chores and was looking forward to some well-deserved down-time. She had her bath in a hurry and quickly slipped into the closest night-wear in sight , rushed to the sitting room, collapsed into her favorite chair and turned on the TV  just in time for her much loved TV series.

Image Source- Daniel Wong

As if on cue, her mum walked into the sitting room with an angry face and tone. Kim! You are so lazy, all you know how to do well is watch TV. You arranged the dishes wrongly and I almost slipped because you left so much water on the kitchen floor. You do not take corrections and I hate to say you will make a bad wife if you continue like this.

Not again tonight, Kim mutters, rolling her eyes.

Her mum will not have any of that. Did you just roll your eyes at me?

Give me a break mum, Kim retorted, this time loud enough to be heard clearly by mum.

Do not use that tone with me or .., Kim did not let her mum finish, what about the tone you are using with me she yelled back, putting off the TV and making to head to her room.

Mum was in her way. What, now you want to walk out on me?

Kim sat down back and burst into tears, down –time was over.

This is a familiar scenario between most teenage girls and their parents.

According to an article by how-stuff-works.com, ‘’ Conflicts between teens and parents can arise over friends, social life, school issues, sex, and just about anything that the parents aren’t used to and don’t like. It takes time to adjust, and the process usually involves fights and disagreements that are really based on parents wanting to keep their children safe, protect them and help them become responsible adults’’.

Regardless of the cause of conflict, arguing will most often than not leave both you and your parents feeling awful. Does this then mean that teenagers should just put on a show of agreeing with everything their parents say? Not necessarily.

How, then can teenagers express themselves without turning everyday conversation into a warfare?

That’s for my parents to worry about; after all they are the ones always nagging me, you might reason.

If you consider how little control you have over your parents, you will realize that the best way to handle this conflicts is by changing ‘’yourself’’.

The following suggestions might help.

1. Always pause and think before responding;   do not always blurt out the first thing that comes to mind when you feel your parents are attacking you. You could try counting a silent 1-5 before responding. How could Kim, mentioned at the beginning handle the scenario better?  Perhaps Kim’s mum felt frustrated and burdened with more than her share of the housework? Or it could be that she wanted her daughter’s reassurance that she was willing to support with the chores especially when it gets overwhelming. At times like these, why it’s easy for you to get angry too, quickly call to mind that two wrongs won’t make a right. Instead of a curt retort, try to put your mum at ease.

Let’s say Kim said something like, ‘’ I’m sorry mum, I dint realize the dishes were not properly placed. Can I please rearrange them and mop the kitchen floor after this program?  Or Mum, I can see you are really upset and I am sorry I caused it. I really was looking forward to this program; can I get back to that as soon as it ends? This kind of respond will more likely soften the heart of your parent and might even make them apologize for yelling at first.

2. Speak Respectfully: Parents feel hurt when they perceive the slightest disrespect in attitude or tone.  It will help if you speak slowly, in a mild tone and avoid rolling your eyes or giving other non-verbal indications of your annoyance. Always pray for self-control so you don’t end up adding fuel to the fire.

3. Listen:  ‘’ Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret’’.

If you do not want to make this epoch making regret later speech, keep quiet and listen.

Give your parent a chance to speak and while they are it, give them your full attention. Do not interrupt them and try to justify your actions. You will have time to explain your viewpoint when they are done talking and if it is absolutely necessary to do so. For now, just give them your undivided attention.

4. Apologize: You should always be ready to apologize even when you feel you have done nothing to warrant the conflict. You can even say you are sorry that there is any conflict at all. You can send an apology text or leave an apology note if it’s hard for you to this face to face.

5. Be Remorseful: You should be sincere in your apologies and follow it up with action that shows genuine remorse. For example, if the argument was ignited by neglecting a chore? It would be appropriate for you to try doing the chore after apologizing. Even if it’s a chore you do not particularly like, your parents will be touched that you at least made an effort.

If you practice and follow these steps the next time you feel the urge to angrily retort at your parent, you may find conflicts reducing greatly and realize you can discuss even topics that are sensitive with your parents, Without Arguing.

kembet

‘’The day dad married Eileen was the worst day of my life’’ recalls Anne.  I was mad! Mad at dad for being a traitor to my mum, mad at mum for leaving without a fight, mad at the 2 brats(Eileen’s Kids) who were to come live in our house, but most of all, I was mad at Eileen, I hated her, and because I knew it wasn’t right to hate, I was mad at myself too.  (Names have been changed).

