Friend or Parent?

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By Expert Contributor Desiree Phillips.

As I write this first article for Parenting Teenage Girls magazine, I can’t help but think of the person who influenced me the most as a teenager, above all others.

It was my Mom.

She was the best parent and what every daughter hopes for when she reflects on her childhood and teen years.  I’m proud of the life choices and lessons I’ve learned thanks to her invaluable guidance.  She instinctively knew how to love deeply, be vulnerable with me while teaching and to hold the line on tough issues.  She had an unwavering sense of knowing what was needed, when. And when sometimes we learned things together, the hard way, she was sincere.  As a parent she consistently delivered confidence as well as strength, softness and love.  Her greatest skill with me was the ability to be clear and communicate from a firm yet loving demeanor.  I always knew where I stood with her and she explained everything to me behind her wise parenting decisions.

Most parents, rightfully so, have valid concerns and/or fears about who the most influential person will be in their daughter’s teen life, to possibly sway her attention, values and perhaps choices.  Rarely as parents of teenagers do we expect to be their favorite person of the day.

Although life as a teen is far from perfect, you can be sure that your daughter is listening, watching, observing and noticing how you live your life.  Your thoughts, actions, words and world definitely matter to her, even if it seems you’re potentially obsolete from her youth driven world.

A common challenge most parents face is the desire to be their daughter’s best friend and parent at the same time.  Many parents feel conflicted about ‘who to be’, because they want to be liked by their child and they want to be a good parent and role model, too.

The reality is your children have plenty of friends and your job is to be the best parent you can be every day.  Being a parent is far more challenging and difficult than being a friend who says ‘yes’ to everything.  As parents, you provide the most influence and fertile ground for learning about life.  The way you handle life is teaching your daughter, by example, how to handle her life.

Providing a stable and consistent foundation along with emotional support, open communication, healthy boundaries and lots of love for your daughter is where you are needed most.  During this stage of growing up, this is a tall order for anyone.  Friends are not a reliable source for parenting your child, so you get to be the parent.

Focus on your core values as a parent and allow healthy support through positive people, structures and resources.  Your desire for a healthy teenage daughter and mature relationship and connection with her is bound to follow as you continue learning to parent, or re-parent, your teenage daughter.

Regardless of where you are in your relationship with your daughter you want to remember she is in search of finding her self worth and personal value in the world.

Be clear from within and with her that you are her partner to heal as a family, discover healthier ways to live together, and that you love her even when there are boundaries and/or family agreements to practice.  Be her biggest fan and strongest supporter.

The following are some actions items you can take immediately.

1.  List important boundaries you want to have and hold with your daughter.  Post them where you can see them as a reminder for yourself. If you have several on your list, be selective and begin by choosing 1 or 2 that are most important for her safety.

2. Explain to your daughter from your heart why your decisions and boundaries are important.

3. List the adults who are a good influence in your child’s life.

4. Make plans with those adults so your daughter gets exposed to that good influence on a regular basis. Let your daughter thrive in that company on her own. You can be there, but do not overpower the conversations.

5. Practice healthy habits and self discipline in front of your daughter. Don’t just talk about it, do it.  Let them see you being challenged and succeeding. Demonstrate what practice looks like.

With care, love & family-glow!

Desiree Phillips

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