A relationship expert with over 25 years experience counselling couples, individuals and families.

Jill Goldson: Tackling the tricky balance of raising teen girls

I have two teenage daughters. They are both starting to care about how they look, read glossy magazines, want to go to parties and take an interest in boys. I want to give them space to flourish, but I also don’t want them to make mistakes or get up to mischief. It’s such a fine line, how do I know how much room to give them to grow up?
Ja'mie King and her teenage girl friends would be a hard bunch to handle.
Ja'mie King and her teenage girl friends would be a hard bunch to handle.

You and your teenaged girls are right in the middle of one of life's big transitions. They are starting to find their own identity and move towards it. And as a parent, you of course want that for them. Yet the mounting responsibility you feel for their safety seems to contradict the reality that you have less control.

Got a broken heart, relationship niggle, infuriating family member, or anything in between? Email your questions here and check back next Friday to hear Jill's wisdom.

It sounds like at the moment you haven't reached the really difficult times that occur for many parents with teens. Reading glossy magazines, going to parties, being interested in boys is such a normal stage -but also a ripe opportunity for you to help them to create some balance. And this is the perfect opportunity to prepare them for the more challenging times ahead when you won't be at their side.

Finding the middle way is the mantra for parenting our daughters.

Of course they will read magazines and want to buy make up. Choose your times and chat with them about their day, their friends, listen to their feelings. Remember that none of us feel very secure when we don't quite know how to be. Advertising, social media, pressure at school - all these things impact self -esteem, body image and worries about being popular.

This is your perfect opportunity to have conversations about sexism, about alternative ways of viewing the world, about movies, blogs and books, which differ from the diet of glossies and celebrity gossip our teens are fed. This doesn't mean challenging all the time. But it does mean being conscious of the world your children live in. For example, of course your daughters will want to feel attractive - try making comments like "you look lovely, your eyes really sparkled whilst you were singing" or "You moved so gracefully at the gym competition". Making an effort to link their questions about appearance to an action is a subtle way to alter the endless diet of teen celebrities body image obsession.

Talk to them about what they secretly think about Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus. What do they think about Lorde and her lyrics?

Link conversations about study with their thoughts about their dream job. If they want to be a makeup artist, as teenage girls often do, then try stretching the conversation a bit wider into examples of creative women and how they got there.

Be very ready to do deals - some time at the mall in return for some study and chores. Negotiate on boundaries and curfews and your right for safety checks about where they are, who they are with, cell phones left on. Put the agreed contract on the fridge.

When they were toddlers you let them learn to walk. Remember how you had to let them move away from you with all their curiosity at this brave new world they were entering? But you kept an eye on the duck pond they were toddling towards. And they grew more confident because they knew that you were somewhere near them.

It doesn't really change.

Boys, parties, selfies with faces caked in makeup and how many "likes" they got on Facebook are variations on the standard themes. Don't worry too much about their current focus. But do use it for discussions linked to wider issues.

And remember, although they may not always demonstrate it, you are their most important role model and your ongoing love and guidance is what they really crave. So find the balance between unnecessary criticism and necessary guidance.

And be patient with yourself, having teenaged daughters is a first for you as well.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

A relationship expert with over 25 years experience counselling couples, individuals and families.

Jill's fascination for what makes us tick stems from sheer bloody-minded curiosity and a genuine desire to see people live healthy, happy lives. Born in Manchester, the award-winning family and relationship counsellor moved to Auckland when she was nine. Being the middle child of an immigrant family she was neither the oldest nor youngest child, neither a Pom nor a Kiwi. This kicked off a lifelong fascination with how people can make sense of transitions and how uncertainty can be turned into a greater understanding of ourselves and of those who push our buttons. Her career has spanned more than 25 years, and seen her working for the Family Court; in hospitals; universities; aboriginal training programmes, inner London social work practices, and now–her own private practice in Auckland. Whether she's counselling everyday Kiwis, highly paid power couples or the children of Bengali immigrant families, Jill has an inherent ability to tease out what's really going on in people's lives, and strategise to improve the situation, whatever that may be. • Jill Goldson is a Family Dispute Resolution mediator and counsellor, and Director of The Family Matters Centre in Auckland.

Read more by Jill Goldson

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 30 May 2017 00:53:40 Processing Time: 499ms