Feelings, such as described by Anne above is what most teenagers and young adults experience at the remarriage of a parent.

According to a report on YourDivorceQuestions.org, a blog developed by Professor Alan Hawkins, Ph.D, a Director of the Marriage Education and Research Initiative at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, divorce tends to affect boys and girls in different ways, with girls having a tendency to harbor negative feelings such as depression, anger, and psychological issues for a much longer time than boys. This article will focus more on the effect of divorce and remarrying on teenage girls.

Divorce has a negative impact on the academics and occupational pursuits of teenage girls, with about 10 percent of girls with divorced parents losing interest in school work.

Because many parents of divorce struggle themselves with the effects and need someone to turn to for support and understanding,  they (especially mothers) turn to their children, particularly to their young daughters for this support, which in turn make the young girls feel like they have to mature faster. This stresses the young girls as they tend to struggle when a parent discloses personal problems to them, like they would to an adult friend.

The remarriage of a parent destroys all hopes of reconciliation between your parents and can be even more frustrating if it comes on the heels of the death of one parent.  

Most of the challenges young girls face include, coping with the authority of a step parent, learning to share and to compromise, and coping with unequal treatment where step siblings are involved. With all the challenges a parents remarrying can bring on teenage girls, death of a parent or serious marital incompatibility has made it something most young girls will have to deal with in their life time.

How then, can young girls deal with their parent’s remarriage and have a successful step parent relationship?  Find some steps to help with the adjustment below.

  1. Minimize negativity and challenge your misconceptions about your new step-parent: Critically ask yourself why you do not want your parent to remarry. This will give you a clear head and help you prevent a potential rift. You may be worried about the motive of a step parent marrying your own parent, especially when there is a significant age difference between them. You may be worried that he or she is marrying your parent because of their money or social position. If this is the case, it will help to have a frank discussion with your parent. Getting such worries off your chest can help you cope with your parent’s remarriage. You can also try to spend more time with the new couple as seeing how happy this person make your parent can help you abate any negative feelings.
  2. Respect their relationship; even if you do not agree with it-Sometimes, spending time with the couple as recommended in the first step might expose you to habits or mannerism you do not like about your step parent. At times like this, it will help to recognize that your parent does not necessarily need your permission to remarry and that even blood relations might have different taste in what they look out for in a partner. Show respect at all times. Address the new spouse by their preferred name or title and be cordial as you normally would to someone of their age group. Your parent and step parent will be pleased at your effort in trying to be welcoming to their new spouse.
  3. Do not compare your step-parent with your biological parent; It is easy to think of how different your step parent is to your biological parent. Whether the comparison places your step –parent in a higher light than your biological one, psychologist have said all such comparisons have a negative impact on the emotional health of the teenage girl. As hard as this may seem, shun all comparisons as you will be opening up yourself for disappointment if you do so. No two individuals are exactly the same. Always remind yourself that this person is providing needed companionship for your parent, if that is any consolation. You can look out for the good side of your step parent and focus more on that.
  4. Give attention to yourself: You may have been a companion for your parent for a while. Now that they have found love again, you will have more time to focus more on your own life. Create new goals and try to reach them. Try getting out more often and generally revive your social calendar. Take a new class; try a new skill, etc.
  5. Get closure; Most teenage girls resent their parents new mate because they feel accepting them will be disloyal to the deceased or divorced parent. While these feelings are normal, they are not correct. Be kind to yourself and allow your emotions to gradually adjust to the new situation.  Reaching out to your other parent if divorced can help you deal with feelings of guilt. As much as possible, try to avoid carrying tales about your step parent to your other parent. Seeing a professional therapist might also help if feelings are too hard to deal with.

It might take several years before you develop trust and become very comfortable with members of a step family. Do not despair, if you have tried these tips and are still having an awkward relationship with your step parent or siblings. You need a lot of patience.

Be hopeful, you can have a successful step parent relationship.

 

Kembet Bolton

As parents, we find often find ourselves in a situation where we have to put our feet down and completely disagree with our teenage wards. It could be due to their late-night habits, rude retorts or simply avoiding daily chores. Have you ever wondered what your teenage daughter would choose if she was presented with the options to stay with you, or be emancipated?

