I have a friend who studied city planning and the purpose of bridges.
She explained how bridges are needed as a city grows and expands. They connect one part of a community to another offering safe passage.
Why do bridges matter in the parent-teen relationship? As a child grows, their world expands from their family and familiar territory. They need bridges that take them home and safely back to the people who remind them of who they are.
As a writer for teen girls and a mom of three daughters, I’ve long looked for ways to build bridges. I’ve seen how disconnect begins when we try to give guidance without awareness of their thoughts, desires, and feelings.
I surveyed girls and they agreed on some common things they wish their mothers knew.
1. Even if we don’t say it, we appreciate little surprises, like when you have our favorite food waiting at home.
2. Don’t criticize trivial things. We criticize ourselves enough, so save your criticism for when it matters (and be as tactful as possible).
3. Don’t tell other moms about our issues. When you break our trust, we want to pull away and not share our lives.
4. Sometimes just listening is best. Don’t try to fix everything…just sit with us in our emotions and let us be sad.
5. When you catch us doing something you like, tell us. This makes us feel like you see our strengths and abilities.
6. We wish you gave us more credit for the good decisions we make and recognized how difficult this is sometimes.
7. If we’re in a good mood, go with it and enjoy us. We love to have fun, lighthearted conversations, and we need these moments with you because if every conversation turns into a life lesson, we stop listening and tune you out.
8. Understand that social media is part of our culture. Rather than ridicule, guide us on how to use it.
9. Don’t take it personally if we take out our anger on you. You’re usually the person we feel we can safely unload on; be patient and don’t give up on us as we learn to handle our emotions.
10. Our room is our private space, the only place in the house that is just ours. We need to be alone to reflect and think, and we like it when you knock before entering.
11. We want to tell you about our friend problems, but not if you’ll take it the wrong way and try to control our social lives. We don’t like when you diss our friends every time we have a problem.
12. We’re taking in what you say, sometimes subconsciously (even if we don’t respond). Sometimes it’s not until later, when we’re in an unfamiliar situation, that we remember what you once told us.
As your daughter’s world expands, you may suddenly find yourself on the outside looking in, hoping to be part of her world while also being the strong parent she needs. When in doubt, build the bridge. Be proactive in getting to know her and support her.