The waves of parenting crash over us so quickly. One day you are looking into the baby’s eyes wondering if she can feel the same feeling of absolute serenity that you can. The next day you are listening to her talk about what kind of tattoos she thinks are cool and who posted something crazy on facebook. Somewhere in there, she will need you for something more than a diaper change or a polynomial. Somewhere in there you have to fit in the “sit down, let’s talk about some heavy stuff.” Here are 3 talks you should be prepared to have with her.
1- Down in the Dumps. Depression isn’t going to strike every person but at some point or another, your daughter is likely to either experience it or know someone who is. Many girls face this unprepared and unaware of the seriousness involved. Depression and other mental illnesses can make it impossible to function and make decisions. Explain what happens to a person when he or she experiences severe sadness. Tell her that substance abuse, violence and other destructive behaviors are often linked to mental illness. Let her know that there is no shame in feeling overwhelmed by mental issues. And ask her if she or someone she knows seems to need some help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has tons of information and resources. Check them out at nami.org.
2- Money Money Money Muhhhnay. At 17 years old, I looked my mom in the eyes and told her that I just *had* to go to Sarah Lawrence College. I knew it was expensive but I thought I’d at least discuss it with her. I told her that the estimated cost was $30,000 per year. She looked at me and said “well honey, I only make $45,000 a year.” I smiled and said “That’s GREAT! You’ll have $15,000 left over.” I had never actually seen a bill and had no concept of what it cost to live as an adult. Sure, I had seen that episode of The Cosby Show about money. What? You haven’t seen it – oh my gosh – watch here. But somehow I just didn’t get that this applied to my situation – yeah so maybe I wasn’t quite Sarah Lawrence material at age 10 but I got there eventually. And I got there for undergraduate school with some careful planning and a payment plan. I paid (as many students do) along the way and some after the way but more importantly, my mom used those years to teach me critical lessons about managing money. I had her support but I also worked. And I paid rent. This is a talk you want to start much earlier. Something as simple as going to the library can be a good springboard for managing credit, due dates, and needs vs. wants. Ask her how many books or materials she can really handle when she checks them out. Make her pay attention to the due dates and hold her accountable for the returns. Show her a bill or two and let her see the payment history. Again, start early and have the talks often.
3- Grow Up Girl. That is to say, encourage your daughter to develop her virtues, gifts,
skills and talents. That money conversation is important but it is nothing without this one. Maya Angelou was known to say “Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.” Explain to your daughter that these are not the things that are signs of growth. Talk to her about courage, kindness, patience and wisdom. Tell her about the experiences that have made you the woman you are today and ask her about her own.
As you have these sit downs, make sure you are listening too. I love Covey’s habit of seeking first to understand and then to be understood. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two – like how great a mom you are! Enjoy.