My daughter just turned 13 last week. Just two years ago, my son turned 13 and I remember writing an article titled 13 Things Every 13-Year-Old Boy Should Know. I re-read that article on my daughter’s birthday and I realized just how different boys and girls really are. So much of that “boys should know” list, I wouldn’t even consider as my daughters top 13! Girls are so much more relational and as a mother, safety is huge for our daughters! (If you are thinking I don’t care about my sons safety, you are wrong.) But when I think of things he should know at 13, I think of self-reliance. When I think of my daughter, I think of protection – which is ultimately self-reliance of a different nature.
In light of that, I sincerely began considering things I am glad my daughter knows, as well as things I probably need to revisit. Without being “girly” and using too many words to get to the point, here goes: 13 things every 13-year-old girl really should know.
On to the ladies…
1. Know What You Want
I think it is a great idea for a young girl, about 13, to make a list of what she is looking for in a long-term boyfriend, or husband. Though it may be years before this person enters the picture, it will help her define for herself what constitutes a good match (defined by her.) This list may be something she clings to for years or reverts to when she is in the throes of defining Mr. Right (or Mr. Wrong.)
2. How to be a Good Friend
Girls can be very feisty. It probably wouldn’t hurt to go over what it means to be a good friend. Girls cling to their friendships and are often defined (or really hurt) by their friends. If you have a teen girl, you have probably wondered if other mothers are even conveying the qualities of a good friend anymore. I know I have!
As a mother, demonstrating these qualities is the best way to impart them, to your own friends, sisters, mother…and yes, your daughter. Good friends forgive, they are patient, they listen and share, they are loyal and they also respectfully stand up for themselves when they disagree. Friends do not talk about each other, lie to one another or put their friend’s feelings or safety in last place. Knowing the qualities of a good friend will also help your daughter identify “friends” that may need to be cut loose to avoid heartache.
3. When to Shut Up
Girls are famous for their many words, or “drama.” Kids should always be encouraged to choose their words carefully, but even more so in these expressive years when they are still learning who they are. A note, a journal, a text or email; these things can circulate for much longer than the feeling itself – and no one wants to be haunted by an outburst.
Also, gossip can ruin a girl’s esteem. You don’t want your child ruined by rumors, truth or lie. So encourage your girls to be very sparing with whom they confide in or share information they do not know for fact, or they themselves may become an object of discussion.
This particular lesson – being quiet – also applies to authority figures. Simply because your girl may look 19, doesn’t mean she is almost an adult…and respecting those in authority is something we are never too young or old to do. When with authority, it is best to stay polite or stay quiet.
4. Save Yourself
Girls at the age of 13 have likely been introduced to sexual topics through television, movies and friends. Even most schools, have had talks to this effect by the time a girl is 13. However, as parents, we cannot assume that they know or understand everything they are hearing. Let the truth come from you in a straight talk conversation about sex, how a baby is made, disease transmission and the power of the word “no” really meaning “no!”
Most important, open yourself up as a refuge. Let your teenage daughter know that no matter how bad or embarrassed she might feel one day, you are always there for her to get her the help she needs – and will always love her. This conversation is a great time to remind your daughter how special they are and that most people never regret waiting for Mr. Right, but often regret other choices.
5. Internet Safety – A Picture is forever
These days, the internet is no joke. Words can fly at the speed of light and so can a picture. Tell your girls never to post anything, or send anything electronically that she wouldn’t want you or the police to see or read. This includes cell phone texts and pictures. Above all, review the most basic safety rules often. Things like never saying where you are going on Facebook, or that your parents will be gone. Girls should know to never give an address or phone number…even a last name. You may think they know these things and they might, but one slip up could change their life forever.
6. Trust Your Sixth Sense
Most all women agree in that mysterious feeling called a sixth sense. I am a firm believer in “just knowing” when something isn’t right. Assure your girls often to trust their feelings. If they get the feeling something isn’t right, it usually isn’t. Advise girls to act on their intuition. Let them know that you trust them and they need to trust themselves. If they feel like their safety is in danger, in a home they are visiting, with a boy, with a crowd they don’t normally run with…or anything out of the ordinary, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Do not delay action. This leads to the next thing…
7. How to Get Out!
A good “escape plan” is important to discuss with your daughter before they actually need it. Talk about scenarios that could come up and review ways to get out of sticky situations, such as a bad date, a group of friends that changes plans (that your daughter may not want to be a part of), even a bad conversations that makes them uncomfortable.
For teenage girls, preserving their image may come before a good decision. Girls need to know they can accomplish both with tact or “cool.” Sometimes, it just takes a little practice and some good ammunition. So, give them tactics that will save them from getting caught up in a place they feel a little trapped.
