What Every Mom Needs to Know about Her Daughter’s Emotions
by Dannah Gresh
Here’s a fun question to start a conversation with your daughter: What’s the largest living organism in the world? Your first thought may be a blue whale—but that’s not the correct answer! It’s a tree in the Fishlake National Forest in Utah that’s so big it even has a name: Pando.
Pando, also known as the Trembling Giant, looks like a forest of trees. But genetic markers have been identified in each tree trunk, proving that they share one massive underground root system. The plant spreads across 106 acres and is thought to weigh 6,600 tons. (That’s about 33 blue whales!)
And here’s something about this tree that I find especially interesting: it has survived frequent forest fires because of its deep, wide-spreading roots. When fires rage through Pando, its root system is protected from the heat. The underground life source of the organism thrives and eventually sends new seedlings up into the fertile soil the fire leaves behind.
Roots are powerful things.
What kind of roots does your daughter have? Are they deep and wide-spreading like Pando?
I know many parents who wish they could go back in time for another chance to establish the spiritual roots of their children. By their high school or college years, the sweet toddlers who once wore footie jammies have become a statistic of brokenness, sinfulness, or worse. Some don’t have terrible manifestations of rejecting God, but they have settled into the subtle neutrality of a “good” but godless life. Their roots were not deep enough.
I don’t want this to be you. I’d like to help you with your daughter while she’s still young. There are no guarantees, except that you’ll know you have been intentional about planting Truth in her heart. I’ve been through this with my two daughters, Lexi and Autumn. They are now twenty-somethings settling into the thrill of real-life “adulting.” They aren’t perfect, and wouldn’t want me to tell you otherwise, but I’m happy to say we didn’t just survive their tween and teen years. We thrived in them.
Of course, a lot has changed since they were that age. And, I wanted to be in touch with your parenting reality. So, I traveled across the country to facilitate focus groups with mothers of tween girls. Here are some things moms told me they were concerned about.
These mothers were seeking safe, age-appropriate ways to discuss mature and sensitive topics with their daughters. They wanted to do so without introducing them to confusing lies. Admittedly, these are subjects you and I would find challenging to navigate as grown women. So, how do you talk about them with a ten-year-old? And should you?
The decisions of how and when to bring up conversations are further complicated by how incredibly emotional the tween years can be. The words mothers used to describe their daughters included insecure, embarrassed, confused, stressed out, angry, depressed, ashamed, and lonely. They kept asking me if the reactions their daughters were having to life were developmentally normal, or something to be concerned about. That’s a critical question with no simple answer. Each mother has to answer it for herself. But I’ve developed a tool to help you.
I coined the term sticky feelings to give you and your daughter something to identify unhealthy emotions. I’ve tested it out with high school and college-aged girls, and I think it’s something all of us can use to decide if our emotional reactions are healthy or if they are a warning sign that something is wrong.
It’s entirely possible that your daughter is struggling with a particular emotion because God needs her—with your help—to respond in Truth. Maybe she is stressed out because there is too much on her schedule, and you need to help her make room for rest. Perhaps she is depressed because she doesn’t feel safe talking about things that make her angry, and she needs to learn how to communicate her frustrations in a mature way. God created our emotions to send us messages, and we’re supposed to respond to those signals. When we do, the feeling often departs because it has done its work.
But sometimes, emotions stick to a girl. They show up for no apparent reason and/or they never leave! That’s when you might have a problem.
Here’s what every mother needs to know about her daughter’s emotions: chronic, recurrent, sticky feelings could be evidence that lies are growing in the roots of your daughter’s belief system. She could be in spiritual bondage. The term spiritual bondage, which Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth used in Lies Woman Believe to describe what Christian adult women experience, also explains the crisis tween girls are facing. Seventy-two percent of the moms who attended my focus groups said they believe their daughter’s emotions are a manifestation of a much deeper, darker battle. One mother put it this way: “Satan does not discriminate based on age.” I agree.
There are going to be tough battles in your daughter’s life as Satan seeks to lie to her, and God wants her to know and believe Truth. I want to help you and your daughter win the war, so you can experience the abundant life that Jesus came to give both of you. You cannot choose whether your daughter will embrace God’s Word, but you can plant seeds in her so she is rooted in Truth. The writers of the Old Testament understood the importance of being well rooted. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Psalmists all wrote about it. The Apostle Paul leaned on their words when he wrote:
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6–7 ESV)
My goal in Lies Girls Believe is to help you plant seeds and nurture deep, widespread roots of Truth in your daughter. What do you say, friend? Let’s get planting.
Adapted from A Mom’s Guide to Lies Girls Believe by Dannah Gresh (©February 2019). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
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