I have been meaning to write this article for quite some time, but I'm just not that good at making myself vulnerable. As a clinical psychologist, my strength lies in making others vulnerable. You see, those who have struggled themselves often become extremely sensitive to the needs of others. In my practice, I have given support to families who have lost crucial and beloved family members. And, losing a parent as a teen is particularly difficult because this is the time that teens are forming their identities and teen girls' most important role models are their mothers.
I was one of those motherless teens and let me tell you, losing my mother was one of the most gut-wrenching experiences of my life. Not a day passes that I don't think about my mother and what she would think of me. I ask myself whether or not she would approve of me, admire me and/or be proud of me. Sadly, I will never know. I do my best to live by the ethics that she taught me during our short time together. My goal today is not only to share my experience, but also to offer mothers some ideas about how to help motherless teen daughters. The motherless daughter may be your neighbor, your relative or perhaps the best friend of your own daughter. These girls have lots of needs, a major gap in their life and a void that cannot be filled by therapy alone. They yearn for the support and caring of other mother figures and you may be in an extraordinary position to be one of those figures.
Let me tell you what these girls need:
1. They need someone to get excited about their achievements and to celebrate their joys. I remember feeling so sad when a friend's mother would praise her and I too longed to be acknowledged and praised in that same way. So maybe the next time one of these lonely girls is proud of something, you can tell her that you too are excited for her. I promise you that she will be extremely grateful and you will warm her teenage heart.
2. These girls aren't always sure where to get their "mom questions" answered. They may not be sure how a teenage girl is supposed to handle a situation. Perhaps they are working with a sexist employer, have an abusive boyfriend or are not sure what to wear to an occasion. Perhaps you can provide some guidance. The help that you offer this young woman will be appreciated especially if offered in a supportive and kind manner.
3. If possible, try to remember this girl on special occasions like her birthday, graduations and holidays. I can tell you from my own experience that these days are the hardest for members of the motherless daughter club -- a club that no teen girl should have to join. Motherless daughters are surprised when they are not forgotten.
Motherless teens who feel unappreciated and unacknowledged often go on to live lives with a tremendous hunger for recognition or what we refer to in the psychological literature as "applause hunger." Perhaps if you "applaud" them during their teen years, their journey through life will be easier and more seamless.
Thank you for listening...