Evelyn Resh

Sensual and sexual health and satisfaction for teens and adults

I Love My Teenage Daughter, But I Can’t Stand Her Right Now

Tears, fights and backtalk—raising a teenage daughter is not always a bed of roses. But what’s normal? Evelyn Resh wants you to know that loving her and liking her don’t always have to go together.

I have yet to meet a woman parenting a teen girl who hasn’t looked at me at some point and uttered the following sentence: “I just can’t stand her right now!” The intensity of this feeling is not something you can

prepare for, and it is completely disheartening to realize that you find your daughter’s company and behavior unbearable.

Mothers can’t help but question whether or not this feeling is normal. It’s very upsetting to well-balanced, loving mothers to feel disappointed when their daughters arrive home early from a social event or have no plans in the first place, which means they’ll be home all night. No mother would imagine that having her girl at home would leave her wishing she had errands to run. Just because she’s your daughter doesn’t guarantee you’ll like her— especially as a teenager. Will she be lovable? Yes. But likable? Absolutely not!

As the mother of a teen daughter and a midwife for teen girls—both of whom I have found quite unlikable from time to time—I assure you that disliking your teen daughter on a fairly regular basis is to be expected and is perfectly normal. If you’ve been questioning this, hang around other mothers of teens, or teens themselves. All your fears about whether your dread falls on the spectrum of normal will be allayed. Other mothers will be saying what you’re saying. And the girls? Well, they’ll do plenty to leave you in a state of pure scorn with actions that no reasonable person could find charming.

Girls can bring their mothers to tears and feelings of hatred for many reasons. For example, many a teen girl has shown off her self-appointed expertise in a field where she has little to no experience. And this can be frustrating. You may want to ask such obvious questions as, “Exactly how can you be a great driver before you have a permit?” or “When did you become a world-class chef? From what I can tell, you’re still perfecting the art of toast.” When your daughter’s self-aggrandizing behaviors and comments are slung at you like boulders from a catapult, you can’t help but feel the force of the blow. But I recommend that you work diligently to keep yourself on an even keel. When evidence of the obnoxious and untenable rears its ugly head and comes spewing forth from your daughter’s mouth, don’t let the same venom come from yours.

A strategy for how to handle your teen First, you need to remember—at all times—that your girl is simply following nature’s assignment and working toward establishing greater independence from you. So acting unbearable actually fits this goal perfectly. After all, the less time you spend with her, the more independent she’ll become and the more successful and happy she’ll be. Her mission is to become a distinctly separate being, and before she can comfortably be around you, she has to feel secure in who she is. She must find herself—even at the expense of your sanity.

Next, put your daughter’s comments in perspective and fall back on your sense of humor to get through. Honestly, since when can someone be an expert on anything if they’ve only been functionally literate for five years? While your daughter’s comments are trying your patience, you have to admit they’re funny—because they’re so preposterous! When you hear something ridiculous, run into another room and write it down in a journal marked “Absurd Comments.” Doing so will get it out of your system and give you proof when you need it that her conduct was horrific—plus think of all the laughs it will give you in the future when the two of you look back on her “wonderful” teen years.

Next, if her braggadocio becomes wounding, tell her! Say something like: “Hey, knock it off. You’re being a real jerk.” It is within the mother’s bill of rights to say this. And don’t be afraid to mention that she’s acting offensive enough for you to refuse to drive her where she’s asked to go. This will help turn her back into a civilized creature.

Lastly, always work from a place of compassion—for yourself and for your daughter. Adolescence is a workout, and the process is facilitated by kindness and common sense. When your daughter’s behavior has led you to the breaking point, remember her mission, your objective to encourage it…:and that you’re a human being, too. What separates you from your daughter is your fully developed frontal lobe. I suggest you use it to its fullest capacity…for both of your sakes.

Evelyn Resh is director of sexuality and relationships programming for Miraval Resorts in Tucson. She is a certified sexuality counselor and nurse-midwife and continues her practice in both fields in Tucson and Western Massachusetts. She has taken care of teens and women of all ages in OB-GYN and primary care settings for more than 20 years and specializes in working with women 25 and under. She is also the mother of a 19-year- old daughter. Resh speaks all over the nation on topics related to women’s health and sexual satisfaction and is the author of the new book The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn’t Talk about but Your Daughter Needs to Know published by Hay House Publishers.

