Moms' Ultimate Guide to the Tween Girl World
- Thursday, July 29, 2010
So she looks for a deeper emotional connection with her parents — and you're in the midst of dealing with that schedule overload and economic insecurity and post-modern iffiness yourself. How are you supposed to provide centering, connecting events for your family when it's all you can do to get them from school to softball practice to Awana to homework to bed before midnight without screaming, "Shut up — I'm sick of all of you!"
Now, before you toss this book in the trash (who needs this downer, right?), not all of the change that has happened in our culture since you were ten has been negative. As a society we have a much better understanding of mental health than we did twenty-five years ago (good news for those of us being driven crazy by parenthood!). Thanks to the Internet and social networking, we can find anything and anyone we want right at the computer terminals found in most of our households — everything from how to help our kids with ADHD to where there might be a G-rated movie playing this weekend (if indeed such a thing still exists). We know more about the benefits of nutrition, exercise . . . even chocolate. We've elected an African-American president, which, no matter what your politics, is a sign that we are making progress in overcoming prejudice and bigotry. Even a fresh look at Christianity has transformed many pew potatoes into true disciples who are working to solve the problems Jesus cares about. Many Christians in the generation your tween will follow (those brought up in the eighties and nineties) are showing a greater awareness of the world, says Reverend Romal Tune, CEO of the Washington, DC-based Clergy Strategic Alliances.
"They're connecting through Facebook and using scripture to support their causes on social issues . . . The church will in 20 years not be defined by a building that people attend for worship on Sunday morning, but by how Christians treat people in the world.14 Yet still you worry. Old seems to be happening sooner, a phenomenon paraphrased by marketers as K.G.O.Y — Kids Growing Older Younger.15 Ten, "they" say, is the new fifteen. You go shopping for clothes with your eight-year-old and find only smaller versions of what the teenagers are (barely) wearing. Your eleven-year-old, like 54 percent of her same-age peers, doesn't think she's too young to wear makeup.16 Your nine-year-old is convinced she's grossly overweight. Your ten-year-old is in tears because her BFF stole the boy she was "going out with" (though no one knows where it is they were going or how they planned to get there). Worrying because that's what mothers do is one thing. Just try and stop us, right? But the lie-awake-at-night kind of concern the tween world presents us with shouldn't rob us of the joy of raising daughters. And it doesn't have to.
In my thirty-five years of teaching, writing for, hanging out with, and raising one of these, my favorite brand of kid, I have come to know many positive, joyous, soul-boosting things about the tween years. For example, in the tween years, your daughter is still more likely to look to you for guidance, security, and all-out authority than she is to anyone else, including the all-knowing BFF (or group thereof). She wants you. She responds to you. She soaks you up like the proverbial sponge, especially when you aren't looking.17
Even while the continual movement toward adolescence teems beneath the surface, she is still a little girl in so many ways. She may roll her eyes and use "whatever" as every part of speech but a coordinating conjunction, but she will play at the slightest suggestion — and giggle and snuggle and dream and squeal over the Easter basket with every bit as much delight as she did when she was three years old.
She is, by the nature of her developmental stage, open to all that the Christian faith has to offer: forgiveness, hope, empowerment, a sense of belonging and acceptance, and the knowledge that she is loved unconditionally. Even secular sources, such as Dr. James Barbarino, author of See Jane Hit, say that nonpunitive, love-centered religion has been shown to create a buffer against a sick society.18
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