My college roommate and I made a pact. We agreed that, when and if we ever got married and had kids, we would swap them for the ages we loved and hated. She loved middle schoolers and hated high schoolers. I loved high schoolers and hated middle schoolers. So, she would raise all of our kids — hers and mine — through the middle school years, and I would raise all of our kids — hers and mine — through the high school years. Brilliant, right? It was until she moved to Nashville and left me bereft and abandoned on the East Coast.
Kid-swaps don’t work well over 900 miles.
Fortunately, I love my kids more than I imagined possible, even as we careen into those icky, awkward tween years of adolescence. Even if Karen still lived in Jersey, I wouldn’t trade these kids for the world.
Ahem. But these are tricky days.
Our daughter is now 11.
I’d like to say she’s “going on 17,” but there are days she prefers to be a toddler and others when she oozes maturity like a wise and weathered matriarch. ScaryMommy wrote a blog post on “The Many Personalities of a Tween Girl.” That post was crazy-accurate, and it is the life I currently live.
My husband recently remarked that this beautiful child has strapped us in a roller coaster without a track. Yup. Some days are gloriously fun and funny and smart and exciting. Other days are terrifying.
I’m not the first or last mom to traverse this transitional obstacle course. I’m pleased to say I’m not doing it unarmed. There are a number of fantastic resources to help! And if they can help us, they may be able to help you, too.
A Toolbox for Parents of Tween Girls
I humbly offer this toolbox of things that have worked well for us. They are mostly books because — well, have we met? Books are ALWAYS my go-to resource!! These books are not only informative, but inspirational, and interactive. They spawn conversation and encourage activities. Some are for her; some are for her parents. Some focus on biological and social trials while others tackle emotional or spiritual needs.
NOTE: This is not a toolbox for “the talk.” Some of these resources discuss sex and sexuality, but that’s hardly the main focus. The main focus is about developing relationships with our daughters that extends well beyond a “talk.” It’s about imparting important lessons of wisdom and trust and fortifying a relationship that can withstand the ups and downs of puberty and life beyond.
Where to start…
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. (You’re welcome for the earwig.) The first tools in our box offer a foundation for growing.
I read this book when our daughter was 8. That’s a really time to read it. This book is less about surviving puberty and more about avoiding over-sexualization of our kids.
Most parents think “tween” starts when their girls hit 10. Nope. The dawn of biological changes depends on genetics, but our culture pushes confusing “in-between” messages on our kids long before that. Sexy dolls are all the rage. And make-up and heels and immodesty. Stores sell padded bras for 7-year-olds and tees and sweats with suggestive messages emblazoned across their chests and bums. Movies and sitcoms targeted to tweens seem obsessed with appearances and romantic drama.
The problem is that some of these messages are so subtle, we don’t even realize they’ve indoctrinated our communities. This book helps parents get ahead of the game. It shines a light on ways we can fight back against the trend for kids to grow up too fast.
This one is an interactive guide that pairs well with the book described above. It’s kind of a toolbox all on its own. Each chapter offers an activity and discussion prompts to engage your daughter in important topics. For example, you go shopping and use the experience to talk about virtue and modesty or you get manicures and talk about what defines true and inner beauty. You could have a tea party and talk about God-esteem and how He created us on purpose for His purposes.
There are lots fun ideas in this book, each accompanied with instructions, interactive activities, Scriptural supports, and devotional materials.
A friend gave me this advice a year ago and it has been FABULOUS.
- Get a blank journal.
- Write messages back and forth.
- Keep it private, just you and your girl.
There are mountains of things you want to say to your girl and, believe it or not, there are mountains of things she wants to say to you, too. But it’s not always easy to say those things out loud or when sitting face to face. Sometimes it’s easier to just write it.
If there’s something important for us to say, we’ll write it in our journal and then tuck it under the other’s pillow. She’ll find it there and write back. Suddenly those scary and emotionally-charged discussions become peaceful conversations. They become honest moments of sharing a journey together.
Now, it doesn’t have to be this journal; this is just the one we use. It has a closure and it’s easy to identify. And we both like blue, so it works.
This is a workbook-style devotional that leads girls through the tough discussions of puberty. It talks about bodies and biological changes, but also healthy body image, hygiene, habits, nutrition, and exercise. And it weaves God’s Word into all of this!
It can be done by your Miss Thing in isolation, but the authors really intended it to be done in a group, preferably as a mother-daughter small group Bible study. In fact, they have a book just for the moms to read in conjunction with the study. It’s called Raising Body-Confident Daughters.
Raising Body-Confident Daughters, I will admit, is a tough one. It encourages parents (specifically mothers) to tackle social issues and pressures head-on. The first two chapters jump right into personal insecurities, body image, eating disorders, sexual orientation, and gender confusion. The authors sugar-coat nothing here, folks. They want us to be wise as serpents and gentle as lambs, while fighting for our daughters like the mama bears we know we are.
Together these two books equip in a number of ways:
- Educate moms and daughters
- Pave the way for conversation
- Foster peer and parental relationships
- Encourage and nurture support systems that will be needed in the years to come
Where to go next…
The tween stage won’t last forever. (YAY!) After it comes the teen stage. (YIKES!) Fortunately, we have tools for that, too. These books piggyback on the previous ones, but target slightly older audiences. Once the foundation has been laid, it never hurts to fortify it.
Vicki Courtney is an absolute dear! I saw her speak at a conference a couple years ago and just loved her. She’s funny and honest and has a lot of godly wisdom to share.
This book is written just for parents (specifically moms, but I think dads could find it useful, too). It’s great. Not only does it equip parents with the tools and courage to tackle tough topics with their daughters, it also offers a pep-rally level of empowerment. You can do this! As the title suggests, there are five main sections (or “conversations”) in the book.
- You are more than the sum of your parts.
- Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up.
- Sex is great and worth the wait.
- It’s okay to dream about marriage and motherhood!
- Girls gone wild are a dime a dozen — Dare to be virtuous.
Okay, so it’s a little dated and the title feels a little too traditional, but this book has some great stuff in it. The author, Ginger Garrett, has researched the life of Esther from the Hebrew Bible for years. She’s written a number of books (even novels) about this Persian Queen and the lessons God has for us in her story.
Inside the cover readers find a range of topics for young women. Beauty and body image, of course, are in there, but so are topics such as courage, purpose, faith, money, community, wisdom, and emotions.
This book, like a few of those listed above, is meant to be a mother-daughter experience. Interactive discussion prompts and activity suggestions span the one-year schedule.
Get the toolbox for yourself.
This website is not a shop and I’m not big on selling things, but … these are great resources! And I want to make it easy for you to get them. Click on any of the images or titles above to see that item in detail OR click the link below to see the entire toolbox in one easy to purchase list.
Just so you know, these are affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission for purchases made through them. I have not received any compensation from the authors or publishers in return for these recommendations. The commissions from Amazon, however, do help me continue the ministry provided through this website. Thank you for your support!
TALK TO ME.
What tips or resources can you share for raising tweens and teens?