My daughter turned 9 last month. Boo is growing up. She is in that middle ground between child and teen, ‘tween’. It’s a tricky age, I think. She swings from being a little girl and wanting to run around playing with her brother, to stomping up the stairs and giving me withering glances. I don’t know which child I’ll get from one hour to the next! It’s hard for her, I suspect that she wants to turn back time sometimes and just enjoy playing with her toys again. But that can’t happen, time marches on and new adventures and experiences await her. I adore seeing both of my children grow and develop, though with each age comes new challenges as a parent. We have to learn how to do things all over again. And it is with this in mind that I want to share things to tell your 9 year old daughter now…
Tell her that it’s OK to be sad to be growing up.
My daughter is aware that her outlook is changing. And when this wave of awareness hits her, it sometimes makes her sad. She yearns to be that carefree little girl again, the one with oodles of confidence and innocent curiosity about the world. She is starting to see things differently and it does make her sad. She knows she will have to move on from her school, and that makes her sad. Whilst I know that we can’t slow the passage of time, we can acknowledge the changes that it brings with it. We can reassure our daughters that it is OK to be sad about moving on.
Tell her that, yes, her body is changing and will continue to do so, but you are here to go through that with her.
It’s a scary time, being 9. There is an awareness that things might soon be changing and an uncertainty around what that will bring. But knowing that she won’t be going through any of it alone should smooth the way and banish a few fears. Encourage any and all questions and answer as honestly as you feel she is mature enough to understand and take on board.
Tell her that shifting friendships, family relationships and changes in her own self-awareness are all perfectly normal.
My girl is quite a mature 9 year old, and she has moments where she sees things so very clearly as they are. She sees the changes, she can describe them to me, but she can’t understand why they are happening and that makes her uncomfortable. So simply tell her that these things do change, that it’s OK for them to do so, and that these changes are not better or worse, just different.
Tell her that she is beautiful.
Inside and out. My girl has started to notice appearances and how girls and women are ‘supposed to look’ is beginning to permeate her brain. She is starting to make comments about looking a certain way and feeling sad when she feels she doesn’t meet any idealised standard. Whilst I can’t control the world of advertising and social media, I can reassure her of what is true. I can explain to her about the madness of these images and vanities.
Tell her that she can tell you absolutely anything.
She needs to know that you have her back, no matter what is going on. She needs to feel that she can open up to you and that you won’t judge her or shout at her, but that you’ll listen to her and try to understand. You don’t need to have the answers, you don’t need to ‘fix’ anything, you just need to be there with her so she knows she’s not odd and she’s not on her own.
Tell her that she has your full attention for the next half an hour, no distractions.
Do this as often as you reasonably can. Put away your phone. Cuddle up with her. And let her chat.
Tell her that you’ll always love her, no matter what.
Goes without saying, right? We know this, as parents, but I think it’s so important to tell our kids this. Every single day.
So much of this applies to any child, any age, I know that. Every child should get your undivided attention regularly and be told that they are loved. But it is that growing self-awareness that this age brings that means we have to think a little differently and chat a little differently to ensure that we are keeping up with the changes and that reassurances are given in abundance.
Have you got a daughter of a similar age going through this? Or do you remember your own experiences? What would you want to tell your 9 year old self?