Remembering Phoebe Prince: The High Cost of Bullying

The recent tragedy in Massachusetts serves as a poignant reminder to parents to remain aware of what’s happening to children across America. Whether you are worried your child is being bullied or bullying someone else, Evelyn Resh explains what to look for and how to handle it before it happens to someone you love.

Burying a child, especially when the cause of death was entirely preventable, is one of life’s immeasurable sorrows. The recent suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince

in South Hadley, Massachusetts, is an example of one such tragedy. After months of emotional and physical abuse from classmates, this heartbroken young girl saw no alternative but to end her life. This tells me that, for her, life was unbearable and hopeless.

As a healthcare provider, sexuality counselor to teens and parent to a teenage girl, the facts of Phoebe’s life and the reality of bullying that goes on among teens, sadly, do not come as a surprise. Every day, girls and boys in grades K–12 are doing their best to manage with an onslaught of nonstop, unchecked emotional and physical abuse. Some of you might be wondering why these victims don’t say something to a teacher, parent or school administrator. The fact is they do, but the adults they talk to often don’t take them seriously enough.

The idea that kids make these things up is, for the most part, untrue. In the absence of psychological illness, kids—including melodramatic teen girls—do not invent experiences of stalking, harassment or sexual violence. Without a believing and compassionate listener and advocate, the effects of bullying and sexual violence will linger and can lead to promiscuity, drug abuse, self-harming behaviors and depression—just a few of the potential consequences.

Parents who start to notice their child is withdrawing from activities or socializing opportunities, is unusually quiet, frequently complains of illness, cries easily or talks about being afraid to go to school need to investigate what their kid’s life is actually like. And if your kid tells you she’s being teased, do not underestimate the report of the torture. Talk with her teachers and counselors—ask them what they’re seeing. If the school does not have a no tolerance policy when it comes to bullying, take your kid out of that school until the situation has been fully investigated and resolved. This may seem like a drastic measure, but I assure you it isn’t. In my opinion, anything that seriously risks the mental and physical health of your children is reason enough to remove them from that environment. And, for goodness’ sake, do not tell your kids to “toughen up,” “take it like a man” or “give it right back to them.” This advice is absurd, dangerous and does not address the real problem. Bullying—including sexual harassment and intimate-partner violence—is a crime against the body, psyche and soul. Telling your kids to stand up and take it is akin to assuring them that sustaining a bullet wound is simply a matter of will. Just because the wounds from bullying and sexual violence aren’t easily seen doesn’t mean they are any less hazardous.

How to talk to a bully or bullying victim And then there’s the other end of the spectrum: You may discover that

http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Phoebe-Prince-and-the-High-Cost-of-Bullying-Evelyn-Resh/pr… 4/6/2010

Phoebe Prince and the High Cost of Bullying – Evelyn Resh – Oprah.com Page 2 of 2

you’re harboring a bully in your home. This is something no parent wants to face, yet it’s a real possibility. If you receive a call from school telling you that your child has been suspended for harassing a classmate, don’t jump to the conclusion that this can’t be true. Confront her, but be prepared for her to flap around like a fish on deck and blame everyone else. Regardless of her side of the story, don’t minimize the seriousness of the accusation. Listen to the details. Then closely examine what goes on in your own home. Bullying isn’t a congenital defect; it’s learned behavior.

Only parents and other adults in charge of programs that serve kids and teens can prevent and correct bullying. Adults are responsible for teaching that clothing choices, physical features, manner of speech or sexual activity is no excuse to pick on others. And we must make a commitment to creating environments with a zero-tolerance policy for acts of bullying, harassment or sexual violence. In order to accomplish this, we first need to educate ourselves about the prevalence and severity of the problem and then keep a watchful eye on our kids.

If you come to find that your child is bullying someone, let her know, in no uncertain terms, that this is unacceptable and find ways to make her accountable for her behavior. And if your kid tells you that other kids are picking on her at school and making her day a living hell, give her the benefit of the doubt and listen attentively. Take what she says seriously and make sure she knows you care. We all need to work together to end the behaviors that led Phoebe Prince and others like her to make a tragic and irrevocable choice.

