Parenting Teenage Girls: Expert Tips from a Teen Life Coach with guest Sheri Gazitt, MA

If you have a daughter, you know or have heard that the teen years are tough. Teen girls are enigmas and parenting them can make you feel like you’re losing your mind somedays. On this episode of Brainy Moms, Dr. Amy and Teri interview teen life coach Sheri Gazitt. Coach Sheri talked to us about some difficult topics that parents and teens face like friendship issues, why friends are so important to them, social media and perfectionism, and why teen girls pull away from their moms. She shares the importance of  knowing their love language and even gives us some insights into the science of the teenage mind. Her specialty is teen girls, but this episode is relevant for parents of teen boys as well. We can’t wait for you to hear from her!

Transcript and show notes for this episode:

Parenting Teenage Girls: Expert Tips from a Teen Life Coach
with guest Sheri Gazitt, MA

Dr. Amy Moore:

Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms. I’m Dr. Amy Moore here with my co-host, Teri Miller, coming to you today from Colorado Springs, Colorado. We’re excited to introduce our guest to you today. She is Coach Sheri Gazitt. Coach Sheri is dedicated to helping teens and parents through difficult ups and downs of adolescence.

In addition to advocating for teen mental wellness by advising foundations, appearing on TV and radio shows, and writing for magazines, Coach Sheri also provides private coaching for teen girls and their parents who need help finding their inner joy, taming stress, claiming their confidence and navigating friendships. Her latest program is the Mom Wise Club, which is a supportive group for moms of middle and high school girls.

Teri Miller:

So glad you’re here, Sheri.

Sheri Gazitt:

I’m glad to be here.

Teri Miller:

Well, hey, before we dig into all the good stuff you’ve got to offer our listeners, tell us about your story, just quick review of what brought you to where you are being an expert on teen moms and parenting issue. Teen moms. Hello, that came out wrong. Teens and moms. That’s funny. Teens and moms. How did you get there?

Sheri Gazitt:

Okay. My story started when I was a teenager. Obviously, all three of us were teen girls at one point, and it was a struggle as the both of you probably remember thinking back then, how much support you needed. Maybe you got it, maybe you did not.

I just remember those times as being so emotional and thinking I just wish somebody understood me and somebody could support me through this and give me some good ideas on how to deal with some of these things. So, that’s when my story started on this journey. I remember as a young kid, actually at eight, thinking I wanted to be a therapist, which is kind of crazy that I ended up in this field.

So, fast forward, I went to school for my master’s degree in counseling psychology and started in the field of neuropsychology research, which I felt was super exciting. Always in pediatrics. Like every paper I could do was pediatrics.

And then fast forward again to a job that I got with the Women’s Sports Foundation. It was about a curriculum for girls, ages eight to 18. And that’s when I knew, yes, this is what I need to be doing. Specifically helping girls that are ages about eight to 18 when they’re going through so many transformations.

And after that job ended, I knew I had to stay in this space, and so I started Teen Wise and I thought, “This is what I was meant to do.” And as I started working with teens and tween girls, I realized that the moms also needed support, because there’s so many emotions that come up when you’re parenting a daughter. It takes you back to your own teen years. And so, that’s why I’m in the space I am, and I absolutely love it. It’s definitely a passion of mine.

Teri Miller:

It’s so cool.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Well, I think it’s a space where you’ll never run out of clients, right? Because we’re always going to have a study stream of teen girls and they’re always going to be experiencing those challenges that we experienced ourselves. Right?

Sheri Gazitt:

Right. As an adult, I have kids. My kids now are 18, 21, and 23. I just saw all the things that they went through and their friends went through. So, that gave me a whole nother way to learn about parenting teen girls.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely.

Teri Miller:

I was going to ask, that was your area of expertise, and your specialty, and your focus even before you had teenage daughters. Is that right?

Sheri Gazitt:

No. I guess it was about the same time. Let me think about this. I guess they weren’t teens yet. Yeah, you’re right. I mean, I had daughters, but they weren’t teens yet.

Dr. Amy Moore:

All right. So, you talk about the importance of moms upping their game. By being informed, and prepared, and calm. So, help our listeners who have a teen daughter, or two, or three. See inside their daughter’s minds. What’s the science in the teenage brain?

Sheri Gazitt:

Oh, there’s so much there. The biggest thing that is going on for our girls, specifically, is when they hit puberty, the oxytocin kicks in, but it’s a bonding chemical. And when our kids are young, that bonding is all about us as parents. Like when you breastfeed, oxytocin is released and you bond, right?

Sheri Gazitt:

When they get to around middle school, that oxytocin bonding, chemical is more for their friends. And that becomes a really strong drive, their friendships. And they’re hopefully still bonded to you, but they’re seeking other ways to live in the world without you. So, they’re individuating and all the chemicals writing through their body says, “My parents are not the people I want to connect to right now. It’s friends, the social groups.” So, that’s why you see these social issues become so big for your kids, because it’s their life.

