Earlier, I mentioned the idea of an Authentic Self and its importance for sustained resilience throughout a young women’s development and into adulthood. This part of her is what decreases her drive to search for outside validation and what helps her to find comfort and strength when she experiences rejection from others. With this tool, she can navigate her world, relationships, obstacles, and triumphs with much more confidence and stability.
“This sounds great!” you might be thinking. “I want my kid to have that.” So, how do I give that to her? Well, the earlier you start, the better, of course, but you can start doing these things that I will recommend at any age.
Step 1. Recapture the first moments you fell in love with her. Remember the earliest times when you first became aware of how overwhelmed by your love for her and your curiosity about her, your wish to keep her safe. This is a helpful step because it puts you back in touch with the part of her that is the vulnerable person she still is (in case things have gotten a bit tense between the two of you and it’s hard to access that) and it reminds you of the reservoir of love you hold for her. This step reminds you from which part of your intentions for her are coming. It can be easy to forget this when you find yourself in a power struggle with her, stuck in fear, and out of sync with the important young woman in your life.
When she feels your in-loveness with her, she will be more in touch with her self-worth (self-respect and confidence), which is crucial for healthy development.
Step 2. Trust yourself and your instincts. Sometimes this is asking a lot. If you have been going through a lot with your young woman, and you feel like your family has been through the wringer, it can feel like you have lost touch with yourself. You can begin to mistake your anxiety for your instincts. They’re still there, and it will take some practice regaining your ability to hear our voice again. If you feel like you need some guidance here, call or email me, and I can provide further assistance.
When you trust yourself, you are less afraid, overall, and you can make more reasonable decisions. When you are less afraid, she feels safer with you, and she is less afraid of her world. She begins to trust herself. When she trusts herself, she does not need as much outside validation and does not feel as driven to seek approval at any cost.
Step 3. Be curious. The young woman is going through a lot right now. So are you. Be curious about her patterns and decisions, but don’t draw any quick conclusions from minimal information. Don’t be afraid to ask her questions about what you see or what concerns you. Be curious about your thoughts, reactions, and responses to her. There is power in curiosity, but we tend to lose that power once we become reactive. As she experiences your curiosity, she will strengthen her own and gain comfort in sitting with the unknown while she figures things out for herself, rather than reacting impulsively.
Step 4. Set reasonable and compassionate limits. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and start rattling off shortcomings and consequences to the young woman in your life. This results in feelings of resentment, shame, and a wish for some rewind button. If you’re not used to slowing yourself down, it can be hard to get it going at first, but all you need to do is start with being aware. You’ll get it. Ok, so slow yourself down a little, then take control of the situation. Remember that you’re the parent, and you set the pace. If there needs to be a consequence of an action you don’t have to come up with one on the spot. You can give yourself time to think of something that makes sense for the situation and come back to it. Many of the parents I see don’t realize that they can give themselves this option and when they try it, they feel freedom.
If it’s a conversation that you want to end, it’s ok to end it. You don’t have to keep going around in circles. If you don’t think it’s a productive conversation anymore, it’s ok to take a break. You can be both loving and respectful while still holding firm boundaries. This teaches her that she doesn’t have to let others walk all over her to have a relationship. It teaches her to make and respect her boundaries while respecting others’ boundaries.
Step 5. Make room for both success and failure. She can’t always succeed, and she won’t always fail. She’ll need to learn how to manage both. Many parents are afraid to celebrate their child’s successes out of fear that they will become over-identified with them, entitled, or unable to deal with failure. This is understandable, but minimizing success is not a way to teach failure-management. The idea is to be curious about both. Why was she successful here? How does it feel when she is successful? It’s ok to praise her experienced success. The same goes for her failure. What made for the failure? How does it feel to have failed? It’s also ok to offer condolence and encouragement. She will take these lessons and reference them. She will remember that both success and failure happen and that neither defines her.
Step 6. Ask for help. If you would like more clarification regarding these steps, do not hesitate to ask me for help. Asking your support system for help takes the burden off of you and provides more balance. It shows the young woman that, instead of suffering alone, she can increase her capability by asking for help when she needs it. It puts her in touch with her resourcefulness.