By Brenda Yoder
Last month I shared four principles as an eating disorder survivor that were instrumental in raising a daughter with a healthy self and body image. At fourteen, I was anorexic, then bulimic, and lived with an eating disorder until I was married and raising my daughter.
The birth of my daughter forced me to face the underlying issues of the eating disorder. I’ve spent the last twenty-five years dealing with the emotional and physical components of the illness. I chose to break the cycle. In addition to the tips from Part 1, here are three more principles I’ve lived by so I could be a healthy example of womanhood for my daughter.
- Have the courage to deal with your stuff. There’s nothing magical about parenting that makes your issues, problems, or past go away. It’s easy to hide your struggles behind busyness or the responsibilities of motherhood. As my kids grew, their experiences brought up my own hurts. I had to choose to make myself emotionally healthy so I could lead them in emotional health. The healing process for any hurt takes courage and commitment, whether it’s through professional counseling, life coaching or a personal determination to stop destructive behavior. Our daughters take self-esteem cues from us – for them to be healthy, we need to be healthy.
- Be accountable to your kids. Over the last twenty-plus years of living free of an eating disorder, there were times when I was tempted to step back into old, destructive patterns as my default coping mechanism. But when I looked into the eyes of my daughter, I knew I needed to live completely honest in front of her. I couldn’t be one person in front of her and another person when she wasn’t around. God’s word says all things are laid bare in the open in front of him (Hebrews 4:13), and we need to have the same integrity with our kids. It’s hard to face our stuff, but if we’re going to be real with our kids, we need to be real with ourselves, too.
- Make a lifetime commitment to be active. I can’t diet and I can’t weigh myself. These are triggers that lead to unhealthy thoughts about weight and food. Being physically active through walking, running or biking has kept balance in my life and has been a healthy priority for our family. Being active is the healthiest way to balance food, weight, and fitness for a lifetime.
Living healthy has meant taking the high road on days I didn’t feel like it –but when I see my daughter’s beautiful smile and healthy lifestyle, I’m thankful for the grace, strength and presence of the living God who walked me through each critical time. Being a mom doesn’t make your life easier – it forces you to live honestly, seeking God’s best for you and your kids.
Do you have questions about body image issues with yourself or your daughter? Are there principles here you have questions about? If so, please comment below or email me at AskBrenda@thewhatevergirls.com.
Broken and Beautiful: Brenda has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and a BA in Education. As a Parent, Counselor and Educator her ministry is helping moms and daughters navigate the tough stuff of life. Have a question for Brenda? Email her at AskBrenda@thewhatvergirls.com
By Rick Johnson
Part of communicating effectively with your daughter is understanding how to speak her language. Because words have special meaning to most females, they tend to place great emphasis on what is said to them and remember those words for a long time.
A female’s thinking process is fueled by emotions and feelings–hence she tends to think emotionally rather than in a linear fashion like males do. Males think of things in a logical progression (if we do this and this, then this will be the result—a + b = c), but women think of many different, and often unrelated, topics all at the same time. We men compartmentalize our thoughts and emotions, but women think on many levels and unconnected topics all at the same time. The billions of synaptic connections between the neurons in a woman’s brain all appear to connect with each other in a frenzy of information overload (at least from the perspective of a linear-thinking being).
Have you ever been talking to your wife (or daughter) and suddenly realize you have no idea what she’s talking about because it is a completely different subject than you were just discussing? I often wonder how the two (or three, or six) different subjects my wife is talking about could possibly be interrelated. When she explains the process that connects them, I am often astounded at the complexity involved. The mere mention of someone’s name can send her thought process off in a completely different direction than the topic at hand.
Perhaps the best way to speak a female’s language is to listen to her. Women tell me that the thing that makes them feel most important is when men they care about give them their full, undivided attention. It serves to make a woman feel important and valued. Since most men value their time above all else, giving our time to our daughters speaks to them of how much importance we place upon them in our lives. To this day I struggle with being distracted by work, cell phone, television, or things happening in the background when I should be listening to the women I love. But as the saying goes, children spell love T-I-M-E. You can feel the pain in this woman’s statement: “I wish my dad would have taken the time to hear me and know what my dreams and desires were.” To be ignored is a great insult. Your indifference says to your daughter: You do not matter enough to warrant my attention. When we choose to ignore our daughters by being distracted, we are sending the message that they are less important than everything else in our lives.
Females also like to discuss a problem until it is resolved. That is a trait that most men are uncomfortable with. Most men would rather do anything to avoid a conflict or disagreement in our homes. We like our “castle” to be an oasis of tranquility and quiet. We consider conflicts messy and even frightening. But females derive great peace and security when lingering problems and issues are put to rest. It’s part of the way they are wired. Their need for relationship security and family well-being require that problems be resolved as quickly as possible. That way they do not sit and fester until they become infected, rotting and destroying the relationship.
