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Reaching the Heart of Your Tween Daughter

Developing lifelong ties to your tween daughter means liking her, listening to her, and loving her through her growing pains.

It seems as though today's girl is growing up faster than ever. She barely has time to be a kid before she begins to feel adult pressures. Unlimited media exposure, the demands of her peers and schedules crammed with activities have brought stress to what should be carefree days.

Home life situations such as divorce and financial difficulties loudly insist that girls become wise to the ways of the world. Then there is the daily trauma of school, where girls must worry constantly about measuring up to peer standards and fitting into the right social circles. When a changing body and hormonal structure enter the picture, many girls are not ready. They need the wisdom, experience and perspective of their moms. They need to know they have an ally right by their side.

How can moms reach the hearts of their growing daughters before the teen years hit? How can what you do now as a parent play a key role in preparing for a good relationship in the future? Developing lifelong ties to your tween daughter means liking her, listening to her, and loving her through her growing pains.

Liking her

Think about it: Do you like your tween daughter? Let her know it. She can think of a hundred reasons every day not to like herself. She needs to know that in you, there will always be someone who laughs at her jokes, thinks she looks pretty and enjoys spending time with her. She knows you love her. After all, you have to -- you're the parent! But does she know you like her? Show her by spending time with her, laughing with her and telling her often through texts, e-mails, or handwritten notes.

Listening to her

I am convinced that better parenting means better listening. Listening to a tween does require a bit of patience. Sometimes you have to listen as your daughter describes what her friends are doing and thinking before you get to the part where she feels comfortable enough to share from her own heart. She may want to gauge your response to what others are doing and saying first, so be careful how you react. You could unknowingly shut down a conversation before it ever starts. You listen best when you are careful to make eye contact and eliminate any distractions.

Loving her

Love is not just a feeling, it is an action best expressed through sacrifice. God showed us His love through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. In a similar way, we show our daughters how much we love them when we make sacrifices for them. We must, however, be quiet about it. You do not advertise sacrifice. You do not draw attention to it. You just do it. For example, praying diligently for your daughter requires a daily sacrifice of time. The braces, the music lessons and the team sports fees involve a financial sacrifice. Opening your home to her noisy friends after you've worked all week is a sacrifice of comfort and convenience.

Reaching the heart of your tween daughter is not really all that difficult. Like who they are and who they are becoming. Listen well. Love them with your arms, wallet and home open wide. Get rightly focused on what your child needs. She needs all of you because she is growing and becoming all God wants her to be. Soon, she is going to disappear into adulthood. These growing pains are the preliminary stretch to the final lap of parenting: the teen years. The foundation you lay now is crucial to the formation of your relationship ahead.

Rebecca Ingram Powell is a pastor's wife, a homeschooling mother of three, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and parenting organizations. She is the author of Baby Boot Camp, and two Bible studies for youth, Wise Up! (for girls) and Dig Deep (for boys).
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