What you need to know:
- Most children announce the onset of adolescence with a dramatic change in behaviour around their parents.
- Teenage girls seem increasingly aware of how others, especially their peers, see them and are desperately trying to fit in.
- Their peers often become much more important than parents as far as making decisions.
- SKY is a friendly community to help teen girls build the resilience needed to be self-determined young women.
As you read this, I’ll have spent an afternoon shopping for boob-tubes, starter bras and grown bras with my daughters and goddaughters, having various “growing up” conversations with each of them.
Yes, it is mentally exhausting, but necessary as they enter new seasons in their young lives and as I enter a new season as well, as a parent of a pre-teen, a teen and a young adult.
I get a sneaky feeling that as a parent, you read that line and your pulse rate went up. Why?
We are parents. Working parents, which makes us Titans. We have lived through 2am diapers changes and feedings. We have handled late-night fever spikes and runny tummies. We have survived the terrible twos while pursuing night school for an MBA.
We have handled major brand launches and finished board presentations while mitigating the back-to-school blues and now, in a time of Covid-19, we have managed back-to-back online classes and endless office zoom calls, almost flawlessly. Yet, yet, the word "teenager" makes us break out in hives and drop to your knees in prayer. Why?
Could it be that when you think back to your own teenage years and who you were, the very idea of raising a miniature you simply boggles the mind? Let’s start by at least making the distinction between puberty and adolescence.
Most children announce the onset of adolescence (that’s the one) with a dramatic change in behaviour around their parents. They start to separate from mom and dad (stab to the heart) and become more independent.
At the same time, they seem increasingly aware of how others, especially their peers, see them and are desperately trying to fit in. The FOMO* is real. Their peers often become much more important than parents as far as making decisions. That’s where we butt heads.
Coming of age
It’s easy to look at today’s teenagers and say they are oversensitive, overexposed, overhyped and sometimes over-reaching. That criticism, however, is inaccurate because it doesn’t take into account the times in which our teenagers are coming of age. Let’s be honest, if you and I were given the choice between being a teenager now or 30 years ago (I’m in my mid 40s), we’d take 30 years ago any day.
It's not just family and school expectations they have to live up to – we had that and frankly speaking between getting good grades, praying, doing well in music, drama and sports – we didn’t have much else.
Today’s teenager has a list of KPIs, a social expectation that is much more complex than we had to grapple with.
There is a social classification ladder that’s based on what phone you have (if you even have one), what you watch, who you follow on tik tok, whether you know the latest teenage buzz online, whether you can do your own make-up (if mum even allows you to have make-up) what colour braids you have, how you dress, how smart you are, who your friends are, your Instagram follower count… I could go on, but I believe if your daughters are between the ages of 10 and 17, you get my drift.
Teen girls are being pulled in all kinds of new directions and things can get very overwhelming for them.
It gets overwhelming for us parents too. The teen years are a period of intense physical growth (they eat!) but also emotional and intellectual growth, and it can be challenging for us to figure out the best way to guide them through all of it. We want to help our children grow into the distinct individuals with a strong sense of self that will bolster them from the many distractions that try to sway them during this period.
So, what triggered my need to think about our teenage daughters? Well, how much time do you have? From the news and social media, to watching my own girls as they struggle with their braces and their bodies; it is clear they need additional support when it comes to finding themselves.
And then like a sign from the heavens letting me know that I’m truly in that phase of parenting, my soon-to-be 10-year-old (who is going on 16) recently pointed to a billboard on Limuru Road and asked me “Mama, What is SKY Girls?” I sneak a look at the billboard and respond, “I don’t know darling, but I’ll find out and let you know”.
True to self
I couldn’t tell her that an account on Instagram by the same name has followed me a few days prior, and I was yet to follow back.
A look through the posts portrayed a space that was young, vibrant, definitely female and bold. I liked it a lot…the colours, the fashion but also the statement it seemed to repeat over and over again like a creed; “Be True to Yourself.
There’s a part of me that wishes this “sistahood” of teen girls was there when I was growing up. A place that said I didn’t have to be like others…that it was okay to stay true to who I was and what I believed in. A friendly community to help teen girls build the resilience needed to be self-determined young women.
Well, it’s here now and looks like exactly the kind of platform our girls need. As we continue on this rollercoaster of parenting teen girls, it's great the communities like SKY help them articulate who they are, find their place with their peers and most importantly, stay true to themselves.
May we be guided as we navigate these interesting times with them and continue to help them stay true to who they are in a noisy world that often tells them that being who they are isn’t enough.
*FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out
SKY is a movement of teen girls from across Kenya who are all about being true to themselves and what they believe in. It’s a sisterhood helping teen girls realise their potential and is open to girls aged 13 to 17.