Being the mother of a teenage girl is a nightmare. I should know – I was that teenaged nightmare.
Bad hair, out all hours, drinking, smoking… boys? Been there, snogged, torn the T-shirt.
My daughter is not a teenager yet. But in preparation for the difficult years ahead I’ve written this letter to my future self, with advice I’m determined to follow. In the spirit of Facebook, I’d like to share it with you.
Allow her to go to that party, meet those friends and do what the other kids in her class are doing. But only if she takes a phone; agrees to a pick up time or a taxi home and respects the arrangements made with her safety in mind. Independence is good. Safety is vital.
Remind her – 50 times a day at least – that all models are airbrushed to within an inch of their lives and everyone on TV has a make up lady, a hair stylist and a wardrobe assistant. Real people in real life are not like this. Except in California where everyone has had full-body plastic surgery.
Insist she peels herself off the sofa, away from the screen and takes some brisk exercise every single day. Because this will get her heart pumping and blood racing in a way that One Direction never can. If you can convince her to play a sport, even better, because winning will build her confidence but losing will build her character.
Make sure she’s not bored. Remember how out of your head with boredom you were? Stacks of books and endless hours of TV are not enough. Your girl needs interests, hobbies, passions. She’s got to find her thing: drama classes, bird-watching, star-gazing, chemistry club. Whatever it is, she has to get out there and find it.
Encourage her, by example, to be a good and generous citizen. Together you will volunteer, be polite and cherish your friends. You will try not to moan or whinge, but be grateful for what you have.
Cook and eat the good stuff together – but never, ever DIET.
Talk openly, but sometimes back off and respect her privacy. She may not want you to know that she has been ditched by the boy with flicky hair. When she asks for advice about sex, be honest and give it your best shot.
Do not be embarrassed by all the puberty stuff: boobs, periods, tampons, spots, body hair. It’s a huge challenge and takes time to adjust. Help her to get comfortable with her new self.
Never stand in the middle of John Lewis waving a trainer bra and shouting: ‘I think this one’s big enough.’
No screaming or fainting when she chops off her beautiful curtain of hair, dyes it orange and pierces her tongue. Instead, say: ‘Wow, what a fierce new look.’ Two weeks later, happily buy as many hats and wigs as she needs… without complaint.
Set her aims high. Teach her about fabulously successful, amazing other women and tell her: ‘Look what they’ve done, you could be just as brilliant.’
Guard her self-esteem – like a lioness protecting her cubs. Declare at the top of your voice – and make her Dad declare it too: ‘You look stunning in that dress!’ ‘You were utterly fantastic in the play.’ ‘I am so proud of your kindness and understanding.’ ‘Thank you for being such a friend to your sister.’ ‘I absolutely love you.’
When you have no idea what to say, shut up, hug her tight and listen. The girls who succeed in life come from loving homes where they will always have someone who will listen and love them… no matter what.
* This article first appeared in the Daily Record.