Monday, October 29, 2012

What I wish I knew as a pre-teen

Wishing for boobs. Figuring out how and where I wanted to fit in at school. Wanting to be older. Coping with the pressure to do and say the right things when I had no clue what those were. Sound familiar? Ah those pre-teen years. I, for one, don’t miss them and I don’t envy my friends whose daughters are approaching that critical stage of ages 9 to 12 years old.

A friend of mine recently turned 30 and we were talking about how 30 actually can be a blessing. Had you asked me at 12 I would have been HORRIFIED at the thought of being THAT old. But little did I know that 30 actually is a magical age where all that uncertainty seems to fade. Sure the hormones are still a treat occasionally, but it’s not the wild rollercoaster ride of the past, at least on the uncertainty front. Being comfortable in my own skin, for me, that is priceless.

The “30” discussion made me recall those letters to my 16-year-old self that were all the rage online a few years ago. There’s some benefit to that reflection I think. While I’m not going to do a full letter, this is what I would tell myself if I could beam a message back to the late 80s/early 90s.

Mom knows more than you think.
Stop wasting your time worrying what the boys or kids you know now think. In 20 years you’ll roll your eyes at the memory of how much time and energy you wasted contemplating what they thought.
Do what makes you happy so long as you aren’t hurting anyone else or yourself and don’t pay attention to what others think.
These close friends you hang with now will turn out to be lifelong friends so keep doing what you’re doing there. Hold on tight to them.
You don’t realize it yet, but you have some pretty powerful female role models hanging around. Watch what they do and act like that and you’ll be just fine.
You don’t know it all. And that’s OK.

All this reflection had me wondering if this was universally true or just my experience. So I turned to Dr. Nancy Donachie, a psychiatrist who is medical director of the Seay Behavioral Health Center at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, to see if what I was recalling was accurate and still rang true with the pre-teens today.

“It’s hard to get the message across to pre-teen girls that you are good just how you are and that you don’t have to put up with bullying or abuse, or need to change to fit other’s stereotypes,” she said. “Parents and those adults who are around pre-teen and teenage girls can make a big impact demonstrating positive behaviors and having an open line of communication with their pre-teens. Your support and positive messaging to your daughters is crucial in supporting their self esteem and sense of competency.”

Looking ahead I’m curious if I’ll just keep getting more comfortable in my own skin. If the past 21 years are any indication that is certainly the track I’m on. Now if only I could get that message back to my 12-year-old self. What message would you send to your pre-teen self?

Dr. Donachie will be speaking on this topic at a GiRL Power event on Nov. 4. For details click here.

Jennifer Erickson is a Senior Public Relations Specialist at Texas Health Resources who is proudly in her 30s.

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