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Is Your Tween Ready for School?

By Joy Hartman on 08/24/2016 | Heart & Sole

School supplies? Check. Picture day. Done. Gym lock ad uniform assigned. Yep. What else? As much as your daughter will tell you she will have everything she could possibly need after a quick trip to the mall to stock up on all of the latest fall fashions, we all know deep down there is so much more she is going to need to prepare for school. Middle school can be a difficult time with changing friendship dynamics. How can you prepare them for that? It’s easier than you think! Hang in here for a second. 

The Pew Research Center, a fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America, conducted a survey that ranked the values parents believe are important in raising children today. The whole survey can be found here but the most interesting point is that all parents, regardless of their differing viewpoints, value responsibility and hard work far more than they value empathy, curiosity and tolerance.

Obviously, we all want hardworking, responsible tweens. In fact, we spend countless hours to help them work hard and excel. But what about the values of empathy, curiosity and tolerance? Aren’t those values that create kind human beings?

Teaching our girls to embrace each other’s differences and find strength in connectedness is perhaps the biggest key to our girls navigating their school world.

Here are four tips to keep in mind as we raise daughters, coach girls and even as we strive to be good, kind decent human beings ourselves: 

Empower. Most girls this age are desperate to fit in and girls often make mean decisions because they are afraid of not being accepted by others. Show them they have power in their words and in their behaviors. Show her how to support her friends and find genuine happiness for others. Help your tween be curious about others rather than judgmental. Ask questions like, “What makes her different? What is she really good at? What do you admire about that girl?” Your daughter doesn’t need to be best friends with every other girl at school, but why not give her the power to see differences as okay and something to learn more about?

Teach. These years are for learning who she is and what she stands for and that is done by learning values! Complicated, hard values. Teach her how to make friends, keep friends and leave friends. Those are skills women need their whole lives. The average adult friendship lasts only seven years. She will change friends. She will stay close with some, but she will need to make many new friends throughout her lifetime. Show her how to grow apart kindly and how to make new friends. Show her through your own friendships. At dinner, talk about a new person you met who you are curious about and how you are going to make a connection.  

Talk. Tweens are still developing a fine understanding of the nuances and subtleties of communication. Ninety percent of communication is body language and facial expression! Tweens are being expected to navigate a pretty complicated world with less and less face-to-face communication. They don’t stand a chance to understand one another and develop deep friendships if they are relying on texting or other apps.  Have real conversations with your tweens and expect them to have real conversations too!

Start. Get your daughters involved in something bigger than just their peer group. Invite girls other than just their main friend group to do something together. Perhaps the neighborhood tween girls are all invited to a book club or a running group. Maybe you sew or a neighbor mom is a makeup consultant or a baker? Start something! It could grow into a lifetime friendship, rekindle old friendships and simply be a place your daughter can learn to embrace difference and find a connectedness. 

Our girls will grow into hard working, responsible teenagers in the next few years. Will they also grow into curious young women who can feel empathy and live tolerance? Yes! They are well on their way because of you.

Joy Hartman

Author

Joy Hartman is passionate about empowering girls to become strong, confident women. She works with girls of all ages as a family therapist in Wisconsin and has the unique experience of raising two soon-to-be strong, confident teenage daughters of her own. For more fun and support on this crazy roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers, join Joy and hundreds of other parents at: Joyhartman.com or  Facebook

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