It's easy for moms to get caught up in daily chores and never get around to talking about important issues with their daughters. Even if you do find the time, sitting down for ‘a talk’ probably isn't high on your daughter's list either. You both may find it awkward to bring up topics like dealing with kids who are mean at school, being a good friend and handling conflict between the two of you.
As your daughter grows, new issues sprout up, like resisting peer pressure, having a positive body image, eating disorders and dating. While these are important issues, your daughter may be reluctant to bring them up because she's too embarrassed or too afraid to reveal what she and her friends are doing, even if she has concerns. You may also be worried about sharing more of your own past than you'd like to, if she asks you questions.
Yet there's good reason to break through the barriers. Talking with you can help your daughter learn about your own values while forming her own. It can also give her crucial information that may keep her safe and help her make informed decisions when her peers engage in risky behavior.
This is where books can really help. When you read the same titles your daughter is reading, it gives you an entrée to talk about themes that appear in the pages - without the pressure of discussing either of your own personal details.
For instance, when the girls in my daughter's mother-daughter book club read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, we were able to talk about date rape and how alcohol plays a role in it. We brainstormed ways the main character could have acted to keep herself safe while at a party. This was a non-confrontational way to discuss situations the girls may face as they entered high school and started socializing with friends more and parents less.
You also benefit when you listen to concerns you daughter and her friends have. Discussing actions by a character in a book may bring up topics you never even knew she worried about. It could be just the non-threatening way to gain insight into your daughter's world you're looking for.
Here are a few books I recommend to get the conversation started.
For girls aged nine to 12
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen. Every story has two sides. Here we get to see the same events from two perspectives. Juliana loves Bryce from the minute she meets him in Second Grade, but Bryce thinks she's a nuisance until the tables turn a few years later.
The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick. This story of four moms and their daughters in a reading group explores how moms and daughters don't always understand each other, and how talking about books can help.
The Curse of Addy McMahon by Katie Davis. Addy misses her father who has died, can't accept her mother's new fiancé and gets into trouble with her best friend when she accidentally emails her private thoughts to everyone in school.
This Is Me From Now On by Barbara Dee. Evie learns a lot about herself and what it means to be a friend when she is assigned to complete a school project with the free-spirited girl across the street.
For girls aged 13 and older
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley. Terra gains confidence in her own abilities while questioning her ideas of beauty.
Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee. Rosie's weight has ballooned, and kids in school tease her often. When she diets to lose weight, she's not sure if her new friends like her for who she is or how she's beginning to look.
Dear Big V by Ellen W. Leroe. Courtney's life is going well until a new girl at school tries to take over a club she started, her mother won't let her date and won't say why and she finds herself attracted to a boy who has a reputation as a ‘player.’
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Stargirl is a free spirit who goes from being an outcast to wildly popular to an outcast again. Leo likes her, but can he be her friend without becoming an outcast himself?
Cindy is the author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs (Seal Press, October 2009). She is the founder of two long-running mother-daughter book clubs. Visit her online at www.motherdaughterbookclub.com.
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