how to encourage your teenage daughter

6 Things Teen Girls Need to Understand About Themselves

My oldest daughter is preparing to enter high school this fall. My day job has me working with a number of teenagers, so I have no illusions about what she’s about to step into—the good and the bad. During this period of life, you have to know how to encourage your teenage daughter in a way she can hear.

With only a few months to go until she starts the ninth grade, I find myself considering 6 key things I hope that she understands.

1. You are not alone.

Kids are often quite willing to ask for help from friends, parents, and teachers with whatever situation might be troubling them. Unfortunately, I find many teenagers assume they have to go it alone, forgetting there are numerous people pulling for them. A teen girl who knows who is in her corner is more likely to stand by her principles when the crowd turns in a different direction. I want my daughter to know there are many of us who are ready, willing, and able to face life’s challenges right beside her.

2. You have time.

The average life expectancy of a North American woman is 81 years. This means many teenage girls can expect to live about seven decades of life after high school. Many teen girls who forget this and feel the need to experience everything as quickly as possible place themselves in dangerous situations. I want my daughter to know she doesn’t need to rush relationships or make rash decisions.

3. You are more than your social media status.

Social media offers people the opportunity to stay connected to one another. But when we equate our value to likes, follows, and streaks on social media, it can come at a great cost. I find that teen girls face three specific dangers here: the need to stay online 24 hours per day to keep up, an expectation to pile on when someone is being bullied, and a pressure to dress for, pose for, and post photos they’d never want their dads to see. I want my teenage daughter to see social media not as the source of her identity, but as a simple tool she can use (or not) to connect with others.

4. You have a future.

I’ve often heard teens talk about the ways they expect high school to be the greatest time of their lives. But this is a bleak outlook on life, expecting everything to go downhill from here. In teen girls, this outlook can lead to reckless decision making, particularly with relationships and alcohol. I want my daughter to remember that the goal of life isn’t being a teenager forever and that habits and choices she’ll make along the way will leave a lasting impact.

5. You are going to make mistakes.

An unfortunate reality of growing up is that all of us make mistakes. Most of what I’ve learned comes from the fact I didn’t get things right the first time. But these choices didn’t define me. They became opportunities to learn, to grow, and to do better next time. A teen girl who gets hung up on her failures can find herself carrying undue pressure to make things right, trying to cover up what she’s done, or even giving up her efforts to do well altogether. I want my daughter to know that whenever she fails to live up to standards and expectations—her own or those that come from others—she is not the sum of her weaknesses and failures; she is so much more.

6. You are loved.

I doubt there is a dad reading this who doesn’t hope this for all his kids. I want my daughter to be absolutely certain she is always loved: by her mother, by me, and by God. If she can get that straight, the rest should start to fall into place. A teen girl who understands that she is loved is less likely to go looking for love or a facsimile of love in the arms of someone else.

Earn some points: Are you married? If so, help your wife’s relationship with your daughter by sharing this iMOM article with her: 4 Conversations You Need to Have with Your Tween Girl.

Sound off: What do you think is the most important item for our daughters to understand?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think makes you lovable?”