Teri Miller:

Go ahead. Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Well, it’s so interesting that you say that. I’m a counselor as well, as a psychologist. When I see teen girls struggling with wanting more friends, it’s very difficult to understand why do you care so much about quantity over quality? And so, does that help explain why they feel like they need so many friends and they’re not just satisfied with one or two good friends?

Sheri Gazitt:

Well, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into that. Some people can be satisfied with two friends. They have really close bonds and those are mostly introverts. They don’t care about the number of friends. They want somebody close. But there’s also this era of social media where it seems to matter so much more of how many friends you have, because it’s out there for everybody to see.

Sheri Gazitt:

When I’m doing coaching sessions with girls, a lot of times they’ll tell me their Snapchat scores. Or they’ll tell me how many streaks they have, or how many likes they got on something, because that’s so important. But it’s this numerical thing on popularity, on friendship that we didn’t really have growing up. But now, they do, unfortunately.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, they’ve got this combination of the oxytocin drive, but also the dopamine release that they get from all those likes and friends, right?

Sheri Gazitt:

Right. And even just a ding from their cell phone. If it’s a text or something. It doesn’t even matter what’s on the other end. Just every ding, every like, every interaction, a Snapchat or something, a Snap means, “Hey, somebody is thinking about me. I am connected to somebody.” Even if it’s very superficial on the other end.

Teri Miller:

My goodness. Yeah. I mean, it seems so much more complicated than it was when we were growing up. That struggle for acceptance, and relationship, and friendship, so much more complicated with social media now.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yeah. Well, before, when you would leave school or leave soccer, whatever you were doing and went home, you had a reprieve from the social comparisons from worrying about the interactions. But now, it’s 24/7. So, even if your child doesn’t have a cellphone in their bedroom, they pick it up in the morning and all of this social stuff has happened while they weren’t on their phone. So, there’s just no reprieve from it. And our brains aren’t wired to constantly be in this social mode. They’re supposed to be downtime, but our kids really don’t have it as much.

Teri Miller:

Goodness. Yeah. So, how can we use this information now? As moms, how can we use this information to better relate to our teen daughters to better communicate?

Sheri Gazitt:

One of the pieces is understanding. If we can understand where they’re coming from, why they are reacting as they are, why they’re so emotional about what’s going on, then we can keep ourselves calm, and we can support them through it better. Because if we get in there and the emotional fray and we’re getting all worked up about social issues that are going on, or if we don’t understand and we’re just flippant about the issues that are going through, then our kids are going to disconnect from us. Think that we don’t understand them and not want to come to us and talk about things. So really, we don’t need to fix things. We just need to be there for them, to support them and understand them. That’s what they need from us about 99% of the time.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, can you give moms specific language that they can use to show their daughters, “Hey, I want to understand your perspective. I want to see your side. I want to know where you’re coming from?”

Sheri Gazitt:

First of all, we can start out with not saying anything. If our kids come to us, just listen and don’t listen to speak, just listen to be there and to let them vent.

Sheri Gazitt:

So many times, us as moms especially, try to get into that fix it mode. So, we’re thinking while they’re talking, “Oh, what can I ask next? How can I fix this?” And so, we completely look over the emotions that are behind it, what our daughters going through. And instead, we’re jumping over to the fix it part of the relationship.

Sheri Gazitt:

So, we can let that fix it go. Realize you don’t need to fix it, and that you just need to talk to them. So, the language you can use is, “Oh, that must be tough. Oh, I hear that your day was hard.” Things like that. Instead of, “You need to do this, you need to do that.” Because that’s what a lot of girls tell me. “I don’t want to talk to my parents because they just have this lecture for me. They think it’s so easy. They don’t understand.” So, really less words.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Do you encourage moms to say, after that, “How can I help? Or is there anything you need from me?” Or do you just recommend that they sit in that space with their daughters?

Sheri Gazitt:

So, when they first come to you, the first thing you say is, “Do you want me to just listen? Or do you want advice?” That’s the best way to start it. And oftentimes, they’ll say, “I just want you to listen.” But it gives them control over the space.

Sheri Gazitt:

So, you can listen. And then at the end, you can say the same thing again. “Do you want me to just listen more? Do you want some advice?” A lot of times they’ll say, “No, I don’t want the advice.” But you’ve opened that door to say, “I’m here for you and I have some ideas.” So, many times they’ll come back to you maybe in 24 hours, maybe the next week, but you’ve said to them, “I’m here to listen. I’m here to do what you need me to do, but I do have some advice if you want it.”

Teri Miller:

Yeah, that’s good. Asking if they want you to give it. That’s good. It’s like asking permission.

Sheri Gazitt:

Exactly. Because then when you just start in with advice, it’s annoying to our teens. They’re like, “No, I can handle this. I just need you to listen.” But they might need some advice. But when you make it, empower them to say yes or no to it, then it’s a whole different way they receive it.

Teri Miller:

So good. Well, so tell us about different changes that happen as girls are maturing. I mean, even going from those preteen to middle school years. Tell us a little bit about some of those changes that girls are going through.