Evelyn Resh is director of sexuality and relationships programming for Miraval Resorts in Tucson. She is a certified sexuality counselor and nurse-midwife and continues her practice in both fields in Tucson and western Massachusetts. She has taken care of teens and women of all ages in the OB-GYN and primary care settings for more than 20 years and specializes in working with women 25 and under. She is also the mother of a 19-year- old daughter. Resh speaks all over the nation on topics related to women’s health and sexual satisfaction and is the author of the new book The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn’t Talk About but Your Daughter Needs to Know published by Hay House Publishers.

How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Weight

When it comes to food choices and weight, few of us are comfortable talking. With teenage girls, the challenge grows larger—how do you create engaging, productive conversations without causing a fight?

We’re all familiar with the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And this is precisely what Michelle Obama advocated for in her response to the surgeon general’s report citing childhood obesity rates as a public health crisis in the

United States. As a healthcare provider to teen girls, I couldn’t agree more. The United States needs a real shake-up when it comes to preventing obesity in kids, and more power to the first lady for taking this on as her cause.

Many of my teen patients are obese and completely oblivious to it. I am not talking about a curvaceous and active young beauty who enjoys food as much as an active lifestyle. Those girls have the right formula. The teens I’m referring to are the ones who only drink soda, are almost completely unfamiliar with vegetables and think of walking to the kitchen as exercise. And when I meet their parents, who are often twice as obese and show up late because they were looking for the closest possible parking place, it becomes clear to me why my words of wisdom regarding healthy living sound like Martian to the teens!

As the CEOs of households, mothers are in a great position to set good examples about diet and exercise while also allowing their teens choices about what and how they eat. It might be tempting for mothers to make all the decisions about what groceries to buy, but this won’t help girls learn to make sound choices on their own. Teens need opportunities to make their own decisions with guidance from mothers who are better informed about what’s in their kids’ best interest. Even if your daughter understands that nutritious foods are good for her, don’t be surprised if she tells you that blueberry Pop-Tarts provide a serving of fruit and corn chips are a vegetable. Remember, her frontal lobe isn’t fully formed. Let your superior knowledge about what’s nutritious lead her in the right direction. Here are some recommendations:

  • Before going to the grocery store, ask your teen for her contributions to the shopping list with the caveat that her requests need to be nutritious, except for one junk item, if she so desires. And don’t edit this request. No matter how bad her choice seems, it’s important for her to be able to make choices without your interference. Then, buy a limited amount, and once it’s gone, don’t replace it for a week.
  • Don’t harp on her choices. If you discover that she’s spent her allowance at your local fast food restaurant, don’t tell her a million times that her double cheeseburger will clog her arteries. She won’t listen and she’ll endlessly remind you of your dietary indiscretions.
  • Help her strike a balance between sedentary and physical activities. Insist that she participates in one physical activity or sport each semester, and don’t buy her a television for her room if she can’t self-limit.
  • Make sure you practice what you preach and that she sees you doing so. Skip the chips and make a healthy snack. Find a weekly physical routine that you enjoy and stick to it. If you make healthy living a part of your life, your daughter will be more likely to pick it up. While it may seem like your teen looks down her nose at everything you do, you’d be surprised how much she’s actually taking in.
  • Be mindful of your comments about your own body and health. If you refer to yourself as a fat sloth, your daughter will pick up this outlook. Treat your body respectfully, and the contagious nature of positive thinking will be good for both of you.
  • And you can always get her the puppy she’s wanted. Is it really so bad if you end up walking it every day? It actually sounds like a good exercise plan! Plus, the puppy will love you no matter what. This is an excellent counterpoint to your daughter telling you that you’re the worst person who’s ever walked the earth—which you can expect while she’s a teen. Consider a puppy an investment in your mental health.Our first lady has the right idea. And if anyone thinks she was too personal when she talked about her own kid’s BMIs, let’s not overreact. Michelle Obama is just one of many concerned mothers who would like to help her children avoid the problems associated with obesity. The teasing all by itself can make life a living hell, affecting a child’s emotional health for the worse. Add to this the dramatic increase in health risks, and you’re looking at a real mess and what often ends up being a lifelong battle that gets harder to manage with age. I say a round of applause for the first lady, and may her ounce of prevention platform become nice and sturdy for the benefit of American kids!

