Enjoy these additional tips for having Conversation #2 across the age ranges. As stated before, please weigh in at the bottom of the post with your own wisdom and insight. It helps if you mention your daughter’s age in the comment!
If your daughter is 5 years or less:
Be careful to expose your daughter to age appropriate influences. There is no need to rush ahead and expose her to television shows and movies geared to older children. Girls this age need to be more involved in creative and outdoor play. As I reflect back on these years, I remember how slow the pace was whether it was a trip to the park or a castle we were building with blocks. Kids are not in a hurry naturally, and we would be wise to match their pace. This is the age where they require much of your focused time and it’s tempting to rely on the television and other media sources to entertain them. Try to limit their media exposure, especially if you can’t sit with them to watch the show or movie. When they get to the older end of this age range, it’s not uncommon to have a handful of tried and true DVD’s that you have previewed or a favorite show or cartoon. It’s exhausting to parent a child in this age range so we all need a break from time to time. again, the general rule is all things in moderation.
When it comes to friends, their primary peer group should be family members and close family friends. Talk of “best friends” and “boyfriends” can be confusing since girls this age don’t have the cognitive ability to process what it means. If your daughter shows a preference for certain friends, just leave it at that rather than confuse her by putting a label on the friend. Sometimes, I wonder if we don’t set our girls up by talking about “best friends” and “boyfriends.” Friendships take a backseat to family at this age, so refrain from over-emphasizing their friendships.
And while I doubt any mom reading this book would be guilty of this next one, I feel obligated to mention it all the same. Please, please dress your little girl like a little girl. As she out grows the toddler sizes and is promoted to the children’s department, she will be exposed to miniature versions of what can often be found in the junior’s department at many of the local department stores. The influence will especially strong if she has an older sister who is also being enticed by these same fashions.
If your daughter is 6-11 years:
I am thankful that the choices were limited when my children were in this age range.
I didn’t have to worry about my daughter begging me to watch Hannah Montana or High School Musical. There were few cable channels to choose from and children’s programming was still limited. Use your own discernment regarding the media you allow your child to be exposed to at this age range. If it’s a show on TV, sit down and watch with them to ensure it’s not one that is geared to teens or older children. Keep in mind that many of the shows airing on The Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and other touted “family-friendly” channels are not acceptable for children in this age range.
When it comes to technology, use the formula I discussed in the chapter where you take more of a training wheels approach. If you don’t have the time to monitor the gadget or online privilege, don’t allow it until you do. Again, be cautious of purchasing expensive technology gadgets loaded with all sorts of bells and whistles. In addition to the common frustrations of children losing or damaging these items is also the concern that it exposed them to too much too soon. For example, many of the MP3 players hold hundreds if not thousands of songs. Do you have time to help them upload those songs and monitor the content? If you decide to allow a cell phone at this age range so your child is able to contact you, consider the basic package or a phone that is geared to young kids and only dials pre-programmed numbers.
When it comes to friends and peer groups, begin to pay attention to the types of friends your daughter attracts or pursues. Friendships escalate in importance at the upper end of this age range, so help point your daughter in the right direction. The decision to allow your daughter to spend the night at a friend’s house will be up to you, but many girls are not ready to be away at home at this age. My daughter gave it a couple of tries with a close friend and I found myself driving across town at midnight to pick her up. ?
When it comes to boys, don’t make a huge deal out of it. Don’t encourage it, but also be careful not to overreact or blow it out of proportion if she says she likes a boy. Oftentimes, girls are only play-acting what has been modeled to them whether it’s a fairy tale romance or what they see at home. Remember, this is a confusing time where boys go from having cooties one day to making their hearts beat faster the next. As an added note of caution, given the fact that more and more children in this age range are being given access to technology such as cell phones, email, and IM, make sure your daughter is not communicating with the opposite sex outside your knowledge. All it takes is one girl at a sleepover who has a cell phone and a set of parents who are too busy to monitor her usage. Girls this age should not be texting, IMing, and talking to boys as it often exposes them to situations that are far beyond their realm of understanding and maturity.
If your daughter is 12 years or older:
Drop to your knees and pray! Okay, joking aside (sort of), get ready because this is the age range when you will be hit with wave after wave of challenges. Use discernment on when to allow technology influences and read my comments above (as well as in the chapter) about taking a training wheels approach. As for other issues regarding fashion, privileges such as shaving, getting a bra, etc…, make sure that your daughter is comfortable talking to you about her level of readiness. Remember that many of these issues are extremely stressful to our girls (as they were to us at the same age), so resist the urge to respond to their requests by being in auto-pilot mom-mode. Don’t leave them feeling that their requests are unreasonable or ridiculous or you will discourage them from coming to you in the future. And remember, it’s not unreasonable or ridiculous to them, especially when so many of their friends are moving forward.
If your daughter is on the shy and quiet side, sit her down and make sure she knows that you are there to help her along the way. In fact, it’s a good idea to do this regardless of her temperament. The best thing you can do in these years is to build a foundation of communication with your daughter. Expect that there will be issues to trouble-shoot along the way and don’t act surprised when they present themselves, even if it’s much earlier than you anticipated. Resist reacting to requests with shocked facial expressions or discounting their requests with statements like, “I’m not ready to talk about this yet. You’re too young for ________.” Again, they will make a mental note not to come to you next time.
Be very engaged in knowing who your daughter’s friends are during this year. Get to know her friends’ parents as well. Help her begin to distinguish between “weekday friends” and “weekend friends.” If you see warning signs that cause you to believe your daughter’s peer group is headed in the wrong direction, pay careful attention. Limit get-togethers to your home until you can get a better read of the situation. As I mentioned in this Conversation, sometimes it’s necessary to pull your daughter from a peer group or friend that is producing negative results. Expect that there will be resistance and do what you can to ease the pain. Help her connect (or reconnect) with girls you trust even if it means driving her across town to expose her to a more positive setting.
The decision regarding dating will by up to you, but as my dear author friend Jackie Kendall says, “the earlier you date, the earlier you mate!” There’s a lot of truth to that statement, so proceed with caution. Most of us are having our own flashbacks to the past and parenting our daughters in fear that they will succumb to the same temptations we did. They very well may. The key at this age is to remain engaged in what is going on. Draw reasonable boundaries and remind your daughter that your motive is to help her “protect her heart” not ruin her life. Most importantly, work hard to keep the lines of communication open. They are not normally sharing their lives openly and willingly with us at this stage in the game, but don’t let them push you out of their lives. They wouldn’t be willing to admit it, but they need you more than ever.