Sheri Gazitt:

There’s so many different ways we could talk about the changes that are going through, but let’s talk about friendships a little bit more if you don’t mind. One of the big changes that they’re going through is their friendships change. In elementary school, it’s like who’s sitting next to you in class, who do your parents like, and who’s over at the house. But when it gets to middle school, there’s a lot of friendship shifts.

Sheri Gazitt:

And it’s very confusing for girls, because sometimes, one of the girls in a friendship is like, “Hey, I want to keep this friendship going forever, BFFs.” And the other friend is like, “Oh, I don’t really like the things that she likes anymore. I don’t want to hang out with her because she isn’t into boys like I am. She still wants to play with My Little Ponies, and I’m not interested in that.”

Sheri Gazitt:

So, there’s a bunch of natural shifts that happen. And that’s very confusing because if we go back to the oxytocin, they need to bond and social hierarchies are extremely important to them, social bonds. So, that’s very confusing for our girls. That’s a really big shift that happens in those middle school years. And then when they go from middle school to high school and they’re changing to schools, maybe social groups, that’s another time of a lot of confusion.

Teri Miller:

I’ve noticed that with my own daughters. As you’re talking, I’m remembering back. My oldest daughter is 27 and my younger daughter is nine. I’ve kind of got the wide spectrum, but I’m remembering back to my daughter that was 21 and just remembering how she went through those changes. She had these good friends in middle school from just some certain activity that we were in, like sixth grade. Fifth grade, sixth grade seventh.

Teri Miller:

Like you said, there was this shift. And then we’d see this friend at the grocery store and she would walk past and not acknowledge the person. Like, “Wait, we’re so really, really good buddies.” And she’s like, “Yeah, we don’t really talk to each other anymore. We don’t have any classes together.” It was like once there’s this break, nine months goes by and it’s as if they never knew one another.

Sheri Gazitt:

Right.

Teri Miller:

Do you see that?

Sheri Gazitt:

I do. And it’s confusing for us as moms. So many times, especially if you’re friends with the friend’s mom or something, it’s like, “Why aren’t you friends with them? Go talk to them.” We feel a loss too, because so many times, we were there for this little kid when they were fourth graders, fifth graders. We saw them growing up. So, we have a bond with them as well. It’s so hard to let go, but we definitely have to let our kids determine who they’re friends with and we can deal with our own feelings around it. It’s good in those situations. Just to ask questions of, “Hey, what happened? Was there any reason you stopped being friends?” Sometimes there was a rift and sometimes it’s just like your daughter said, “I don’t have classes with her anymore.”

Teri Miller:

Yeah. Just kind of grew apart and then … I have to remind myself too. I’m doing it so much better with my 13 year old daughter than I did with my older daughters, because I’m learning. But I have to remind that for me, nine months is a blip. I mean a school year, it comes and goes. It’s so fast. I have to remember for my daughter, an entire school year, that is a lifetime. That is the life and death of multiple friendships.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yes, it is. Especially with this last year, there’s like a time warp going on and the friendships got really difficult during this past year. Yeah, nine months seems like forever in teen years.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I actually want to piggyback on that idea. We’re seeing this huge surge in social anxiety in teens because of the pandemic. It’s almost like they lost their social skills by not being in person with their friends all day, every day. What advice do you have for moms of teen girls who are struggling to reengage in those relationships or to make new friends? Those who are experiencing social anxiety. “Oh, I feel awkward. Or I’m afraid that, that person will think that I’m weird if I go up and talk to them.” What advice can you give them?

Sheri Gazitt:

Yeah. For those kids, especially who are a little bit shyer, and we’ve got a lot more of those because of the pandemic right now, the advice is to come up with a friendship plan. We always have this idea that friendships come naturally, you shouldn’t have to work for it, but it’s kind of like dating. Sometimes you got to put yourself out there in order to have that relationship.

Sheri Gazitt:

So, what I’ll do with girls who come in to me and say … The parents, like they don’t have friends or what do we do? We come up with this plan and we talk about the friendship triangle and the fact that you start out with acquaintances and those people can move up to closer friends or good friends. And then they move up to BFF so that it’s not this automatic, you meet somebody, and then they’re your BFF. That happens in elementary school, but not so much middle high school.

Sheri Gazitt:

So, we talk to them about those friendships and how they shift. And then we ask, “Is there anybody in the acquaintance area right now that you would love to get closer to?” And then you talk about how you do that, and you do that by talking to people. So, you get specific about what class or some people in that you might want to be good friends with. What are some things you could talk to them about?

Sheri Gazitt:

So, I come up with a list of questions with them or things to talk about. So, that in those awkward moments, when they’re sitting around the classroom table, they have some things they can kind of pull out of their tool belt and say, “Hey, last weekend, I went to this concert. What did you do? I watched this movie, have you seen it?” Small little conversation points that make it easier. And then talk to them about the fact that, that person can talk to you or not talk to you, and it means nothing about your self worth or nothing about you as a person. It’s all about what they’re going through, but you got to put yourself out there.