Ariel Winter, an American actress and voice actress, popularly known for her role as Alex Dunphy in the comedy series Modern Family, earned her legal right to emancipation at 17, in 2015. As stories of her emancipation due to a complicated and somewhat strained relationship with her mother swarmed the media, it was sure to give mothers a great cause for concern.

Teenagers had a new weapon, they could threaten to file for emancipation and get away with mischief; Many parents wondered if they were getting it right with their teens; What I’m I doing wrong? I wish she would talk to me and not a stranger; some thought their daughter would choose to be emancipated if presented with that option.

In this article, Lauren Paige Kennedy Journalist and author of Keeping Mum: On Mothers & Mortality, tries to allay the fears of these mums with tips on 10 Things to Say to Your Teenage Daughter Who Wants to Be Emancipated. She writes:

We moms can’t help but recognize the all-but-universal dynamic between freedom-chasing teenagers and harried parents. Generations consistently clash over the obvious and mostly mundane: broken curfews, obnoxious boyfriends, snarky attitudes and that hidden stash of weed beneath the bed.

Still, you know what they say: God made teenagers so mothers would want to cut the apron strings – joke. Here’s how to answer your darling high school senior when she threatens to walk. (Try to restrain yourself from telling her to run.)

  1. You realize you’ll be doing your own laundry now, right? No more Mom to help sort, wash, dry and fold. So there, welcome to running out of clean underwear. Get used to it.

– Make her understand walking away means taking absolute responsibility for her wellbeing and giving up all that she is dependent on you for. Mummy cannot be all that bad, and chances are, she doesn’t have Ariel’s unlimited resources.

  1. Bills are not boys with the full name ‘William’. Guess what sweetie; those totally chic open-toed boots you love? The ones we remortgaged the house for? How ’bout those oversized nerd glasses that come in cherry red? Yeah. Guess what; they cost money. A credit card statement arrives each month. And someone’s got to pay it. That someone is now you.

– Now this may sound a bit exaggerated, Lauren is simply saying, refer her to the bills. Money does not fall from trees, it is earned.

  1. Just because you can write a check does not mean you can write a check. Yes, you do have hundreds of blank checks! No, this is not the same thing as having money in the bank!

– So, she thinks she has an unlimited supply of blank checks, she needs to know the money is drawn from someone income, and those blank checks ae sure cease when she becomes emancipated.

  1. Who will you scream at when I’m not around? Do I really need to elaborate on this one?

– Mum’s may sometimes seem like a neurotic bunch who just love to get on their nerves, but truth be told? They will miss you if they left.

  1. No, you can’t take the car. See No. 4. Ditto.

– They do borrow your car, jewelry and Gucci purse, let them know they can’t do that when they are gone. You are an adult, get yours.

  1. Sorry, I’ve got nothing in my wallet. Your allowance days are over, kid. You’re an emancipated adult now, remember? This means you must do every necessary task for yourself—for free.

– Again, let her know they days of extras from mum’s pocket are over.

  1. Does this mean I can finally turn your room into an office? I hate to say it, but I’ve been eyeing your corner bedroom for years now. The western exposure in the afternoons is to die for!

– Throw that in her face, you have other use for that corner room.

  1. The contents of the refrigerator cannot go with you. Oh! Wait. I take that back. You can have the Frescas.
  2. If you honestly believe managing Forever 21 at the mall is a better career move than going to college, by all means, suit yourself. I know. You’re almost 18. Almost old enough to vote, and certainly old enough to have a say in your own future. Yes, those amazing discounts you’ll soon get on lacy cami rompers and southwestern-style jumpsuits will help your bottom line, for sure. And it’s true, parking is free at the Galleria. I think you might soon grow bored earning minimum wage and eating Cinnabon every day for lunch, but what do I know? I’m only 30 years older than you, and your mother.

– This is very important, direction is the word; remind her who she wants to be, right now, she probably thinks being free of you would make her happy, paint a mental picture and ensure she understands it.

  1. Oh! Wait! You weren’t serious, were you? Sweetheart, don’t go. I only have a year or so of you before you really walk away and toward adulthood. And even when you roll your eyes at me and sigh heavily in my direction, please know this: You’re my favorite teenager in the world. And that’s really saying something because you’re 17 right now.

