I am the proud, and often fraught, mother of 2 teenage girls and one pre-teen in training (not to mention my 2 boys)!
My three daughters are emotional whirlwinds. Their moods can change in the space of 5 minutes. One minute we can be laughing and talking in the kitchen, the next minute there can be tantrums and doors slamming (from all four of us!).
Whilst I often feel like I don’t know what I did to deserve such behaviour, I actually know very well and it can be summed up in 3 words….. Karma’s A B*#ch! Because I remember only too clearly that I behaved EXACTLY the same way in my teenage years. I remember very clearly feeling and acting totally erratically. Not having any sense of control over my emotions, my mouth, my actions, my feelings. I know I made my mother’s life “quite unpleasant” (an understatement!) and I now have a new found respect for her and the way she handled me with patience and calm.
However, all is not lost and my fate of suffering with all this drama is not sealed in stone. And that is because of the conversations I am having with my girls. I am blessed that we have the type of relationship where we are able to have open conversations about what is going on in THEIR BODIES. We have talked about their menstrual cycles, what hormones are at play at different times of the month, understanding how this affects them emotionally and what expectations they should have of themselves at different times of month.
These are things that teenage girls DO NOT usually hear at school, from their parents, friends or from female role models. Teenage girls today as bombarded with so much “fake facts”, body shaming, social pressure, personal angst, photo-shopped images, and picture perfect selfies on Instagram, that there is no space or value placed on being real! This only heightens the natural hormonal and emotional roller-coaster ride going on in their bodies.
So what are the most important things you should be talking about with your daughters?
1. Fluctuating hormones is a normal, healthy, natural part of being a female.
It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are at – pre-menstrual cycle, menstrual cycle, pregnancy or trying to get pregnant, peri-menopause, menopause or post menopause – EVERY stage brings its own unique hormonal cycle and related emotional state. Once you understand your stage, what hormones are dominant, how these hormones affect you and your behaviour, you can move forward with more understanding, awareness and clarity.
This understanding totally changes the way you relate to yourself and the people around you.
2. Once you understand how your hormones work and how they affect you, you are able to connect to your body every day anew.
Rather than having unrealistic expectations of yourself, comparing yourself to where you were yesterday, or comparing yourself to your friends, you understand that every day presents a NEW YOU with new opportunities.
This depth of understanding is not easy for teenage girls who gauge themselves based on comparisons with their friends. To be honest, this level of connection is not easy for most women! However, if you start having this conversation with your young daughters, you open the door for them to start exploring other modes of thinking.
3. After your daughter has the understanding and connection to her body, next comes the self-awareness. All mums want to instill in their daughters confidence about who and what she is. We can do this by explaining how her ever changing moods and emotions, changing body over the month, changing feelings towards herself and others, is a totally normal part of being a woman. We don’t want our daughters to have feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt or stress about what their bodies go through on a regular changing basis.
When I teach yoga to women – and ESPECIALLY to teenagers – I encourage them to close their eyes as much as possible during practice. This allows them to connect to their own body, to assess how the movement feels for them, to focus on what they are each able to do without any comparisons to anyone else in the class. This builds deep self-awareness to what and where your own body is every day, and blocks out the social pressure that is so strong at this age.
Through my Yoga classes with teenage girls, I work on building their understanding, connection and self-awareness to their changing bodies and what that means for them practically. With this knowledge we think together how they can implement these lessons regularly in their lives. Through yoga poses they learn what changing hormones means for their bodies and their emotions.
All this won’t STOP the mood swings, it won’t stop the door slamming, it won’t stop the tantrums. I am not a miracle worker! However, through regular yoga practice, breathing techniques, and developing a strong body-mind connection, we are able to create deep understanding and acceptance. Teenagers slowly feel more balanced and feel that they are able to manage the changes better.
It’s something I wish I had known when I was younger! Now I am driven to make sure that as many Mums and daughters as possible are able to talk as openly as possible about these issues together.