Teri Miller:

Oh, that’s such a big one. Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely. I think that advice can translate to adults as well. I mean, how many times have you gone to a professional conference not known anyone in the room. There’s these awkward silences as you sit around a table or you have to do some group activity where you don’t know them. To able to have a toolbox of potential conversation starters. [crosstalk 00:18:45].

Sheri Gazitt:

I’m a shy girl. For me, I definitely do that when I would go to conferences. I think about what are the main things I can talk to people about. If I just have one thing to start a conversation, maybe that’s not even what we continue talking about, but it releases that pressure of thinking in the moment. Right?

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely.

Teri Miller:

I talk a lot with all of my kids. Even in the mornings before they’re heading to school or heading into certain activities, I talk a lot about just try to be a friend. Let’s try to be a friend today instead of looking for a friend. “I know it’s this new youth group activity, and so I remember.” You’re going to want to go in there and be looking for who’s going to be your friend, and you’re going to want them to act towards you, but act towards them. Be a friend to them. So, that has helped. It’s everything that you’re saying.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yeah. It’s this idea. A lot of times, girls or boys too will feel like, “Why doesn’t anybody want to be my friends?” Like they’re saying. When you can get out of that mindset and say, “Hey, I have the power to talk to people. I don’t need to wait for them to come to me.” It’s a huge transformation.

Sheri Gazitt:

There was one girl I was working with before this school year started and lots of social anxiety. She had started middle school during pandemic. So, there was all this weird stuff going on then, right? When she was able to shift the mindset to she could be the first one to talk, the first one to reach out, it changed the way she was looking at friendships, because she didn’t have to sit around and wait for someone to talk to her.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yes.

Teri Miller:

You’re talking a lot about friendships right now. Now, I poked around at the information you have on your website and blog posts, and podcasts. And you’ve got so much information out there. You’ve got YouTube videos. Just really great information for parents. I did kind of latch on to this new thing that you’re … I don’t know if it’s new actually, but I think it was a webinar rerecording, inner joy. And so, talk to us about inner joy, and that is a lot more than just friendships, but that webinar and the information you want to give moms and teens on finding that inner joy.

Sheri Gazitt:

That’s one of my favorite topics, because right now, I feel like this generation coming up is so focused on the end goal, which is college. It shouldn’t be for everybody, but that’s what society has gone to. Everybody needs to go to college. And that means that we start at a very young age, even preschool of focusing on what does my kid need to do to get into a “good” top college.

Sheri Gazitt:

In that endeavor to be the best, the brightest to achieve the most, our kids have lost the joy in the process. So, instead of thinking of the here and now, why am I in soccer? Why am I in karate? Why am I trying to learn chemistry and feeling the joy of that? It’s all this rat race to get to the end.

Sheri Gazitt:

We, as parents, have to find a way to bring joy back into the lives of our kids into our households. So, letting go of that rat race is our job as parents, and focusing on the joy instead. A lot of parents push back on me. They’re like, “But what about college? I can’t just let my kid do what they love, because maybe that’s not going to get them into college.” And I say, the love and excitement is what will make them successful, not what college they go to or even if they go to college.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. So good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. And I know that, that’s a huge struggle. I’m a boy mom, not a girl mom. I see the same thing with boys as well, and maybe even more so, but absolutely.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yeah. It’s a struggle and it is hard because we get into the … We, as parents, get into this parent pressure trap where we feel like, “Oh my gosh, we need to do that extra tutoring, extra coaching, extra everything to make sure our kids achieve and don’t miss any opportunities.”

Teri Miller:

And I think it sneaks up on us. That was my experience and other friends I have. Maybe it does even more so with daughters. I don’t know why, but that perspective of, “Oh, what are you going to do after this? Where are you want to go to college? What’s your career goals?” I felt like it snuck up on me more than it did with my sons to where, “Oh, everything is fun. They’re in middle school. No worries.”

Teri Miller:

And then all of a sudden, high school and it’s sophomore year. “Oh, we got to make a decision. Come on. What are you going to do? What do you care about? What’s your focus?” I can think back to my older daughters. And when that shift happened, that it was almost this frantic urgency and this stress. You got to make a decision. There was no inner joy. That inner joy just got flushed.

Sheri Gazitt:

Right. It is so true. If you’re a mom parenting a daughter, you feel differently that it’s this responsibility for you to make sure that your daughter is self-sufficient, that she’s bucking the norms. That she’s going to be this shining light of feminism. The boys, we definitely have the pressure for the boys too. It just feels a little bit different if you’re a mom parenting boys. It manifests itself differently, but it’s still there.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I think the crazy thing is, at 14 or 15, most kids don’t know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Very few kids have that path already set in stone and actually follow it. To put that kind of pressure and have that kind of expectation is completely unrealistic. How did we get here?

