Two steps forward…or two steps back? “Momming” girls in middle school and beyond.

I am the mom of two teenage girls. Two MIDDLE SCHOOL teenage girls. That expression alone can send a chill up the spine of even the most “together” moms. Hannah Montana and hair bows have been rapidly traded for highlighter and hair scrunchies…so quickly this mom’s head is spinning. Game and movie nights with family become few and far between as football games and sleepovers with friends take over. Birthday parties now include their boy “friends” and “who likes who” is a topic of daily discussion. With each new activity they join, be it a sports team, a cheerleading squad, or the school choir, new friends are gained and unfortunately, sometimes lost. It is a time of self-discovery, adjustment and oftentimes, heartache.

So what is a mother’s role in all of this madness? Yes, in many ways as young girls we went through the same changes and challenges growing up and our mothers asked themselves this very same question. BUT…add social media and cell phones to the mix and we as the mothers of teens these days are dealing with a much bigger beast. The biggest problem in my opinion? TOO MUCH ACCESS.

When I say that, I’m not just referring to the obvious…that being the internet and all that comes along with it. Let’s face it. It is our job to protect our children from anything that can harm them or cause them pain. Social media and internet access makes this job that much more difficult. Predators, in appropriate material, foul language, graphic images, and the list goes on, are all accessible to our kids with a simple click or swipe of their finger. Sure, there are parental controls and filters and we do our best to use them. But oftentimes, even if your child is protected at home, the second they walk out the door and into the doors of their school or another person’s home, that protection is out the window. So it’s MORE than just “filtering” and “parental controls”. It’s our job to teach them WHY. WHY these things are harmful and to instill the values and strength inside of them so that when faced with one of these issues (as they inevitably WILL be), they will change the channel, not download that app, leave the room, or possibly even tell an adult when they feel something’s not right.

The internet and social media are one thing. But the “too much access” I am actually addressing is much simpler and potentially even more harmful to a growing girl on a daily basis.

Words.

Spoken, overheard, shared, and texted. Most often in this generation…the written word otherwise known as text messaging.

This instantaneous back and forth between friends, groups of friends, and sometimes those that are far from friends can be SO damaging! As soon as the send button is hit, the words are out there…to be read, forwarded, shared, and interpreted in a myriad of different ways. Sometimes not at all as they were initially intended and others just exactly as they were meant…to HARM. To hurt someone’s feelings, make fun of them, or exclude them. For some reason, as we are all well aware even as adults, it’s much easier to sit behind a screen and type than it is to confront or speak to someone face to face. It gives a false sense of security…and allows us to say what we may never have the nerve or guts to say in person. As grown adults, we can process this type of thing and adjust. Our teenage kids? Not so much.

So here is where my problem lies. We all know that bullying is a problem in our society. It truly always has been…

But because of all of this instant access, our children can’t get away from it! They know instantly if “so and so” broke up with “so and so” and if Mary didn’t get invited to the party. They get forwarded text messages from another friend saying “I can’t believe you said this or did this” because something was misinterpreted or maybe nothing was said or done in the first place. They get left out of group chats or blocked or unfriended. ALL of these things are elements of today’s society that our teens are dealing with…and it’s unlike anything we ever had to deal with or maneuver through as young girls growing up. Which leads to my ultimate question…

When do we as parents, specifically as moms, step in? While we are trying desperately to give our daughters the strength and independence to handle their own relationships with friends and classmates, when are cutting words or actions by another too much for them to handle without us? When is it time to take two steps forward to protect them and when is it time to retreat a few steps back and allow them to protect themselves? Obviously, we can’t fight every battle for them. We would be doing them an incredible disservice by sheltering them from every hurt and conflict. But when is the proverbial line crossed enough for us to say something or take action FOR them?

I will admit it. I have been accused of being a “helicopter mom”. I’ve been told I needed to “loosen up”, “let go a bit”, and to “realize that this is just how middle school kids are.” I’ve been told “all the kids are doing it”, “you’re being naive”, and “it’s only going to get worse.” But here’s the thing…

I DON’T CARE.

I don’t care who’s doing what and who has what and who gets to go where with who. I don’t care if my daughters think I’m overprotective or way too strict. I don’t care what the mom sitting next to me at my daughter’s game thinks or the neighbor down the street thinks. I DO, however, care that I give our daughters the best shot of being the best ladies that they can possibly be in this life. After all, THAT is my job. The one God gave me when He blessed me with two little girls.

So I guess the answer that I have come up with is this…I can’t cover my daughters’ eyes and ears from EVERYTHING in the world that’s happening around them. Although in my heart of hearts, I wish that I could. BUT, what I CAN do is talk to them. Every day. About anything and everything. Making sure that the lines of communication I have with them is open…WIDE open.

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Photo: Ronnie Louis Photography

And then…

LISTEN.

Truly hearing them. Getting to really know who they are through and through, inside and out. Or at least as much as a teenage girl will allow. 😉 Because I think it is then and ONLY then that I will understand when to put my momma bear face on and go to battle for her or with her or when to know “she can handle this one all on her own”, hug her and back up.

I’ve said it to my fellow momma friends of teenage girls again and again…”this mom of teenager stuff isn’t for the faint at heart.” And I can’t think of a truer statement. But I believe we all want the same end result. To raise strong, brave, beautiful souls with a giving spirit and a kind heart. I think I am on the right track with my daughters…or at least that is my daily prayer.

Unfortunately, as wonderful as it can be in many capacities, social media and texting aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So TALK to them…talk to your daughters. It’s more important than ever before. Even when it’s things you don’t want to hear. Let them know you are there for them NO MATTER WHAT. Keep leading them and teaching them by your example moms.

And never EVER stop listening.

P.S. YOU are doing a fantastic job. ♥️

Hugs,

Shannon