As I previously mentioned, I won tickets to the Girl World Tour, courtesy of LA Story. It's sort of a combination of a book tour and a mother-daughter seminar (of course, dads or other guardian welcome, but the event we attended was solely made up of mother-daughter pairs).
Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees & Wannabees, the parenting book that was the inspiration for Mean Girls, is adept at speaking to both sets of participants. She did a great job of explaining the teens to the moms and vice versa, using humor and her clear passion for the subject.
I haven't read the book yet, but here are some things that stuck with us from the event.
I had an a-ha moment. One of my concerns for Sylvia has been that she takes everything so hard. She's an emotional girl that wears her heart on her sleeve. I have been there. I know how hard it is. I know how deeply she feels, and I don't want the same for her. I don't want her to be as affected by others as I am.
Yet Wiseman said something that made me re-think my approach. One of her main goals is to help these girls become what she calls "women of substance." She explained that if these girls aren't given an opportunity to express these feelings, they start shutting down. They don't speak up for themselves, and they begin to suppress their own wants and needs. Obviously, that's not what I want for her. So it's up to me to help support her in expressing them in ways that make her feel heard and understood and valued.
After Wiseman said that, I whispered to Sylvia, "I think I understand now, and I'm sorry." She beamed at me, and told me later that was her favorite moment of the event.
We picked her adult allies, those that she could go to if and when she didn't feel comfortable coming to me with an issue. We found we doodled the same way on our papers. And on the way home, we had a long heart-to-heart about one relationship in Sylvia's life, and how I could help her with it.
It was a good Date Night.
The next day, I attended a Parenting Your Teen seminar, provided by my employer's behavioral health care program. The room was packed with parents, whose children are as young as 11 and as old as 19.
It being a lunchtime event, there wasn't a lot of time to really go into depth about anything, and it was a little disappointing because I found that a lot of the recommendations didn't come with specifics on how one accomplishes this. And on one point in particular, it was interesting to see that it was the exact opposite of something that Wiseman had stressed the night before.
In discussing social issues, Wiseman talked about how deeply important these are to our tweens and teens. She said that these issues can even affect their schoolwork as their brain can't process that information when it's being controlled by this factor in particular. (She talked about it more scientifically, but I'm no scientist.)
In the seminar the next day, the advice was to stress quality over quantity friendships. I don't think anyone would disagree with that alone, but frankly, I've already tried that and it means nothing to Sylvia. Wiseman also stated that the advice to ignore a "mean girl" doesn't work either.
Basically, these tired catch-phrases are not only useless, but they're the reasons for the eye-rolls and feelings that Mom just doesn't get it.
One valuable piece of information from the second seminar was that it's important we remember the details of these stories of their friends and their dramas. I've certainly seen Sylvia's frustration when I can't remember the salient details of who did what to whom, so I made a mental note to actually engage in active listening the next time she tells me a saga. (I've been faking it lately with "I'm sorry" or "that's too bad.")
While I'm certainly no expert, and I'm still hungry for more information, I was encouraged by how much sounded like things I'm already trying to do, and in some ways, I've seen accomplishments. Sylvia still tells me a lot about her friends, we talk about physical issues (in the broadest sense), and she even told me about a friend that wanted to try drugs and how she helped set her friend straight.
She's not quite a teen yet, I know, but if it's all about the groundwork, which I believe it is, we're off to a promising start.