Sheri Gazitt:

Yeah. I think it goes even younger than that, that at 10 and 11. Maybe it’s the area I am in, but they feel like they need to have their passion. The parents feel like their kids need to have their passion. And I see a lot of parents, if their kids are in something at age 11 and they want to quit, they’re like, “No, you can’t quit because you need to stick in it in there for college because it will look good for college.”

Sheri Gazitt:

So, we have to just let our kids be kids and they don’t have to have it all figured out. My youngest daughter just started her freshman year in college and she’s already changed her major. And I’m like, “That’s great. You’re figuring out what you want to do. Change it as many times as you need to. You’re there to explore and figure out who you are and what you want to do.”

Teri Miller:

Oh, I love that. They’re to explore and figure it out instead of you’re there, so you better know ahead of time what you’re going to do.

Sheri Gazitt:

Exactly.

Teri Miller:

Oh, Sheri. That’s so good. Listeners, did you hear that? You’re there to explore and learn. Yes.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yeah. We can rewind and that’s how it should be throughout their entire childhood. They don’t have to have it figured out. Our job is to give them opportunities to explore and to learn who they are, and to have room for personal growth, and for us to just be along the journey with them.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, along those lines of exploring, I’m seeing a trend of kids taking a gap year between high school and college. What are your thoughts on that? What are the benefits of doing that? But what also do you think are the risks of doing that?

Sheri Gazitt:

I think the benefits way outweigh the risk. There are so many kids who get to college who are burned out and they don’t even know why they are there. I don’t remember what the status is. I’m going to throw this out. It’s something like 30% of freshmen drop out, because they are burned out. And they are like, “I work for so many years to get here. This is what everybody said I needed to do, and I don’t even know what I’m doing.”

Sheri Gazitt:

The gap year gives them an opportunity to want to go back to school that they go out, they experience the world, they mature another year. They gain some independence and they don’t feel like they have to go to college. And it’s a choice. Having a choice in life is so powerful. When you feel like you’re choosing something versus you have to do something.

Sheri Gazitt:

I’ll tell you a story about my oldest daughter. When she was heading off to college, she kept saying, “I have to, I have to.” Finally, one day, I said, “You don’t have to go to college. In fact, if you keep wording it like that, we’re going to postpone this for a while until you decide that you want to go.” And after that conversation, she never used that wording again, because she realized, “Yeah, I don’t have to go. This is a privilege. I get to choose this.”

Teri Miller:

That’s so good. Ooh, I love that.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Should parents bank roll the gap year? Or do we need to encourage our kids to work in the gap year? What does that ideal gap year look like?

Sheri Gazitt:

That’s something that is personal for every family, and it really depends on your child too. If you feel like they really need to get a work ethic, that if you just hand it to them that they’re not going to learn as much, then you can say, “Yes, I will give you a starter fund here, but you need to finance your own gap year.” But there are advantages to having them just go out and explore too.

Sheri Gazitt:

I think that it’s just a personal choice of how you do it. But I do think the one key thing in this gap year idea is that the kid needs to plant it, not the parents. If your kid says they want a gap year, that you should be researching it, giving them their options. The whole idea of a gap year is to gain independence, and so they need to do that.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Great advice.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. I think too, it’s good to realize that, that gap year can happen a year or two into college.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yes, absolutely. [crosstalk 00:29:15].

Teri Miller:

Yeah. I’ve got a kiddo overseas right now and she went to college for a little bit and was kind of floundering. “I don’t really know what I want to do.” And so, we tried to be like, “That’s okay. You don’t have to know.” Yeah. She’s been in France and Italy.

Sheri Gazitt:

Amazing. Amazing. And when and if she decides to go back to college, then it’s a whole different world. Then she’s choosing, and she has an idea, a better idea of what she wants to do. So many kids go straight into college, get a degree, and they’re like, “I hate this.” But they feel like now they’re stuck.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. The world has become so much more accessible. There’s so many great programs out there, like what my daughter is doing. I think it’s called work away. Free room and board, so it’s not like … She’s not traveling Europe thousands of dollars. No, she’s working. She’s working at different farms. It’s a certain place, a vineyard for three weeks, and then a coffee farm. She’s at different places where it’s not costing a ton of money. Of course, the flight is back and forth. She had to save up for. But I think there’s lots of things like that across the country right now for our daughters to explore.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yeah. You’re talking about pros and cons of this gap year. Some parents get really scared that their kids will never go back to college. That may be the case, but they’re going to find themselves along the way, which is the most important thing. Some people are very successful without college. It definitely makes it easier in some ways. But my guess is those kids will eventually find their way back, but they’ll be much more focused and get a lot more joy out of it.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. They won’t just be wasting time and money.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yes.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely. So, you talk a little bit about a phenomenon that happens between mothers and teen daughters, where daughters stopped talking to their parents.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yes.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, tell us why that is and what moms can do about it.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yeah. I just got done with a five day challenge talking about this. I’m breaking the silence. Really, there’s a lot behind it. I’m not going to go the neuropsychology route on this. I’m just going to talk about the facts and bring it down to the everyday level.