Also, I have heard it suggested that kids need a “code word” in the event they call and need you to rescue them. Ours is “toothache.” So, when my daughter calls with the complaint that, “her tooth is killing her,” I know that this means she doesn’t feel comfortable discussing whatever is really happening around her, she just needs me to make up an excuse to come get her – or demand she come home…now (for her sake!) 13 is a vulnerable age and girls can get in vulnerable positions. So, make sure you have a good escape for your daughter in advance.
8. Stovetop Basics
Let’s get practical. A 13-your-old girl really should know how to use the stove. Whether it is to cook for herself, younger siblings, or someone she is babysitting, the following rules should sincerely help avoid catastrophe (burning or fire)
Number 1: Grease and water don’t mix!
Number 2: Boiling water is 212 degrees HOT. So, whatever you are cooking, if it is boiling (bubbling)…it is 100+ degrees hotter than your body temperature and WILL burn your skin.
Number 3: If the stovetop is on the “1” setting it will cook slowly. If it is on HI or “10” it will burn the outside and not cook the inside.
Number 4: Pam, Butter or Oil will keep burning anything and substances sticking to the pan.
9. Be Prepared: Sewing, Safety Pins, Sanitation
Overnights, uniforms, dances and trips are on the rise at 13 and a girl really needs to know how to “work-it-out” when she is on her own. Sewing a button on, or safety pinning the bra strap may seem super-simple to an adult, but these are the little things a girl needs to know how to do and feel confident moving-on. This includes packing a smart handbag.
In that handbag, there should always be a form of protection against the untimely event of her period. Women may assume girls are forward thinking enough to remember things, but in my experience, teens need to be reminded. The handbag needs to be treated like a safety-bag; which includes tampon, safety pin, lipstick/Chapstick, gum (for breath emergencies), a little cash, ponytail holder, and a phone (or emergency phone numbers.) The point is: help your daughter to be prepared.
10. Boys Think Differently
Teen girls need to be reminded often that boys usually do not think the same way they do. Girls can really over-think things and beat themselves up stewing. Offer your girls peace by assuring them that men really do think differently than girls and it is highly likely that their perception of something is not the same as a boy. Give them a personal story from your past where this has proven to be true. Make it believable! The more girls believe that they are over-thinking it, the more apt they are to “let it go” and be free of whatever it is that is bugging them. Also, this is a great time to point out that they are a treasure to be won and be on their guard for boys who may want to be with them for the wrong reasons.
11. Purpose, Purpose, Purpose
It is very easy, at 13, to lose focus on things that matter long-term. Grades may slip at the mercy of cell phone use. Athletic focus may falter because of a romantic distraction. Worse, there could be no focus at all which can lead your child wide open in the coming years with their time and attention. By 13, it is critical that we identify what our child is interested in and help them direct their energy in a positive way that will help them reach their goals.
Goal oriented activities give girls a sense of identity and a place they feel strong. Whether that is church, photography class, dancing, working, or softball we should get behind it and reward their effort to stay on course with esteem building plights.
12. The Best You
Though I am not a believer in putting the spotlight on “looks,” there is a lot to be said for self pride. For a girl, a lot of that comes from feeling good about they way they look. Basic care is one thing, but at 13, you can take it to a whole new level with your daughter. Everything from make-up to walking together can make a difference!
Make-up basics can be taught for free at any department store cosmetic counter. You may think you know plenty about make-up, but hearing the “right” way to apply make-up from an outside party may be more convincing for your daughter. Also, a manicure, pedicure or great new hair cut or color can make anyone feel a notch better. Spending time doing these things together is also a huge bonus. These activities (along with free fitness activities like walking together) can be bonding and make your daughter feel special, cared for and outwardly more beautiful at a critical time where “looking” acceptable is in focus by peers.
Self-care activities also teach your daughter that there is a time to pamper yourself, take care of yourself and it may also give her a knowledge base for future conversations with other girls…and she’ll know what she’s talking about!
13. They are Beautiful…and Why!
Girls in America get a really mixed message of what they should be. They should be “Hollywood”, independent, sexy, socially conscious, loving, kind, motherly, fit, have beautiful hair, be fashion forward…the list goes on and on. Yet, nailing all of those things is nearly impossible for anyone, let alone a little girl trying to form her own self-image via comparison. More than all of these things, it is critical that your daughter feels beautiful for the right reason.
She is not beautiful for what she wears, or how her hair looks, or who likes her, or how much she has, or what car she drives any other artificial, fading reason made by human hands. Ultimately, she is beautiful by what she gives. As parents, we should promote confidence by affirming what our daughters have to offer. They may never know what they have is worth anything unless they know they are perfectly acceptable just the way they are. By 13, your daughter needs to know love…from you.
And the greatest of these…is love.