How I perceived myself during my tween/teen years can be summed up in three little words:

Not. So. Great.

All you have to do is look back to my childhood/teenage diaries to see exactly what I’m talking about:

When I look back at family albums at pictures of myself there really wasn’t anything at all wrong with me. Yes I was a little overweight, but it was nothing to be overly concerned about. Yes I wore a ton of black eyeliner and dressed like Madonna, but so did all of the other girls back then.  And yes my hair was gi-normous, but it was the eighties and I was living in New York and Florida – what did you expect?

Tell her she’s beautiful.

Even if at the moment you’re not so sure – maybe she has some questionable fashion choices, wears black lipstick or has dyed her hair some insane color. She’s still your girl and she’s in there – buried – but there. She’s exploring, experimenting, expressing – figuring out who she is and where she fits in. As frustrating as it may be to you and to Grandma, it’s sooo normal. When my parents were overly concerned about my bad makeup choices in the seventh grade, my mom sneakily took me to the mall where we made a pit stop at the Clinique counter for an appointment with a woman in a white lab coat. It was my makeup intervention! I still wear Clinique’s Raspberry Glace lipstick to this day thanks to that lady in the lab coat.

Have her friends over.

My house was hangout central, where all the girls and guys liked to gather after school and on the weekends. My friends loved my parents – Mom and Dad took the time to get to know them, from where they grew up to who they had crushes on. My mom gave my girlfriends manicures and my dad rented horror movies for us to watch and popped popcorn with lots of butter. Our house is where we would eat pizza on a Friday night and where couples gathered to have homecoming and prom photos taken – because we all enjoyed being there. I credit my mom and dad for making “Lori’s house” the place to be/meet/hang.

Don’t deny her of the good stuff.

Short and sweet – give her the sweets. I was tormented for years, watching my girlfriends eat good old fashioned old ice cream while I sat with my little plastic cup of – blech- ice milk. Do they even make ice milk anymore? I don’t think so and I hope not, because ice milk sucks. Give your daughter ice cream. Not  the carton with a spoon – a bowl. Give her real yogurt and real sour cream too. The good stuff in moderation is so much sweeter than the bland stuff every day.

One on one time.

During the tenth grade I was having a really hard time – my weight, my grades, my boy troubles – the usual. I remember specifically my mom taking me out to breakfast one Sunday right after church. It was out of the normal routine and weird that my dad and brother were going home rather than coming out with us. She recognized that I was struggling and had a conversation with me about what was going on, plain and simple. No talking down to me or anger over a failed test, less like a parent and more like a friend which sometimes is needed. That breakfast has always stuck with me as something special my mom did for me.

Encourage her.

I know – no brainer right? Whatever she’s interested in, wherever her passions lay.  In high school I tried out for pretty much everything until I found my “people” in the drama club. I ended up majoring in theatre in college and my parents supported me, never saying, “What are you going to do with a theatre degree?” and drove two hours to see me in every production I did away at school.

These are exciting years – and difficult years, full of change and growth. With support, understanding and love you will both get through them. Who knows – those questionable fashion choices may lead her to be a future season finalist on Project Runway.

Published by Nancy Jones

Nancy is a writer and fitness trainer. She is the wife of a charming Frenchman and mother of three children, ages 7, 6 and 3.

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