Sheri Gazitt:

A lot of times, girls stop talking to their parents, boys too. Because number one, the parents try to fix it like we’ve already talked about. Every time they come to their mom or their dad, it’s all about, “Here’s what you need to do. Here’s what you did wrong. You need to fix it.” And there’s an expectation there also that they’re going to follow through with whatever advice the parent gives. And then there is kind of a shame and guilt that is paired with that if they don’t follow through with the advice. So, that’s a pice of it.

Sheri Gazitt:

The lectures. The kids I talk to are like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to hear that lecture one more time.” And they can recite their parent’s top three lectures that they’re going to get. And they say when the lectures start, they just tune up. They may be looking at their parents, but they’re like, “I did not want to hear this.” So, they stop going because they don’t want to hear the lectures. Those are really two big things that get in the way.

Sheri Gazitt:

Well, I wouldn’t say the third. I’m trying to think which one, because we can talk about this forever. I think let’s stick with those two. Those are really the two big things. And if you can be mindful of those two things, that will make a big change in whether or not your daughter keeps coming to you. Let me add one more in there. The judgment, that’s a big piece too.

Dr. Amy Moore:

The mom tends to judge the teenage daughter. Tell more about that. What do you mean?

Sheri Gazitt:

Yes. Again, it goes back to this mom-daughter dynamic. We see ourselves in our daughters. And so, we expect them to act a certain way, do certain things. There’s this other weird thing that happens. As we want our daughters to be the person we were not when we were teens that we wish we were. So, standing up for ourselves, standing up for others, talking to the teachers, working harder in school. Name your list of things that you wish you had done better as a teen. And a lot of times, you’re trying to steer your daughter to do those things, so the judgment comes in there. You’re kind of judging yourself, but really is going on to your daughter.

Teri Miller:

Oh, that’s hard.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Do you think that’s driven by mistakes that moms think they made as a teen and the shame that came along with those mistakes, and they just don’t want to see that pain?

Sheri Gazitt:

Yes. It’s about you don’t want them to make the mistakes that you made. That’s part of it, but also it’s … As we age, we learn how to speak up for ourselves, for instance. So, we expect our daughters to have that ability when they’re in middle school, because we can see it so clearly. It’s so easy. “Just say this, just do that.” But they have their own journeys. They have to have the years under their belt that we have before they can be like that.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Do you feel like it’s beneficial for moms to share parts of their own journey? How much of their mistakes in their past and their teenage years should they disclose with the hopes of, “Hey, I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made.” Is that beneficial? Or would you recommend not disclosing those mistakes to your daughters?

Sheri Gazitt:

It’s not that you shouldn’t talk about your own life growing up. But what I hear from the teens is it’s not about my parents and they’re always making it about them. So, while we’re trying to share in the hopes of connecting and saying, “I get it, I went through this.” If we talk about it too much, then we lose our kids in it. Because they’re like, “Oh my gosh, it’s another story for mom or dad about what they went through.” So, they’re not seeing that as a connection point.

Sheri Gazitt:

And the other thing I would caution parents about is sharing stories about partying early on, doing drugs, smoking, vaping, having sex very early on, because whether we like it or not, our kids don’t always hear it as a cautionary tale. They hear it as, “Okay, this is now allowed, because my parents did it. How can they possibly say I can’t, because they did?”

Dr. Amy Moore:

Or they see your parent as, “Oh, well, they turned out okay even though they did this.” Right?

Sheri Gazitt:

Right. Yeah, we’re role models. Again, if we’re trying to say it as learn from my mistake, here’s a cautionary tale. They’re like, “Oh, mom did that. I’m going to try it.”

Teri Miller:

Yeah. That’s very important. I think the opposite is probably true also, like trying to be some self-righteous. “Well, I was never allowed to behave that way. I wouldn’t have done that.” It seems like either of those extremes. It’s just going to drive our kids away.

Sheri Gazitt:

Well, when my daughters have asked me point blank, “Did you do X, Y, Z?” I’ll say, “Those are choices that I made and that was my journey, and I want you to make your own choices for yourself.”

Teri Miller:

Good answer. I like that.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So can you talk a little bit about limits, and curfews, and how … I know that’s got to be a frustration point for teenage daughters, right? That they don’t feel like they have enough freedom. And so, how do you find the sweet spot with your teenage daughters?

Sheri Gazitt:

Well, one thing I just want to be clear about is that we do have to set limits for our teens. So many times, we have this idea that when we talk about collaborating with our teens that, that means they get to make all the choices. But no, the choices are within these guardrails. Here’s your choices. I just want to be clear about that.

Sheri Gazitt:

Now, having said that, we can collaborate with our kids to figure out what those limits are. Whether we’re talking about social media, screen time, curfews, driving, hanging with their friends. We can get them in on the decisions so that they feel empowered. So, when it comes to curfew, it’s a great example. Say, “Okay, I think your curfew should be 10:00 right now. What are your thoughts?” And then you can have a back and forth.