It is important for you to do several things so your daughter will understand that you are listening and that you care about what she is saying. First of all, as difficult as it may be, make eye contact with her while you are talking. That doesn’t mean staring at her in an intimidating manner, but just that you make frequent eye contact with her so she knows you are engaged with what is being said. If she is a teenager, this will also require you to ignore the obligatory eye rolling that frequently occurs whenever you speak to her.
Second, listen at least twice as much as you talk (that shouldn’t be difficult for most men). Then repeat back to her in your own words what you think she is saying. Do this frequently so you can be sure to understand what she is saying and where the conversation is heading. That ensures that you truly understand her and are not just thinking about changing the oil in the car. A young woman who is a friend of our son said, “Fathers need to actually listen and not just lecture their daughters.”
Third, do not offer solutions unless she asks. That may be the hardest part of communicating with your daughter. Men are wired to fix things. We feel more comfortable doing things rather than talking about them. But remember your daughter processes information by discussing it. She is frequently just working through an issue when she talks about it so that she can figure out what she wants to do. Many times I’ve had to bite my lower lip until it bleeds to keep from offering unsolicited advice. But I’ve also noticed that when my daughter talks about a problem and I do not try and fix it, she often leaves by saying, “Thanks for your help dad—you’re really smart.”
Finally, be open and willing to address conflicts in your relationship. Do not ignore them, hoping they will go away—they won’t. They just get worse and become more difficult to resolve. It confirms your love to your daughter when you do not allow problems in your relationship to persist.
Communicating with your daughter takes effort, but it is well worth the results.
By Kim Chaffin
“The Dating Tightrope” Part 1: Taking the first step
“The Dating Tightrope” Part 2: Finding the balance
“The Dating Tightrope” Part 3 : Prayer and approach
In this last post, I want to look at how we have tried to balance on this dating tightrope with apartments and a promise ring. If it wasn’t already nerve racking enough when the kids were in high school, our Son has his own apartment and is in a serious relationship with an amazing young lady. Our daughter and her boyfriend are at separate schools on different sides of the state, but when she comes home there is the worry that her boyfriend also has an apartment. It is as if the rope has been raised even higher, and now the fall between the tightrope and the safety net is a much farther drop. In this drop, there is a whole new risk factor and we have to trust that the safety net (God) is securely in place.
We have been very honest with these young adults about our expectations for them. My husband and I have made it very clear to our son that he better be treating his girlfriend the way he would want someone to treat his sister. We are thankful our son is scared of his girlfriend’s dad and my husband has also tried to put a bit of healthy fear into my daughter’s boyfriend. We have also found that we need to really make time to stay connected with our kids. To have fun with them to laugh with them and to allow them to really speak there minds to us. We have a lot of love and laughter in our family and I think that is important because when the big issues do come up we are all very comfortable to talk openly.
Secretly I think my husband loved saying, “See that little girl over there? She is my one and only, and if you get any ideas about hugging and kissing, remember I am not afraid to go back to prison.” I kind of feel sorry for the guy, because after asking my husband if he could date her, as my daughter and I hid around the corner busting up laughing, my husband added to his fear, looked him up and down, and said, “How tall are you? 6’1” or 6’2”?” When he responded, “Yes, 6’2”,” my husband said, “Good, the bed of my truck is 6’5”; you and the shovel will fit in the back just fine.” Oh, I wish I had a camera to have caught the look on his face.
Sorry I digressed, but that is such a funny story, I had to share it. I am back on track now. With the apartment, we cannot be there to monitor our son and his girlfriend. We have to have faith that they will make healthy choices, and so far we have been very impressed with what we see. They asked me to go with them to the lake, because they knew to stay at the cabin without a chaperon would not be right. When my son was given a gift from the baseball team he coached, he asked if I could go with them to Montana to use the gift. The gift was for two people to take a “Walk in the Trees” and one hotel room. He wanted to know if I would go with them and help him to cover the cost of a separate hotel room. My son even called his girlfriend’s dad to ask permission to take her. He explained that his mom would be willing to go, and that his parents would cover the other hotel room. At their age, they could have told us to mind our own business and stayed in 1 hotel room.
