Let’s be honest. Our experiences of going through puberty were probably less than stellar. OK. Maybe there are a handful of us out there who glided through puberty effortlessly and emerged unscathed. But as for the rest of us, we are still packing around our puberty baggage from back then. It has been around for a while and is no longer needed.
Maybe it was from one embarrassing moment. Like the time at Thanksgiving when grandma overheard you telling your mom that you had just started you period and announced at the table in front of everyone that you has “just become a woman” and everyone toasted to you. Gulp.
Or the fact that your mom never talked to you about your changing body and you were on your own to figure it out and just tried to ignore it. Ouch.
I get it. Going through puberty without a mother left me with plenty of my own baggage; abandonment, anger, fear and resentment.
When we are faced with talking with our own daughters about puberty we suddenly can feel the affects of carrying that baggage around for so long and the weight of what has been crammed inside. This is our stuff and our daughters don’t need it. So let’s deal with it so they don’t have to.
1. Baggage Check. One sign that you may have some puberty baggage to go through is an unsettled or nervous feeling that appears within you when you just think about talking to your daughter. Maybe you have attempted to talk with her and it ended with tears, confusion and frustration. Or more concerning, you notice that you don’t want to talk with her at all.
The truth is, you need to unpack your puberty baggage yourself, without your daughter, before you can effectively connect with her around puberty. And by the way, it is important you do this for you…and for her.
Let’s check your baggage, shall we?
Do this little activity before you read on.
Grab a piece of paper, or better yet a journal and something to write with. Gut check: how are you doing? Nervous? Perfect. Take three long, deep breaths then go on.
Write this open-ended sentence in the middle of the page.
“When I was going through puberty I was…”
Anywhere on that page write down as many descriptive words, phrases and sentences to describe you at that time as pops into your head (angry, feeling alone, awkward, etc). Keep going until they are all out. Don’t judge them or sensor them, put them all down in writing. Be honest. Nobody is going to see this but you.
Now get up and walk away from what you wrote. Go get a glass of water, go look out a window or go pee. Do something else for a minute.
When you sit back down, read over what you put down. Circle the ones that seem to draw out any emotional energy. What is emotional energy? You will know it in your body; you notice you are holding your breath; your heart is racing; your throat is tight…or, you are crying. Use a red marker.
Those are the first ones to unpack. Remember, you are doing this for your girl. Keep going.
2. Unpacking Your Baggage. Shame. Humiliation. Embarrassment. Pain. Loneliness. All of these expressions of your experiences are real. But you don’t need them any more. They serve no purpose for you and are actually in the way. So let’s release them. Here are some suggestions for how to let them go.
- Decide you want to do this. This could take some time and commitment on your part depending how much baggage you have. It may only take some journaling or you may find a few counseling appointments are called for to really open things up. Only you can make it happen. If this is truly what you want to do, commit to creating the time to make it happen and follow through with what you plan to do.
- How do you want to unpack? How crammed is your bag? This can determine your method of unpacking. Jammed and crammed? Consider working with a professional who knows how to help you open up and unload. And you know your go-to and most effective methods of unloading. Maybe it is writing it all down, or talking it out with a friend or even having a conversation with your mother. Whatever the method the point is to get it out into the open.
- Be your own mother. Somewhere within you is a girl that hurts and she needs to be heard. Create a mental picture of her. What does she look like? How old is she? Ask her what she is feeling. Let her feel. Let her cry or be angry. Listen unconditionally. Then, let the woman you are now comfort her. Talk to that girl within you. Repeat back to her what you hear her saying. Comfort her. Tell her it is going to be OK and that you love her. And that you are here for her. In other words, be you own mother. When she appears afraid, nervous or angry, reassure her. She will surface at times until she doesn’t need to anymore. She will be heard.
- Give yourself credit. As you unpack, compliment yourself. Find ways to love yourself a little more. Even treat yourself; go buy some new underwear; get a massage or just go for a long, refreshing walk. You are doing to good work here not just for you but for your daughter too. You deserve to be recognized…by yourself. Go for it!
3. Pack a New Bag. We are creatures of creation. And we love stories. We run stories in our heads over and over again, even if they are from our past and no longer effective, negative or even damaging. You just unpacked feelings around a story that was very true for you, but no longer needed.
It is time to create a new story-one that will work for you now and for your daughter filled with hope, communication and love. This is the story of now and in the future…ready?
Write down a new story so you can go to it when old stories show up (uninvited usually, and for me…when I get into bed at night). Read it over and over until it has solidly landed within you and you can access it with ease. Answer these questions from your woman-place, not your girl-place:
- What do you want for your daughter as she goes through puberty? How do you want her to feel? How do you want her to think about her changing body? What messages do you want her to receive? What do you want her to emanate to the world? What wishes do you have for her? Dream freely of what you want for her as she goes through puberty.
- How do you plan on being there for her? In what ways do you want to support your girl? Be as specific as you can. In what ways are you going to get support and/or guidance for yourself if you need to?
- As a woman, what do you want for her? How would you like her to live her life as a woman? Talk about how you want her to approach making decisions. How would you like to see her be in her relationships? Describe the kind of happiness you want for her. How do you hope she copes with difficult times…dream.
- What kind of woman-to-woman relationship would you like to have with your grown daughter? What would your communication look like? What about boundaries…are there any, if so what are they for both of you? Describe what it will feel like when the two of you are together. Create the picture of how you are in each other’s lives in the future.
Feeling lighter? I hope you do. You just unloaded your old puberty baggage a packed a new bag to carry with you when you talk with your girl.
Already updated your luggage? Let’s hear from you.
Just curious…How have you unpacked your puberty baggage? What is in your new bag to carry with you when you talk to your girl?