Sheri Gazitt:

Surprisingly, a lot of times, they’ll say, “Yeah, that sounds good.” When you’re like ready for this big fight. Now, the key to getting them to continue talking to you about it is to be flexible. So, if your child calls you and says, “Hey, I’m hanging out with my friends, we’re watching a movie. There’s 30 minutes left.” And it’s already nearing their curfew, you have a choice. Are you going to say yes or are you going to say no? Being flexible in that moment allows you to continue to have this boundary and this limit respected.

Teri Miller:

That’s good, because that feels counterintuitive. Hearing that, it seems like no, if it’s going to be respected, they should respect it every time. And yet, from the heart, when you say that, I’m like, “Oh, yeah, relationally, that’s much more effective.” Because we all need that flexibility. Things come up and we all need that in every relationship.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Well, and I always say that we should parent through a lens of connection. Every choice that we make, we need to ask ourselves, “Is this going to strengthen the connection with my child? Or is this going to weaken the connection with my child?” And if your daughter calls you and says, “There’s 30 minutes of this movie left, I know it’s going to make me 30 minutes past my curfew, but can I stay?” And you say, “No, your curfew is your curfew.” Then you automatically have weakened that connection. Right?

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

What is the benefit of not letting them watch the last 30 minutes of a movie that they’re engaged in versus what’s the concept sequence of making them? The consequence to your relationship.

Sheri Gazitt:

Well, and even if you need to say no for whatever reason, there’s a kind of an explanation there instead of just a flat out no. You might need to say no because you’re taking the SAT tomorrow and you need to get your sleep. Or we have an early flight, who knows what the reason is. But if it’s just a flat, “No, your curfew was this time.” Then they’re not going to call you next time probably. They’re just going to be late.

Teri Miller:

It seems like it’s putting the rule over the relationship, and it needs to always be the opposite.

Sheri Gazitt:

Absolutely. But there are times when you do have to say no, we all know that as parents. You’re talking about the connection versus the rule. Absolutely, we need to keep that in mind. But sometimes, you have to make the hard decisions and say no. That doesn’t mean you’re disconnecting. It depends on how that conversation goes down.

Teri Miller:

It’s good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

It’s funny to watch my kids. I very rarely say no, because I find that most things are negotiable. When I do say no, the look on their face. “Oh, she’s serious. Because she rarely says no, I need to listen.” There must be a really good reason.

Sheri Gazitt:

I love that.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, we need to take a quick break and let Teri read a word from our sponsor LearningRx, and then we’ll come back and keep talking.

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Dr. Amy Moore:

And we’re back talking to Coach Sheri Gazitt about parenting teen girls. Sheri, you have a free e-course for parents on helping them find their teen’s love languages. Talk to us about why it’s important that we know what our teen’s love language is.

Sheri Gazitt:

Well, right now, they’re discovering what their love language is, so we have to be fluent in all of the love languages. But it’s not just saying I love you to your teen to show them that you love them. You’ve got to figure out how they’re willing to receive it, and that’s the importance of the love languages. So, in this e-course, I talk about why it’s difficult to show love to our teens, because going through all five of the different love languages, each one has its point of frustration for our teens and for the parents.

Sheri Gazitt:

We have to explore those love languages, try them all out with our teens, see what resonates with them, see what works in that moment. And then we have a different way to say I love you, because we can say I love you all day, but that’s the important piece for our teens. They feel like you’re my mom, you’re my dad, you got to say that. But we have to show them our love, and it has to be in a way that they want it to be shown.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, can you give our listeners an example of what that frustration looks like if a parent is using our love language that isn’t what the teen is receptive to?

Sheri Gazitt:

Right. I’ll give you the one that’s probably the most frequently felt by parents, and that’s physical affection. So, when our kids are little, most kids, not all, want those hugs, and kisses, and snuggles. And they hit middle school, and sometimes there’s a hard stop on that physical affection. They don’t want you to touch them on the shoulder. They don’t want any sort of physical affection. So, that’s one piece that’s really difficult for parents, because it really feels hurtful when they say, “I don’t want you to hug me.” They push you away.

Sheri Gazitt:

But even with that, with physical affection, that may still be your teen’s love language, but there’s a lot of factors into why they don’t want to be touched anymore. Their bodies as going through a lot of changes, they’re uncomfortable with it, or they’re individuating from you. But you can still fit it in, but you’ve got to figure out what that is for your teen.

Sheri Gazitt:

One mom that I was talking to, the way she showed love physically with her daughter was they used to do the heart thing like this. Even across the room, they would kind of do that, and that would be their physical if they weren’t touching. With one of my daughters, she had the hard stop on physical affection, so we came up with the pinky touch. So, that would be how I would still be able to give her physical affection if she would allow me to have a pinky touch

Teri Miller:

Sweet.

Dr. Amy Moore:

For those of you who couldn’t see, Coach Sheri was making the heart shape with her hands.

Teri Miller:

Right. Yeah, that’s good. Yeah. Listeners are like, “Doing what? What were they doing?”

