One of the last things that you want your daughter to say is, “Mom, I like a boy at school!” It is sort of ironic that when your daughter is 4 or 5 years old, and they come home and tell you that they have a boyfriend you think it’s adorably cute. You might even invite the boy over for a play date, and take pictures of the two of them finger painting together during art class. Fast forward a few years though and those same words can feel like a painful snake bite in the pit of your stomach that almost makes you go weak in the knees. You realize in that very moment that life as you know it, raising daughters, is about to change. Considerably.
What you might not realize is how you handle this simple statement of ‘true love,’ can play a major role in the way your daughter handles her relationships with boys. If you completely ‘freak out’ at the bold, but honest confession of love – your daughter will immediately get the sense that she is doing something wrong. She may start feeling defensive and you will, in one singular moment, turn your honest and forthright daughter into one that feels like she has to be less than honest with you. Your over reaction to the fact that your daughter likes a boy, can literally be a shock to the parent child relationship, and can make her feel as unaccepted by you. And as a result, she will start lying to you or withholding information from you. This is definitely the worst thing that you can do. (You can cry in your bedroom later when she is not around) But for now, be accepting and open to all the information that she wants to share with you.
Think about it this way. It is only natural at some point that your daughter is going to show an interest in the opposite sex. Think back to your own childhood and the first boy that you liked. You don’t have to exactly be thrilled about the fact that she is showing an interest in boys, but you also should realize that her feelings are completely natural. Second, realize that your opinion of the boy doesn’t count. At least not to her. It is in your best interest to not be critical of him, and to not immediately say something that conveys the message that you don’t approve. If she is admitting to you that she likes someone, you should instead be proud of the fact that your daughter feels safe enough with you to admit such intimate details of her life. The last thing you want to do is close her off completely and clam up her honesty – especially when it comes to the opposite sex!
Your next steps are critical as well. Remember that as a mother, you play a fundamental role in how she will handle her relationships with men. It is very important that you make sure she does not give up her girl pals altogether in order to be with the boy. You also need to watch her behavior very closely and look for signs that show she is trying to change herself for her new boyfriend. If she does, rather than berate her or fight against the changes, give her some other options. Make sure that she is still busy with her other interests in life and try to remind her in the softest, most compassionate way ever that this boy will likely not be the man she is going to marry. (She isn’t going to believe you, but so be it). Help her learn to realize the importance of her other friendships, and help her make strides to keep them in tact while she is with her ‘new love.’
Also, make sure that you are listening to her when she talks to you about her boyfriends. Sure, you have a wealth of advice and knowledge about men and relationships under your belt. But you should try to only share the advice that you want her to know. Her life and her relationships will be different than yours were – especially with your guidance. So just because your first boyfriend cheated on you with your then best friend, doesn’t mean that this is going to happen to her. Listen to what she has to say. Ask her questions. Find out what she likes about the boy so that you can help her come up with reasons to base her relationships from this point forward on. If she is having a problem with her boyfriend, don’t automatically take her side and discard the boy as a jerk, because not only is this problem likely temporary, but also because you want her to learn that relationships take work and mutual understanding.
At some point, you knew when you had a daughter that this day would come. Sure, when it does you aren’t ready for it. No parent it. But you have to accept it. Your daughter has many things to learn in life about relationships and you will see many boys come and go. As they do, try to help her see the things that work in the relationship and make sure that you always nurture her confidence by accepting and trusting her. Try to believe that you have raised your daughter to make smart decisions and do not be afraid to talk to her about the difficult subjects such as sex. She needs to hear these things from you.
Your daughter’s honesty speaks volumes for the way she feels about her relationship with you. Not all girls come home and blurt out that they have a new boyfriend, or that they like a boy at school. Since yours has – you should do your best to feel grateful for the relationship the two of you have and make every effort possible not to ruin it through non-acceptance. You may have thought she needed you when she was two. The reality is that she needs you more now than ever.