– Finally, do not forget to remind her, that you love her, and even when you do not agree, she is special and will always be. Let her understand that discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

Lauren passes the message in a rather snacky way, but I bet the message is clear. “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going” – Helen Keller

Trust is an important part of any relationship. It represents your belief in someone’s good sense, ability or honesty. As your daughter gets older and starts becoming more independent, it can be difficult to find the balance between a teenager’s need for independence and privacy, and your need to know what’s happening to keep them safe. Find out how you can stay involved in your child’s life through building a trusting relationship.

Here are some tips from parents reach.com, that could help parents understand why building trust is so important; work on how to avoid your child breaking your trust; and learn how to develop mutual trust with her.

Why is building trust with your teenager important?

Your child needs your trust to help them in their transition through to adulthood. However, this trust needs to be mutual. You and your child need to meet in the middle and develop a healthy way to trust in each other and each of your decisions. Remember that the more this mutual trust is tested, the longer it will take to get to a place where you are both confident you can trust each other. A relationship without trust leads to second-guessing and questioning each other’s honesty. When your child was young they probably trusted you unequivocally, as the person that kept them safe.

However, as children grow up and become more independent, they start to notice and question more. It’s around this time that your child may notice whether you do what you say you will do, which is a key factor in building trust. As a parent, you can’t demand trust. It’s a gradual process that requires mutual commitment and it will inevitably strengthen your relationship. It will also set your child up to develop healthy relationships in the future. It’s worth noting that teenagers are going through an intensely private time in their lives. Personal space becomes very important to them, so the desire for privacy doesn’t always mean untrustworthy activity is taking place. It’s important to keep that in mind.

Benefits of building trust with your teenager. By building a trusting relationship with your teenager, you’re likely see many benefits, including:

Your teenager feeling open and comfortable to talk to you about difficult things – Parents always dream of having a close relationship with their daughter, where she feels free and comfortable enough to share important aspects of her life with them.

Your teenager demonstrating positive, trustworthy behaviours in other aspects of their life, setting them up for positive relationships into adulthood. – Every parent looks forward to their daughter evolving into a responsible and balanced adult.

Building a relationship with your teenager that goes beyond a parent-child disciplinary relationship, and strengthening your bond for years to come. – You want to be her confidant, the first person she thinks about when she needs to share an important aspect of her life with someone.

What if my child breaches my trust?

Breaches of trust are to be expected, especially as your child starts to push boundaries to test their independence. Depending on the impact of their actions you should work with them to decide on appropriate consequences, which could range from a simple chat about your expectations, through to removal of privileges while they show that they can rebuild trust.  Remember that as a parent, you’re the most important role model in your child’s life, and it’s vital that you demonstrate honesty and trustworthiness, in order to teach your child how you expect them to behave.

Talk to them about the importance of honesty and trust, but also make sure it’s reflected in your actions. If your child repeatedly breaks your trust without showing any signs of remorse, or if they show self-destructive behaviours, it might be time to seek help from a professional, such as a counsellor or psychologist, as this could indicate other underlying issues. Consider connecting with other parents in your community to reliably stay informed about your child’s activities and friends.

You may be wondering who a scary mom is, and what she looks like; I have wondered the same thing too, that was until I heard a friend say her mom is the scariest person she had ever met. That statement felt like a blow to my chin as I imagined how it felt to have a scary mom. Few hours with Lucy made me deduce the theory that more smart teenage girls are made out of scary moms since they have to devise ways to navigate through their fears. Some of the most priceless gifts every teenage girl seeks from parents especially their mothers, is freedom and trust.

Trusting your teenage daughters is a great way to let them know you understand that they are grown-up and are entitled to a mind of their own. The first time I heard this Phrase, “Love to destruction” the only picture that came to my mind was the relationship some mothers have with their teens.  Sometimes mothers are left in the dilemma of raising their teenage children with the mirror of their own past childhood experiences and these experiences suddenly become the basis for the rules and regulations that guide these children. These rules often create the first gap experienced by parents and their teenagers. This, therefore, becomes a destructive love since it is fiercely guarded by fears.  No teenager wants to relate with a scary mom and as a result, they always watch out for the alarm that indicates you have become one. Since every mother wants to be her daughter’s heroine and best friend then she must watch out for those red signals that can portray her as a scary mom as well as keep their daughters away from them forever.    