Do I cringe at the thought of them being alone in my son’s apartment? Yes I do, but I also have to let go, TRUST and let him be an adult. We still have some very blunt talks with him, and while working on this series, I was blessed to see them give up their Saturday night out with friends to hang with us for a family game night. Our daughter was home from college that night, and she and her boyfriend also joined us. Both couples could have chosen time alone in the apartments but they chose to hang with us. As I sat back and watched the four of them laughing, I was happy to see they were comfortable showing affection in front of us. I believe because we allow them the ability to do that, they don’t feel they need to hide behind closed doors, where things can go too far.
Something else I want to share with you is that a year ago my daughter heard a sermon about waiting for the right person. The sermon was about a young woman who kept a container of change for years. As she received change she added it to her change holder, and prayed over it that some day she would buy the man God had planned for her a wedding ring. My daughter asked me to find her something so she could do the same thing. I found a makeup bag with “Bride” written in bling, and she adds her money to the bag so that someday she can buy her husband a ring. I think it is important to encourage our kids to look towards their future with excitement and this is one way my daughter can do this with out rushing things and getting ahead of God.
The reality is, this young man our daughter is dating and the beautiful young woman our son is dating could become their spouses someday if that is God’s plan, and it is our job as parents to help them to stay pure. Because now we can’t keep them in the safety of the playpen I talked about in my first post, we have to trust we have given our kids a firm foundation to stand on.
At this stage, we believe that communication is our best means of helping our children successfully navigate across the dating tightrope. Not just communication with our kids, but my husband and I also feel it is important to really get to know the young man and young woman in our kids’ lives. We both make time to spend getting to know them. We talk very openly with them about what we want, not only for our own kids, but for them as well. We talk about our faith and our hope that both couples will make wise choices. We believe if they know what we expect, not just from our own kids, but from them also, and how much we want the best for all of them, this will give them the best chance to make it to the other side of the tightrope.
When our kids took the first step off the safety of the platform onto the dating tightrope, in a sense, they left my husband and I behind. As their parents, we are standing on the platform behind our kids as they walk the tightrope. We continue to cover them in prayer and give them words of encouragement as they hold on to the guidelines we set in place. Those guidelines are like the pole that helps to keep them balanced. God is the safety net below in case they stumble and fall. As they get further across the tightrope we know that what waits for them on the other platform is the man and the woman God has planned for them to spend there lives with. As I typed this, I found myself closing my eyes and I could see a hand reaching out to take the hand of each of my children and lift them up onto the platform at the other side. That hand reaching out to help them step onto the platform is their future spouse. There is going to be great joy when they make it. I can see my husband and I standing there with a sense of relief and mixture of emotions, because once they reach that platform on the other side we will find ourselves at their wedding day. I am now in tears as I think of this. It has been scary at times, as our kids have tried to maneuver the dating tightrope. At times I wish I could turn back the clock when my biggest worry was being there to catch them if they fell as they were learning to walk.
As I said in one of my earlier posts I do not have all the answers to dating. The age that worked for us may not work for you. I hope, however, you understand that prayer, communication, clearly stated guidelines, and allowing your children to feel okay about having feelings towards the opposite sex can all help you to guide your child safely across the dating tightrope.
By Susan Norris
This month my daughter celebrates her 18th birthday. She shares her birthday with her 1 year old cousin, Jacob. We were blessed to spend some time with them last week, so we celebrated the birthday twins.
As I sat there singing Happy Birthday to them both, I was blown away by how quickly the time passed. It seems like she just turned a year old, sticking her face and hands in her birthday cake.
For those of you who are tweens, teens or the parents of them, the days go slow, but the years go quickly. I thought it might be helpful to interview my daughter about her middle and high school years. So, it is my privilege to introduce you to Laura, high school graduate and soon to be college freshman.
What was the best part about middle school?
Getting out! (she laughs). FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) was really fun because it was something I could be involved in and meet a great core group of people. I was able to join the leadership team and have an influence on my campus.
What was the hardest part of middle school?
The hardest part of middle school was finding a friend group because everyone is trying to find their own. Kids came from three different elementary schools to our middle school, so there were a lot of new faces. I found a lot of times you’d think you were friends with someone only to learn they weren’t really a friend at all.
If you could give one piece of advice to your middle school self, what would it be?
Find your identity in the Lord instead of other people. Lean on your family and those who have been friends for a while, who really know you.
How different did you find high school from middle school?
High school gave you a lot more freedom ( i.e. You were not walked to the lunch room). I made new friends coming from other schools. There were more people in the school to make friends with because they came from multiple middle schools. A lot of people developed new friend groups. Some people you were friends with in middle school weren’t necessarily the people you spent time with in high school. Once you can drive, then you hang out more with friends outside of school.
Was it harder or easier to find your place in high school?
It was a lot easier. People acted a little more mature and people became more independent so their choices were more their own and not what everyone else was doing.
