It’s simply a fact: studies and common sense show us that continuing to connect with kids in all stages of their lives leads to: healthy relationships, better boundaries, greater self-confidence and a more connected family.
However, as a society this transition/teen phase of life is when we see so much disconnection.
Throughout the early years of pregnancy and toddler hood many of us have access to a new community: pregnancy classes, mom groups of all different shapes and sizes, music classes, mops etc. We share our exhaustion, our embarrassing stories about how Tommy bit Jimmy, or what to do about teething, sleeping, temper tantrums and discipline. However, as the kids get older, enter school and all of the other activities and adult commitments, we begin to split. Many of us become ships passing at pick up and drop off with a nice hello and I gotta go.
Here we are entering into a BIG transition phase of life the tween/teen and we are without community.
There is no one meeting to talk about the teen temper tantrums or “bad” choices. Many of us even hide those things out of a fear that our tween’s choices are a reflection of bad parenting. We are lost at sea, as we deal with bigger issues that many of us didn’t receive guidance on even when we were teen ourselves. How to talk about: sex, puberty, what boundaries to lift and what to stick with, how to talk about social media, what about pornography? All of this on top of jobs, driving around to this game and that activity, your own social life and relationship to a loved one, not to mention any downtime and self care.
So what do we do?
We circle up! We gather a circle of people who are intentionally coming together to surround the younger ones as they grow. A circle for support, questions, connection and to show you your way back when it seems so very hard.
Studies have shown is that it is thru connection and parental involvement, parent’s “leaning in” that teens are able to develop healthy boundaries, less eating disorders, good communication and less risky behaviors. Due to the natural focus shift from family to peers that happens during individuation, adults can circle up around them and maintain the connection while providing influence through others. This offers a safe and fun place to be while talking about important topics that they are dealing with.
I do want to say YES it takes commitment and YES it is another “to do” and one that is easy to want to put to the bottom of the list, just as we do with self-care. However, caring for these relationships in this intentional way in the end helps EVERY AREA of our and theirs.
In the end the time that we put in and intention that we put in makes everything EASIER!
The how to:
Put the call out: It’s pretty obvious that you need to start by finding the community that you wish to surround yourself with. Will it be your daughter’s best friends from school? A random group that you find by putting it out on meetup.com or some other connecting service? Or even a combination of the two. What age group?
Suggestion: You can’t start a group to young!!! In fact it is easier to start a group BEFORE middle school, as the girls are less resistant and haven’t entered into the bigger transition phases. Of course you can and should start a group for older girls if that is the phase you are at! The big suggestion is to keep the age groups tight, meaning if you are doing a younger group than do a younger group only. 8-13 is to wide of an age gap, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13 are good ranges.
Meet as moms FIRST and for a few months: In order to make this a circle that will be long lasting, it is good to come together as moms first and for a few months. You will need to set “ground rules” including: the tone, the where, the who, the flow for the group. You will want to talk about how you are going to handle group group dynamics and what each individual mom’s strengths are. You will want to decide who will lead or if you will spilt it up. Who is the main point person to gather everyone up? Setting up a group with a solid foundation will help with the longevity.
Suggestion: Map out an entire year “plan” dates/times/locations, as well as topics that maybe covered inter mixed with fun meetings filled with art work or other fun activities for everyone. It is nice to have a theme for the year based on the girls development and build upon that theme in each gathering.
Bring in the girls: Once you feel that you have met enough to set up the foundation of your group as moms, it’s time to invite the girls. You will want to create some sort of ceremony or intention setting activity with the girls as they enter this new space. They need to “get” what this is all about. Share with them that the time together will be fun and that there maybe time for seriousness as well; that it is a safe place to be together. For the first few meetings you will want to keep it light and fun. Of course for girls that don’t know each other you will want to do fun, bonding activities.
Moving Forward: As you continue along the journey together, I suggest regular mom’s only meetings. To support each other as you are going through this phase in your child’s life. There maybe times where a mom/daughter relationship is struggling and gathering together without the girls to feel heard and supported will help. It requires a lot of vulnerability and showing up and through this is how we are able to keep on being opening and leaning into the relationships that matter to us.
I am always available to help out with questions or ideas for mother/daughter groups. If you would like to connect further simply reach out!