Here are 6 signals that show your teenage daughter you are a scary mom: –

  1. Trying to be a Teen: Often times mothers like to act like teens hoping that this will help them get closer to their teenage daughters, but they often forget that opposites attract. Your teen daughters expect you to be the parent and not trying to act like there is a competition to win their hearts. Trying to dress like them, involve in their private discussions with friends or even use slangs that are peculiar to their peers can sometimes become annoying. It is definitely not abnormal to admire their lifestyle but trying to fit into their shoes makes it tight, thereby portraying you as a stalker. Teenage daughters feel embarrassed when mothers try to ask too many questions when they are having discussions with their friends.  The moment you start pushing hard to become a teen, you stop being their loving mom and instead become a scary mom.

 

  1. Playing the Guilt Card: Scary mothers always love to prove to their daughters that they are wrong. They derive so much pleasure in seeing their teenage daughters depressed over a wrong decision they have taken because they think it might help them turn a new leaf, so they do their best to give the young girl more than a thousand reasons why she should be ashamed for taking that wrong step. As a mother playing the guilt card can keep your daughter away from you thereby, leaving her in a position where she always wants to clean up her mess before approaching you. 
  2. Attempting to be the middle woman: Mothers must realize that teenage girls are not requesting for a peacemaker when they tell their moms about their disagreements with friends. Often times, young girls become very emotional over the disagreements they have with their peers and sharing it with someone especially their mothers become the best way to ease the hurt. It is therefore advisable that, mothers become comfortable to just have a girl talk with their daughters without trying to act as advocates for them. Mums must learn that most times all the young girl needs is that you lend her your ears and advise; then call it a day. Let them settle their disputes themselves and quit attempting to be the middle woman. 
  3. Displaying the skills of a Secret Agent: Every great relationship thrives in respecting the privacy of partners involved. Always know that your teenage daughter is entitled to her secrets so let her be. Of course, it is very necessary to offer advice but being a nosey mum can be so annoying to teenage daughters, so watch it and know when to draw the line. Sneaking on her calls, chats, and messages can be very uncomfortable and pestering. It proves to them that you don’t trust their sanity and behavior. Rather than doing this build a strong mutual trust amongst both party and give her the strong reason to let you into her life. Always remember you are her mom and not a secret agent or a spy.  When you begin to display the skills of a secret agent, your little teenage daughter will definitely perceive you as a scary mom. 

  1. Misunderstanding her self-conscious Acts: Looking back at my teen days, I can still recall how displeased I felt whenever my mom laughed at my carriage while am out with my friends. She will always say to me “Cece why do you have to cross your legs that way?” Scary Moms never accept the fact that their teenage daughters just have to be self-conscious around their friends. Whenever they in the midst of their peers expect them to talk differently, laugh differently, eat differently, walk differently and even respond differently to you. A popular saying goes that when you are in Rome, you behave like the Romans so let them behave like teenagers when they are with tens. A scary mom is never comfortable with seeing different sides of her little thirteen-year-old damsel. You just have to admit the fact that it’s normal whenever they are in the midst of peers. Interpreting their self-conscious acts as pretense, timidity, or even Low self-esteem can be very scary. 

Refusing a conversation and always seeking a lecture: Never forget that one of the major differences between a conversation and a lecture is that the former involves a dialogue while the latter involves a monologue.  It is true that mothers are very knowledgeable. They have acquired countless theoretical and practical knowledge, and of course, it is their uttermost desire is to pass down this knowledge to their children especially teenage girls but this must be done with discretion. Teenage daughters especially learn more from conversations, not lectures. Remember no matter how knowledgeable you are as a mother, times and seasons have changed. Your examples thoughts and illustrations might not completely fit into your teen daughter’s real-life experiences. Learn to rather have a conversation instead of a lecture as this will help your little teenage daughter open up more to you. Use less of the word “Listen to me” and use the word “let’s see it this way”, this, of course, involves her in the thinking process and helps her feel more relevant. Remember young ladies tend to read deeper meaning into your words than the literal word said. Scary Moms hardly involve in conversations, they rather give a lecture and remember even your teenage daughter has a voice and needs her questions to be answered.

Teenage daughters are fun to have but it’s a more interesting journey if mothers make themselves available as they should, consciously noting the boundaries and making sure they do not cross the lines as well.

You may love to pause and evaluate yourself: “Am I a scary mom?”

By Splendor Eloke – Young

Physical intimacy remains a tricky issue to discuss when you have a teenage daughter. Most times, parents and guardians wait until something prompts them to discuss intimacy. This should not be the case, we often wonder, what is the appropriate age to start discussing this topic with our daughter? Specialists say it is never too early to start the discussion, I say do not wait until it is too late.

