While writing an advice book for teens, Kaz Cooke came up with some good advice for their parents, like that telling an 11-year-old who gets her first period "you're a woman now" is just creepy.
(Thanks to the reader who tipped us about Cooke's post on the Times of London's Alpha Mummy blog.) Cooke interviewed more than 4,000 girls for her new teen advice book The Rough Guide to Girl Stuff, which was released earlier this year in the U.K., and in the post she shares her tips for getting along with teenage girls that we wish our parents would have heard when we were growing up.
Her first tip is for parents to explain that the changes a girl's body goes through during puberty are normal, especially since this is when many women develop the idea that their bodies are gross. Advertising and older women make it seem like every hair must be plucked out and periods are either a "curse" or a sign of sexual maturity. Cooke advises:
Without being hippy-drippy or saying "this means you're a woman now" (which is a very confusing and creepy message for an 11 year old), just let her know that what she's going through is natural, the right time for her, and nothing to do with being grown up or ready to have sex. It's just what happens to everybody.
She also points out that while parents are freaked out about answering questions about pregnancy, STDs and drugs, those are not most girls' top concerns. Cooke says girls "are much more likely to ask 'Should I move, or what?' and 'How do I know he's the right one?'" Addressing a teen's questions about the emotional side of sex is likely to make her more receptive to listening to her parents concerns about her safety.
Plus, too many parents get fixated on their worries about their teen having sex and doing drugs and ignore the day-to-day concerns that are actually more stressful for most girls. Cooke writes:
At times, she may be much more fiercely gripped by fears and self consciousness about a bully, some bother in a group of friends, spots, falling in love, heartbreak, whether make-up is a good idea and what to wear. Don't dismiss these as "trivial" – they can have important consequences for her confidence and learning how to take life's knocks. Denying that they are real knocks won't help.
Cooke's basic strategy of talking to a child about everything and anything, and listening to what they are worried about, is good parenting advice whatever age or sex the child may be. It's refreshing to hear some healthy and realistic advice about talking to teens, especially when so many public service announcements make it seem like they're ticking time bombs just waiting to steal your prescription drugs and impregnate themselves at the first opportunity.
5 Steps To Understanding Teenage Girls [The Times of London]