Sheri Gazitt:

Yeah. My daughter is a freshman in college, we FaceTime a lot, and we still do that over the phone.

Teri Miller:

That’s so sweet. One of my girls reached a point, and it’s just like you said, she reached a point where even though we had been super affectionate. I mean, as a child, she was very clingy with me. And then she reached this point in middle school, high school, and she didn’t want to be touched anymore, and didn’t want to be hugged, don’t rub my arm, whatever.

Teri Miller:

But a way I was able to maintain connection is I would play with her hair. I would braid her hair or brush her hair, do pigtails or whatever. And that felt she liked it. That felt really, really nice. So, I was able to still get that sweet connection and affection. Man, I’d braid her hair and she’d take it out and say, “Braid it again, mommy.” And I’m like, “Okay. Yeah.”

Sheri Gazitt:

You’re right. And it’s really hard when they’re hugging their friends and everybody else and not you. Like, “Oh, it’s so sad.” But it’s just the way they change.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Well, when we look at the research on the importance of physical touch, our kids need it, our teens need it. That’s hard to know that your kid, if they don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend, for those of us who are boy moms. If they’re not getting physical touch somehow during the day, it’s kind of heartbreaking to think, “My kid won’t let me hug him or my kid won’t let me hug her.” And I know that she needs that, but it’s a phase.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yeah. That’s where pets come into play.

Teri Miller:

That’s good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

That’s important.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yes.

Teri Miller:

Hey, tell us about the support group that you’ve got called the Mom Wise Club. Tell our listeners about what moms can get out of joining that group.

Sheri Gazitt:

The Mom Wise Club came about because moms were asking me for more support, and I was like, “I can’t fit it in yet.” But finally, this past year, I was able to start the Mom Wise Club right before the pandemic actually. So, I had to stop and pivot, and now it’s all online, which is actually great, because I can reach moms across the US or across the world, really.

Sheri Gazitt:

What it is, that was started for moms with daughters in middle school, and then the high school mom said, “Please let us in.” So, expanded it to that. And now, moms of boys have said, “Come on, let us in.” So, we’re still kind of focused more on girls, but we’re letting anybody in, because we know that moms really need support.

Sheri Gazitt:

So, what I do is I drop a video every week with a small challenge. So, it’s like a five minute video and focusing on teen issues, on parenting, on being a mom. And I’m just there to support the group. We also bring in experts every month to talk about a certain issue at hand in. It’s a great place to be able to share about what’s going on.

Sheri Gazitt:

Well, there’s a bug on me. Just stop, flyby. When our kids are little, we talk about nap time and feeding time. It’s those kinds of issues. But when it comes to middle school and high school, the issues are very personal. So, we have to be careful about what we’re sharing.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. It changes a lot.

Sheri Gazitt:

Yes, a lot.

Dr. Amy Moore:

You also have a coaching program. What does that look like and how can moms find out more if they want to work with you?

Sheri Gazitt:

Yeah. The Mom Wise Club is momwise.club by the way, and that’s a group coaching program, but I also have private coaching. And if anybody is interested in that they can email me or go to my website, teenwiseseattle.com to get more information. But I basically work one-on-one with people to either help their teens. So, I work with the teens, but parents are part of that process, or I work straight with the parents so that they can come up with different parents team strategies, understand their kids better. And I can just be there as a support system.

Teri Miller:

Okay. Very good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, is there anything that you haven’t gotten to say that you want to leave our listeners with?

Sheri Gazitt:

There’s so much in this arena. I could talk for hours about this, because I’m so passionate about it, but I would say the one thing that I want to leave everyone with is that we parent the best that we can. And there’s going to be days where you don’t feel great about the parenting that you’ve done that day, but don’t beat yourself up because you’re learning, your kids are learning, and your kids don’t need you to be perfect. They just need you to be present.

Teri Miller:

Oh, so good. Yes. Thank you. We all need to hear that. Thank you.

Dr. Amy Moore:

We do. So, we are out of time and need to wrap up, but we really want to thank our guest today, Coach Sheri Gazitt for sharing your insights and your wisdom on raising teen girls. Everybody is making the heart shape with their hands. I have to tell you, because I have a motor planning delay, and it’s very hard for me to do things like that, unless I look at it first. I have to look at my hands make it, and then I [crosstalk 00:50:24].

Sheri Gazitt:

[crosstalk 00:50:24].

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right. And so, when my kid stands in my doorway and does that, I’m always like, “Let me look first and we’ll get on response.” So, it’s kind of embarrassing. Anyway, if you would like to learn more about Coach Sheri’s coaching services, take advantage of her free love languages course, join her Mom Wise Club support group. You can visit teenwiseseattle.com. We’ll put her social media handle, @TeenWiseSeattle and links to all of this in our show notes.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, thank you so much for listening today. If you liked our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. If you would rather watch us so you can see us do the heart shapes, we are on YouTube and you can follow us on social media, @TheBrainyMoms. So look, until next time. We know that you’re busy moms and we’re busy moms, so we’re out.

Teri: See ya!

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