While doing my daily rounds, I came across this question on Troubleshooter, an advice column that appears in the Japan News, and I felt it would be right to share this with parents, who may have been in this situation or find themselves edging towards the same.

The question reads: ‘I saw my teenage daughter in bed with her boyfriend, what should I do?’

I’m a company employee in my 40s with a daughter who’s a first-year student at a college-oriented high school. I saw her in her room in bed with her boyfriend.

Her boyfriend is in the same class as her, and they’ve been dating for half a year. He comes to our house several times a month.

When I happened to be passing by her bedroom, the door wasn’t completely closed so I saw the two of them through the gap. It was all so sudden that I didn’t know what to do, so I pretended like I hadn’t seen anything. I haven’t told my wife about it.

He is an honor student with top marks in his year, and he hopes to become a doctor. He always greets us properly and lives with his mother since his father died. Seeing him work so hard in such a situation reminds me of myself in my younger days, and I really want to support such a good kid. That is precisely why I am so confused about what to do.

Should I tell my daughter and wife what I witnessed? -R

And here is the response, from Masami Ohinata, a professor of developmental psychology at Keisen University’s graduate school in Tokyo.

Dear Mr. R:

I’m sure what you saw would’ve been a shock for any father of a daughter.

Physical intimacy is not something to find embarrassing, and it is a fundamental part of living, but it’s hard for parents to speak frankly to their children about something like this.

However, I think in this case you need to talk to the two teenagers as soon as possible. I know that your daughter and this boy are wonderful kids, but their ability to make sound decisions is still immature, and they are in adolescence where their interest in physical intimacy is still budding.

Why not start off by telling them you hope they will carefully cultivate their relationship? Tell them calmly but firmly that even though a teenage girl and boy might have intimacy if they’re in the same room with the door closed, it’s only natural for a father to worry about his daughter and the future of her and her boyfriend.

If you condemn them and keep an overly watchful eye on them, they will probably just hide what they’re doing even more and see each other outside your home. Instead, I think you should tell them that you welcome them into your home and hope to have some nice conversations over tea.

I think if you talk to them like this, this boy without a father may see you as a possible replacement father figure in his life. -Masami Ohinata, professor

We should all learn from this, if you have a teenage daughter or ward, whom you have trusted enough to allow visits from her boyfriends, then you should trust them enough to engage them in a discussion about intimacy issues and its effects.

Growing up with several aunts, I had my fair share of questions. My mum was super busy, so I was lucky to be surrounded by these great ladies who helped me through many awkward moments. Every teenage girl has a few questions brewing in her mind. It could be about body changes during puberty, intimacy, peer pressure, pimples, fashion, homework or boys.

There is no clear-cut answers to some of the questions that may arise; however, we encourage parents and guardians to have enough information to help their ward through these moments. This will also help you raise a well balanced teenager.

Kaz Cooke is an Australian author, cartoonist, and broadcaster, who has written several bestselling advice books for girls and women. In this edition, we are poised to learn from her wealth of experience as she reveals essential information you should give your daughter to help you both survive.

  • The truth about spots

Tell your daughter that spots or blackheads are not caused by these things: greasy food; not exfoliating; not washing enough or properly; not drinking enough water; germs on the skin; chocolate; bad karma.

Spots and blackheads are caused by blockages caused by sebum, which you often have much more of when you’re a teenager, because of certain hormone misbehavior. Sebum blocks the pores from underneath, and then bacteria or inflammation causes the spot.

Good spot creams take a few weeks to work because they stop new ones from forming, so she has to be patient. She should ask her doctor or pharmacist about which ones might work for her.

  • Body changes are natural

Don’t say to your daughter: “you’re getting fat”, “that’s a worry, you’ve gone up a size”, or “you can’t fit into that uniform anymore”. She is supposed to be growing and going up sizes in her teenage years – her skeleton doubles in size during these years, for a start.

Always say clothes are too small – don’t make it seem that she is too big. Frame any comment about bodies in terms of health and what she can do with her body (run, play sport, dance, and walk up stairs without puffing.) Tell her sizes are all mixed up depending on the brand. If you’re a woman, explain that in your wardrobe you have different label sizes on your clothes but they all fit you.

Talk with your girl about things she can say when somebody comments on her body shape and size or is mean and insulting to her. Responses could include: “Go away, you’re boring me”; “I’m the right shape for me”; “Mind your own body image”; “Oh, get a grip”; “Who made you the Body Police?”; “Don’t worry about me changing my size – can you change your attitude?”

