I remember vividly cuddling my sweet bundle of joy in the first months of her life. I loved dressing her in frills + bows, where she smiled and gurgled her willingness to comply. A full tummy, clean diaper, and nap were all that ever stood between my girl and her happiness.
Fast forward a decade or so and now there is an endless array of complexities that stand between my teen and her contentment.
Teens are faced with the pressures of non-stop exposure, unrealistically high expectations, and staggering increases in mental health complications. Our girls [and boys] now, more than ever, need us to help them navigate these emotionally confusing years.
So, for the past few years, I have been lucky enough to help lead a retreat for teenage girls at our high school. This retreat is designed as an optional day to help these girls better understand their physical, social and emotional needs. It is a day to ask questions, get to know other girls, and listen to keynote speakers on topics such as knowing yourself, feeling like you are ‘enough’, and creating healthy relationships.
“Where is the boys’ retreat?” you might ask.
No worries–boys get an optional day off-campus for keynote speakers and answers to real-life questions as well. However, no girls allowed. So as a woman, I can only comment as to what is on the mind of our teenage girls these days.
A big part of this day is for girls to be able to anonymously ask questions that have been saturating their brains. They submit questions to a “mailbox” during the weeks leading up to the retreat. We then separate these questions into 3 main categories: social/emotional, physical, and spiritual (because I teach in a parochial school).
This “mailbox” time has been so good for our girls as it provides them with real, straight-forward answers to many topics that perhaps they are too afraid to ask out loud. As an educator, these Q+A sessions are priceless, as I get a pulse on what kinds of stressors our girls are dealing with.
But this day is just as valuable to me as a woman and mother.
As a mother of 3 daughters, this retreat gives me insight into the thought process of my own pre-teen/teenage girls and how to better connect with them. It allows me to not only prepare myself to answer the difficult questions that may arise, but also to better ask questions about things they (or their friends) may be dealing with. And since mamas help mamas, I present you with the “mailbox” of all the things on our teenage girls’ minds these days:
Social / Emotional (answered by our school counselor)
- When did you truly start loving yourself?
- How do I love myself?
- What age is right for a first kiss?
- I have a hard time with comparison and jealousy; how can I help that?
- Why is it still hard for me to make friends? I mean, I’ve been in school for 13 years now.
- Do people really save sex for marriage?
- How do you recommend powering through a desire to self-harm?
- How do you tell your boyfriend you want to wait until marriage?
- Do you think high school relationships are good for teens?
- What is one failure that has turned in to your greatest lesson?
- Am I truly being my “authentic” self if I am on medication for my mental health?
- How do you deal with getting your heart broken?
Physical health (answered by our school nurse)
- What is the average height for women? Am I too tall?
- If you’ve lost your virginity to a guy you shouldn’t have been with, how do you go back to the person you once were?
- What is the best kind of birth control and where should I go to get it?
- I self harm and I am not sure why; what can I do?
- What if tampons hurt to use?
- Can marijuana take care of my headaches?
Spiritual Health (Campus Minister)
- Why can’t women become priests? Mary was a huge role model.
- Why can’t priests get married?
- How do I feel comfortable being gay or coming out at school?
- Is it against church teaching to masturbate?
- How far is too far in a romantic relationship by the church’s teachings?
So moms, start a dialogue with your teenage girl!
These are the questions on our daughters’ minds! Let’s start the conversation to let our teenage girls know that we care about their physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Most importantly, let’s help them see themselves through our eyes: with love, compassion, and grace.
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