Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Snuggles, Not Struggles: Connecting with Your Tween or Teen Daughter

Guest Post by Sandra Byrd

As little girls, most of us played house, corralled a friend to be the "husband" in a mock wedding ceremony and then, later, pretended that our dolls were our children. The dolls, of course, were almost all female and did exactly what we told them to do. Imagine our shock and surprise years later as grown-up women in real households with daughters who not only don't do as we tell them but often seem to set out to do just the opposite! These flesh and blood daughters are so much more valuable and precious to us than the dolls, but as they become tweens and teens we often grow apart. Shared activities are key to remaining close. Reading books together not only facilitates bonding time but allows you to peek into the hearts and minds of your own not-so-little-any-more girls.

Reading Together Allows You to Understand Your Daughter's World
Often if you ask a privacy-prone teen or tween what she is feeling or thinking you'll get a short, one word answer in return. Tweens and teens are nearly as reluctant to give up their secrets as the grave! However, if you phrase the questions or discussions in terms of third party, neutral characters in books you'll get a much more forthcoming response. How do you think she handled that? Does this seem like your school - in what ways? How would you rate her relationship with her family? What do you think about the friendship choices she's making? Do kids at your school have these kinds of temptations? Do you find this book realistic? Each of these questions will give you more insight into your daughter

Reading Together Helps Your Daughter to Understand You
As mothers, it's easy to forget that our daughters often view us as powerful and adult but may know little about us beyond our jobs, hobbies, and food preferences. Share some of the books you enjoy now, or enjoyed as a teen, with your daughter. Read one that she likes, and then read one that you liked. When you discuss it, share something about your childhood, some appropriate vulnerabilities, such as your continuing need for good friends, just like she has, and about the hopes and dreams you had as a girl. Doing so will "humanize" you to your daughter. The more she knows you, the more she can love you. When she realizes that you understand where she is by sharing that you've been there, too, she's more likely to open up.

Reading Together Allows You to Have Fun
If you ask most kids what comprises the bulk of their family time, you might be shocked to find out that they respond, "chores" and "discipline." In today's hustle and bustle a lot of the time we spend together revolve around those two things, and both can be fraught with conflict. Making time to share an enjoyable activity will change the nature of your one on one time with your daughter. When you read a book together, make a weekly coffee date to discuss what you've read. Or duplicate something the book characters do. If the characters go to a new store to shop, do so with your daughter. If they visit the beach, make plans for a short day out. You plan one outing, and then let her plan the next. Talk about the book on the way to or from the day out. Offer to take away one of your daughter's chores if she'll spend the time reading the book you two have decided to read together. And then make time in your schedule to read, too. There are no Sparks Notes short-cuts to building a good relationship.

Although we each had dolls, toys, and books we cherished when we were kids, nothing reaches the depth of affection and self-sacrifice that good parents feel and show toward their own children. Pick up two copies of a good book today and plan to spend some quality time growing closer with your daughter, building more snuggles and fewer struggles into your days and years together.

Sandra Byrd is the mother of two young adults and the author of many books for tweens and teens, including several series just out for Kindle and Nook. You can learn more these series, and Sandra's books, at

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