Bullies, and even siblings and other relatives, will often use mean words like “fat” or draw attention to new breasts and other changes. Girls who filled in the survey for my book, Girl Stuff, told me they could remember, even years later, the comment that set them on the road to an eating disorder.

  • Alcohol should be taken seriously

New research shows that girls who are given alcohol before the age of 18 by their parents are more likely to develop a drinking problem. Explain to her that alcohol has a stronger effect on the teenage brain because her brain is still forming properly. This doesn’t make her more “stupid” than adults (after all, many grown-ups with “finished” brains make bad decisions); it just means she needs to be smarter than the people who don’t realize that their binge drinking could lead to embarrassment and, in severe cases, brain damage.

So many girls told me (even though I didn’t even ask this question) that they regretted their first sexual experience because it happened when they were drunk and out of control, and instead of being a moving experience they chose to have, it was a horrible experience that they can’t even remember properly. If you possibly can, make sure you pick up your daughter from parties and other events so you can assess her state. Lots of girls sleep at their friends’ place where the supervision may not be the same as at home.

  • Talk openly about family problems

If you’re in a family that is separating, it can be a turbulent time in which a teenager’s questions and feelings are accidentally overlooked. I consulted a few experts about the ways families can keep up communication, and there are also some useful websites. Teens can try sites such as divorceaid.co.uk (click on teens) and itsnotyourfault.org.

  • It is OK to say no to intimacy

Have a talk with your daughter that allows the possibility that she has gone further than she wanted to in terms of intimacy. Reassure her that she can always “go backward”. There are lots of things she can do and say to make herself feel better about this. Make her understand that she still gets to say no to everything she wants to even though she may have said yes in the past, or have been pressured into something.

Be aware that if your teenager is going out with an older partner, the older he is, the more likely he will want intimacy, expect it, and even have picked up a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Obviously, you don’t want to paint him as a sex-crazed predator, as this may make her more protective of him. Some parents will immediately forbid contact, while others will urge the use of condoms.

  • There’s nothing wrong with body hair

Though your daughter will hear a lot about needing to take off all her body hair, from magazines, websites and friends, you can help counter this. Explain that it’s partly because companies that sell hair removal products spend millions on advertisements and influence magazine and website editors to say it’s a good idea. One product in the USA is aimed at 10- to 13-year-olds.

You can let her know that even though people talk about it, only a minority of girls and women remove all their pubic hair. Some of the possible problems she can expect to get if she does remove her pubic hair include: pain from waxing; cuts from shaving; sore rashes and other skin conditions; uncomfortable itching as it grows back; ingrown hairs; spending too much money as she can’t really do it herself in such an awkward place; the embarrassment of a stranger looking at her private parts up close; and a weird bald look that makes her seem like a little girl.

  • Helping others will help you

One of the great things about girls is they’re often keen to do charity or other community work. See if there’s an organization that you can join together or one that she can be involved in with her friends. This could be environmental or political, or something to work towards as a gap year later on. It’s a cliché but it’s true: busy people are less likely to get into trouble. It also means there’s something you can praise her for, which she will really appreciate.

  • Life doesn’t always go to plan

Make sure your daughter knows that you understand the occasional necessity for a Plan B, C, or even further down the alphabet. If she doesn’t pass the exam or doesn’t make the team, help her with backup ideas that make life seem like a series of choices rather than just a matter of “making it” or “failing”. Tell her life is all about choices and changes.

  • How to manage money

Talk to her about the tricks that advertisers and shops use to pretend she’s getting a bargain or must have an “essential item”. When she’s old enough, show her the household budget so she knows how much it can cost for food, rent and so on. She’ll understand why you keep banging on about budgeting.

  • There are smart ways to stay safe

When you talk to her about safety – on the computer, on the street, on public transport or out and about at parties or clubs – frame it in a way that praises her for being smart enough to outwit potential dangers and problems. Don’t just give her a set of rules. Role play will help her know what to say or do in real situations.

Sometimes girls will put themselves in danger rather than risk embarrassment – offer to be the “bad guy”, and have a code. For example, if she rings you while with a group of friends and says don’t be mad, she’ll feed the cat when she gets home, it secretly means she needs you to come and get her straight away. You can be the “mean parent” who insists it was your idea, and she gets to save face.