The Secret Culture of Cool

Every mother wants her teenage daughter to be surrounded by fun-loving friendships, as long as they are healthy. But how do you mind the dividing line between being cool and being one of the Mean Girls?

I often hear from mothers of teens that the only thing their daughters want to do is hang out with their friends or their boyfriends. This is not a contemporary phenomenon. Teenagers have always preferred the

company of their peer group to that of their parents. Mothers of teens need to come to terms with the fact that for approximately five years, their daughters will relegate them to the land of the least: least appealing, least fashionable, least funny and least intelligent. Your daughter’s peer group or love interest is like the sirens’ call to a sailor. If you’re parenting an adolescent girl, you know just what I’m talking about.

As the mother of a teen girl, I know that my daughter’s friends are her community and her alternate family. In fact, this peer group is at the center of her personal solar system. As much as I might sometimes want to mingle with them or spend more time with my daughter, I try to remember to know my place.

Mothers of teens are on the outskirts of their kids’ social group for a reason—you are not her friend, you are her mother. However, this is a group you need to keep an eye on, and this does not mean spying on everything they do. Stay watchful from a distance. If your daughter becomes a complete changeling by mimicking behaviors from her peer group that you know do not represent her real self, then step up to the plate and mention it. If you can do it with humor, you will disarm her enough for you to successfully get your message across. For example, when she sits down at the breakfast table wearing an outfit you realize blends with those of her peers but reminds you of a circus clown or, ahem, a lady of the evening, don’t scream like a half-baked lunatic about her choice. Instead, say something like: “So, are you joining the circus, dear?” Or, “Wow! It never ceases to amaze me how so few clothes can make such a big statement!” Afterward, be prepared for her to sneer and growl like a Rottweiler tied to a junkyard fence. However, I guarantee that you will have conveyed the point that her attire is either laughable or too risqué while avoiding a morning screaming match.

How to communicate with your teen As a concerned observer of your daughters’ peer group, you also need to keep an eye out for bullying. Preteen and teenage girls can be extraordinarily mean to one another. If you start seeing or hearing evidence of your daughter developing and participating in mean behaviors, make a mental note and talk with her about this as soon as you have a moment alone. This kind of behavior is not only hurtful, but easily escalates as packs of girls often feed off of one another. When you confront your daughter with what you’ve seen or heard, make it clear, in no uncertain terms, that being mean to anyone is unacceptable and that she must knock it off immediately. She’ll protest and tell you you’re blowing things out of proportion, and she may even call you a psycho, but that’s okay. Tough it out and don’t let her get the better of you. Remind her that depending on how the wind is blowing, she might be at the center of the next attack—becoming the bullied rather than the bully. Don’t belabor your point, however, and if you feel you didn’t succeed, change the subject and try again later. And remember, you can communicate with your daughter in many ways other than conversation—emails and texts are the new walkie-talkies. Even the old-fashioned note can work. I remember many times when I used a red marker, white paper and tape to convey important messages to my daughter.

But one of the best nonverbal ways to communicate your message is by example. How do you talk about others and negotiate relationships? Those of us who are critical, competitive, quick to blame others and frequently in conflict with friends influence our daughters’ behavior accordingly. In contrast, those who give people the benefit of the doubt, have good compromising skills and listen to all the evidence before making final decisions exemplify good citizenship skills from which daughters will benefit.

Our primary job as parents is to raise responsible, independent adults who are compassionate, civilized and caring. This can only happen if parents set the right example and step in to take an active, guiding role when they hear, see or feel something that isn’t right. You might get spat on at first, but the rewards will be worth it in the long run when your daughter says please and thank you to everyone, including you.

Evelyn Resh is director of sexuality and relationships programming for Miraval Resorts in Tucson. She is a certified sexuality counselor and nurse-midwife and continues her practice in both fields in Tucson and western Massachusetts. She has taken care of teens and women of all ages in the OB-GYN and primary care settings for more than 20 years and specializes in working with women 25 and under. She is also the mother of a 19-year- old daughter. Evelyn speaks all over the nation on topics related to women’s health and sexual satisfaction and is the author of the new book The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn’t Talk About but Your Daughter Needs to Know published by Hay House Publishers.

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