Over the summer I had the pleasure of having four teenaged girls in my home. My daughter, two step-daughters and niece. We had some very insightful “girl talks” which I discovered what every parents dreads; yes our kids know way more than we hope they do. Despite this revelation I wanted to create a safe space for them to feel free to express themselves and ask questions they have been wondering about regarding of course: boys, their bodies, their futures, schools, and parents. As much as I cringed at the various topics and questions I tried to be open and honest and help them see the potential impact of every decision they will make from this point on; and reassure them that they have all the options and opportunities in the world available to them — it’s up to them to grab them.
Our conversations were deeper than growth and opportunity. They were real life circumstances heightening their curiosity by the expose of a hypersexualized, over dramatic, unfiltered society. The access to cell phones, internet, social media, and apps parents never heard of are exposing our kids to more, rapidly without our permission or knowledge. With that being considered, I felt the most important message I want to stick with them is to consult an adult they trust when they have questions. It would be great if they can speak to their parent(s), but let’s face it how many of us parents are ready to talk about sex, love, and virginity with our teenaged daughters? I warned the girls how important it is NOT to listen to their friends. For questions that may hugely impact their lives they need the guidance of someone mature, experienced, and can steer them in the right direction.
The conversations left me feeling I need to develop a safety net for my daughter. All teens, especially girls need one. I started thinking about the idea of “designated adults”. We are all familiar with the concept of a designated driver. If we plan to have a night out of heavy drinking we designate someone as the responsible driver who will not drink, and makes sure everyone is driven home safe. The concept of designated adult is that same cautionary measure for our adolescents that we parents put in place with trusted adults whom we give permission to be the consultant, listening ear, and counselor when our girls have questions or situations to figure out.
Immediately after thinking this through I called my younger sister. She is 25 compared to me being 31 is like I have aged exponentially in dog years when my daughter considers who may be more open and understanding. I told my sister she is my daughters official designated adult. It is her responsibility to check in with her every week to see how the teenaged/middle school life is going. I then told my daughter the same thing-Aunt K is your designated adult. If there is anything you need to talk about, or any questions you have that you do not feel comfortable to talk to your dad or I about please call Aunt K. Of course, my sister has been sworn to secrecy by my daughter, and took an oath of full disclosure with me — but I trust she will know when to make the appropriate call in that regard.
I close by saying we need openness within our homes, and willingness in our communities to be there for our teenagers. Our youth need us. They do not need our speeches and chastising they need our love and attention. The idea of a designated adult is to create a safe space for the young, inquisitive, growing pains of adolescence to verbalize their thoughts and seek answers from knowledgeable adults who love and care about them. This network or even one individual will guide our babies so their futures remain bright. We do not want to put the dim on their spark through fear and extreme discipline. It’s all about trust. I trust that we will be there to help lead our children onto the right path. We are the village, lets stand up and act like it.