The nurse stared at me in disbelief as I asked, “Is it a boy or a girl?”

“You mean you don’t know?” She swiftly passed my baby into my arms.

“It’s a girl!” I exclaimed softly in amazement and disbelief—both to myself and to my husband.

As I gazed into my tiny newborn’s sleeping face, I thanked God for her. Meanwhile, my husband and I started wondering if we would need to fend off boys and how to cope with teenage angst.

The joy of having a baby girl was mixed with underlying anxiety. After all, I have three sisters and I lead a ministry devoted to discipling teenage girls. I could almost anticipate the challenges awaiting me.

Almost a year later, my ministry released the findings of a survey titled, “5 Things I Wish My Parents Knew”. For this study, we surveyed 100 teenage girls aged 13 to 19 years old, and spent time talking with 30 of them to uncover deeper themes. The findings proved extremely helpful to me as a young mum and I believe, for many others who are walking into unchartered territory with their teenage daughters.

Here are the top 5 cries from teenage girls that we’ve discovered from our study:

1. I Wish My Parents Knew the Amount of Stress I Face in School

A Straits Times article headline in 2019 read: “More teens in Singapore seeking help at IMH for school stress”. Students worry over grades, friendships, and CCAs. They struggle to manage them all. It is sad to hear that some students are so overwhelmed by school stress that they sought escape through suicide.

As parents, while we may not be able to change the school system, we can provide a nurturing home environment to help them cope well. Unfortunately, these are some comments that the teen girls wish their parents never said.

“You can do better; you need tuition!”
“If your sister can do well, why can’t you?”

To which one respondent replied, “My sister’s best is not my best!” Another pleaded, “Don’t just ask me about my grades; ask me how I am!”

Think of how we appear if we endlessly ask our children about their “KPIs” and forget to ask them about their thoughts or feelings.

I remember a talk by TOUCH Cyber Wellness when the speaker asked, “When you come home from work, do your children ask you: ‘How was work today, Dad? Did you meet your KPIs?’”

If that sounds ludicrous to you, think of how we appear if we endlessly ask our children about their “KPIs” and forget to ask them about their thoughts or feelings. After all, they are more than their grades!

2. I Want Better Communication with My Parents

In this digital age, you may wonder, How can I communicate with my teenager? Should I stick to the world of family Whatsapp chats? While there is a place for text messages, and yes, even old-school letters, it is encouraging to know that 65 percent of our respondents indicated that they prefer intentional face-to-face conversations. Many of them said, “Please be intentional in finding out how I am feeling or doing!”

65 percent of our respondents indicated that they prefer intentional face-to-face conversations.

When your little girl turns into a teenager, it may seem hard to understand how to communicate with her as she changes. Here are some tips that the teen girls have:

“Please be sensitive and tactful with your tone and use of words.”
“Don’t talk about grades all the time!”
“Don’t assume things or jump to conclusions quickly.”
“Communicate at the right time.”

3. I Want My Parents to Express Their Love

Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if I had an accident and passed away when my children are still young. If they had no memories of me, what would I want them to know about me?

I would want them to know this one thing: I loved them immensely.

If they know their parents love them for who they are, they’ll have a strong sense of assurance.

I believe that you feel the same way too. Your love for your daughter is as natural as breathing. However, while that fact is plain as day to you, it may not be just as clear to your daughter. While she may know in her head that you truly love her, she needs you to express it in a way she understands.

When we asked the girls how they would like you to express your love, these are the most common responses:

“Spend quality time with me and our family!”  (Sorry—no phones at the dinner table!)

“Speak kindly to me.”

“I would like more physical touch, like hugging.” (Aren’t you glad they are asking for hugs from you, and not their boyfriends?)

“Initiate conversations with me.”

“Pray for me.”

Most young women struggle with intense insecurity. They may not like their face, weight, personality or grades, but if they know their parents love them for who they are, they’ll have a strong sense of assurance.

4. I Want to Hear My Parents’ Dating Experiences

You probably remember as well as I do the confusion and questions that surround the topic of dating. Many girls said this is an awkward topic to talk about with their parents because they were afraid their parents would jump to the wrong conclusions (“Do you have a boyfriend?”) or that they would give unsolicited advice.

However, a good number of girls wanted to hear their parents’ dating stories and personal experiences. Young people crave authenticity and stories impact them in a deep way. This is one area over which you definitely have an edge over Mr. Google. Google won’t tell them your stories or experiences, and neither will pastors or books.

Young people crave authenticity and stories impact them in a deep way.

While your teenage girls may resent advice, they would be more open to listening to you when you are vulnerable and share your mistakes and life lessons.

Besides, these are some real questions that your daughters actually want your advice on:

When is a right time to date?
What are the physical boundaries in dating?
What should I do if a guy likes me and confesses to me?

Open up this topic casually over dinner one day, and see where this goes! As you share your dating experiences, they may just start sharing their questions and concerns too.

5. I Want My Parents to Be More Involved in My Spiritual Life

“I want to have Bible study and sing worship songs as a family.”
“I want my dad to be the spiritual head of the family.”
“I want to pray for each other together.”

Isn’t it wonderful that the teen girls are longing for more family devotions and for their dads to rise up as spiritual heads in the family? Even if they never say it, many girls long for more moments when the family bows their head together in prayer. While we may give our children the best education, holidays, food and clothes, the best gift we can truly give them is the gift of a spiritual legacy.

Even if they never say it, many girls long for more moments when the family bows their head together in prayer.

The writer of Proverbs encourages parents: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV). As parents, we have the responsibility to train up our children to follow God’s ways. Will you answer their call for you to be more involved in their spiritual lives?

I Wish You Knew . . .

We also did an informal survey with mothers to ask them what they wish their teen daughters knew.

It was clear to me that the hearts of parents and daughters are for one another but they often do not know how to communicate what is in their hearts.

The interesting thing was, the mums said they wish their daughters knew how much they loved them and that they wish their daughters knew they had made mistakes in their dating lives. They also said they wish they could communicate better with their daughters.

It was clear to me that the hearts of parents and daughters are for one another but they often do not know how to communicate what is in their hearts.

Dos and Don’ts

The Apostle Paul gives fathers (and by extension, mothers) simple dos and don’ts that help us respond appropriately to this survey.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

1. DON’T exasperate your kids

Parents, don’t provoke your kids to anger through comparison, over-emphasising academic performance, being absent, failing to express your love, or by shirking your roles as spiritual leaders.

 2. DO train them up

Do train them up in the instructions of God by having family prayer times, sharing your dating experiences (and lessons), and expressing your love (and God’s love) to them!

If we can follow these simple dos and don’ts, I believe our daughters will bloom with confidence and grow to love God more. Then watch out! Because they will truly start changing the world for Him.

 

Quek Shiwei is the Director of Kallos, a ministry that empowers young women to be advocates of inner beauty and confidence and to boldly live out their God-planned design. She is a graduate of Singapore Bible College and worships at RiverLife Church. As the oldest of four sisters and a proud mum of two young children, she is passionate about teaching and inspiring young women to embrace their identity in Christ and live set apart lives of grace unto the Lord.
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