How do I parent my teenage daughter?

As the mother of a seventeen year old girl a very good portion of my life revolves around second-guessing myself and the decisions I make. And I know I am not alone in this. I also have several girlfriends in this club and a good portion of our time together involves comparing horror stories of what our girls did or didn’t do, and what we as mothers could or should have done differently (namely, better) to handle the situation.

No bones about it, being a parent to a teenage daughter in this era is freaking hard. I suppose it has always been hard – teenagers have always come with unique and irritating quirks and challenges, but I have no doubt that it is harder for us now than it was for our mothers.

With Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat ruling their worlds – dictating what they should be wearing, doing and being – it is almost as though they are living in an unreal cyber world. A lot of things in this unreal cyber world are fake – eyelashes, tan, feelings, friendship. We watch and cringe as our girls try to keep up, silently comparing their lives with all of the other lives laid out before them.

And we as parents wonder what the hell we are doing. How we parent in this new world. In a world that seems both unreal and safe, I ask myself constantly – how do I parent my teenage daughter?!

She sometimes calls me ‘mummy’. She likes decorating cupcakes and hearing stories of when she was a baby. She also LOVES to party. With make-up and a killer outfit she seems a force to be reckoned with – streetwise and savvy. She is a paradox – her moods, looks and attitude all interchangeable depending on where she’s at.

One day she’s curled up on the sofa, make-up free, watching TV and wanting me. She wants tea and she wants advice. She’s my little girl. Come afternoon she’s fake-tanning and ripping her room apart in search of make-up, clothes and jewellery for that night’s party. She won’t be coming home but annoyedly assures me she’ll be safe sleeping at so-and-so’s house. She’s no longer my little girl.

I struggle to keep up with the change and this is where my dilemma lay. I want to be her Mum. I want to guide her. I don’t want to overstep the mark. I don’t want her to be in therapy because of me. But I AM still in charge. And she NEEDS boundaries.

I desperately want to get it right – to find that elusive sweet spot between discipline and neglect. I hate the feeling that I’m not. When doling out commands and curfews I want to sound confident and authoritative. Like I know what I am on about. Does an almost eighteen year old even need a curfew? I don’t know but everyone else does. Everybody has an opinion – strong and opposing opinions.

A friend recently confided that she believes the postnatal depression she endured with her first-born was caused in part by her inability to keep up with opinions and advice. It was all being thrown at her from a zillion different sources and directions and in her already fragile state as a new mum she literally caved. She lost all confidence in her own ability to do it right. To listen to her intuition and just get the job done.

And therein, I believe, lies the secret. As parents – as mothers – we too easily lose our way. In our eagerness to please our children, our parents, the woman down the street… we forget who we are. We forget that we already have most of it inside of us. And what we don’t have inside of us, we have the ability to find it – the answers – ON OUR OWN. Without the frowns and criticism and judgement of all those around us.

We should discuss our problems and ask for and offer advice, by all means. Offering and sharing stories, advice and hope is what we women do best. But let us leave it at that! Let’s not judge another mother when she is clearly worn out and doing her very best. We have all been her. I am her now. And I was her when my teenagers were babies.

And if we are the one at her wits end and needing help? Let us trust our own judgement – our own INTUITION. If we are having trouble accessing it – let us be discerning in our acceptance of advice. Let us not get so caught up in what every other mother is doing or not doing that we lose sight of what is right, and best, for US.

When in doubt read books, go online, and speak to the people you trust. But ALWAYS remember this: if something FEELS right, it usually is. If something feels wrong or off – it usually is. Learn to trust your own judgement. This is one piece of parenting advice worth holding on to.

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