Did you ever have a “mean girls” situation?
In middle school I did. It wasn’t fun. People I thought were my friends proved not to be. They talked about me behind my back. It’s not always mean girls, but mean boys too. Don’t pay attention to things immature boys say, trying to sound cool or mature. Gossip is the root of it all. Just don’t listen to it, and don’t do it yourself.
If so, when and how did you handle it?
I talked to some of my friends from church and my small group leader, but kept some things to myself. That only worked for a while. Then everything changed when I talked to my mom. TALK TO YOUR MOM! (She said to make sure I put that sentence in all caps and bold print.)
A friend of mine asked my mom if I’d talked with her this week about something bothering me. Since I hadn’t, my mom decided to confront me. She checked me out of school telling me I had an appointment. When we got to the car I asked her who my appointment was with and she told me her. She took me to Starbucks for treats and then we drove home and sat on the sofa for hours talking and crying.
Everything came spilling out and my mom just listened. She was there for me. As we talked I realized I needed to find my identity in Christ and not what other people were saying. I stopped trying to fit in and focused on just being me. I realized I liked who I was. Going through this experience made high school easier.
How did you navigate the whole boy or boyfriend situation?
After my big deal in eighth grade, I just didn’t want to date. I knew personally I wasn’t at a place where I would date and could handle it appropriately. I trusted God to bring a guy into my life when and if it was time for me to date. It didn’t happen in high school and I was at peace with it. I had guy friends who I would hang out with and they would take me to dances if I needed a date. It took all of the pressure off and I still had a good time.
I had the greatest time at my senior prom. My closest guy friends either had work or sports commitments so they weren’t available to take me to the prom. I was totally prepared to go solo with my friends; however, my brother, who is two years older than me and in college, offered to take me. We went and had more fun than anyone. I didn’t have to worry about anything inappropriate or how I looked when I ate. It was so much fun.
I didn’t write off all guys; I just chose not to date.
Do you feel liked you missed out on anything based on your decision not to date in high school?
Uh, yeah, I missed out on heartbreak and drama! (She cracked up laughing).
Do you feel like the choices you made in middle and high school had an impact on college?
Yes. I have some solid friends I met in middle school and high school that I’m going to college with. Thru my experiences in both middle and high school, I know who I am as I head into college.
Any other advice before we close?
Dress modestly because dressing in a way that shows off your body only sends the wrong signals about you to guys. A guy’s respect for you drops if you dress immodestly. You’re no longer seen as just a girl a guy can have a conversation with, but seen as someone putting yourself out there in an inappropriate way. Guys will see that as an invitation for things you may not want. It’s just not smart.
What are you looking forward to in college?
I’m looking forward to gaining more independence, discovering more about who I am, and becoming the person God wants me to be. Oh, yeah, and I’m also looking forward to football. Go Dawgs!
By Lynn Cowell
I have a confession to make.
I’m afraid of my kids. At times, I am uncomfortable with the conflict that might develop when I deliver news they’re not going to like. So, when I have to confront them, about something, about anything; I just don’t like it!
Have you ever had thoughts similar to these:
I wish I didn’t have to ask her to pick up her room. I feel like such a nag.
I wish she didn’t ask to go to that movie. I know she gets tired of me saying “no”.
I have to ask her change her clothes again! I’ll be happy when she understands the word “modesty” better!
Often, my mom-heart longs for the day when I’m not in this place of “authority” like I am today. Days when I’m more of a peer than a parent. I have to keep reminding myself: that day will come. But if I don’t live out my role as a parent today, the opportunity to be a peer might not come.
I was reminded of this when I read the story of King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:24. Saul was given clear instructions from God, yet when it came time to carry out those directions, he obeyed them partially. When the prophet Samuel called out Saul on his disobedience, Saul responded: “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them.” The consequences for Saul were substantial: Saul jeopardized his position of being the King of Israel.
Fear; what a powerful emotion capable of holding us back from completely following through on our callings as moms.
I must remember: if I want to be my kid’s peer one day, I have to earn their respect their parent today. If I do not, I risk the chance of my child actually resenting me in the future because today they need a parent; not a peer.
As Solomon said is Ecclesiastes 3:3; there is a time for everything. Today, Lord, help me be the mom you’ve called me and empowered me to be today.
Lynn Cowell is a Proverbs 31 Speaker and the author of “His Revolutionary Love; Jesus’ Radical Pursuit of You” and “Devotions for a Revolutionary Year“. Her passion is empowering women and their daughters to find confidence leading to wise choices. She does this through her books and her conferences. You can connect with Lynn on her blog at www.LynnCowell.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest at Lynn Cowell.