How to Cultivate What Matters with Your Pre-Teens and Teens
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The biggest driver for Team Cultivate in creating the new Girls Goal Planner? You asked us for it! Over and over, we hear, "I wish I had learned these things when I was younger—it would have saved me so much wasted time!" You motivated us to adapt the foundational teachings of Cultivate and the PowerSheets® for a younger audience, and we're so thrilled to have done that in our newest signature product, coming next month.
In the meantime, we wanted to share ten ways you can start cultivating what matters with your pre-teens and teens right now, right where you are. Many were drawn from our own team's memories of growing up and from our community's wisdom, and we'd love to hear your ideas, too!
1. Help her to take notice of her life, especially all that she has to be grateful for. What we give our attention to, we amplify—whether negative or positive. Give her a notebook to use as a gratitude journal, or go around the dinner table sharing the simple things you noticed and were grateful for from the day. Psst—your planner has a spot for this on each weekly spread!
2. Build her identity as a unique and wonderful person. Notice and highlight her gifts and what makes her special - her way with words, her patience, her care for her friends, her wry humor. The dinner table is also a perfect opportunity to cheer her on—no accomplishment is too small to notice and celebrate! Especially in the teenage years, when self-confidence is likely to wane, keep family meals as a reliable space for celebration.
3. Build her identity as a needed and valued member of your family. Remind her that she completes your home in a way no one else can, and that her contributions are important. As experts have shared, family connection is critical to combat depression and hopelessness. When kids know their parents are counting on them as a critical part of what makes the family work, it increases their sense of purpose and belonging. Spend time teaching her life skills like writing a thank-you note, cleaning a bathroom, or putting gas in the car—she'll build on these small wins as she tackles bigger goals and projects!
4. Incorporate traditions and milestone markers. If our kids know that there are established age- or skill-based privileges to look forward to, they'll be motivated to learn, grow, and try new things. Whether the milestone is an overnight hike with Dad, a special birthday getaway with Mom at 16, or certain freedoms on the annual family vacation, help her identify the small steps that will lead up to these bigger moments—and reassure her that set-backs along the way are inevitable. She'll learn to love the idea of progress, not perfection! :)
5. Show her it's okay to relax. If you want her to believe there's more to life than hurry, overwhelm, and hustle, let her see you valuing contentment over achievements. Could you include her in your favorite hobby or a project you're working on? She might not fall in love with it in the same way you have, but she'll be inspired by your passion to find her own.
6. Encourage her interests and help her find an outlet for them. In the PowerSheets, we talk about how our passions are the things that make us come alive, the things that are worth working hard and sacrificing for. Help her explore what those might be in her life, and then help connect her to opportunities to express them. The pleasure of working hard for something that matters is infectious!
7. Embrace your role as guide. While it may be true that "more is caught than taught," there is still a place for purposefully introducing values you'd like her to adopt—things like loyalty, courage, respect, honesty, self-discipline, friendliness, and dependability. Opening a dialogue about individual values, letting your daughter know they are worthy of striving for and brainstorming together what they might look like in her life, is helpful scaffolding as she grows and establishes her own value system.
8. Find a way to keep the lines of communication open. Of course, in order to be a trusted teacher, she needs to be willing to listen to you, and talk with you. Any activity that positions you side by side, like driving or walking the dog, tends to take down walls and gives opportunities for casual, heartfelt conversation.
9. Help her learn to think big picture. As a teenager, the crisis of the day can be all-consuming. Help her to take a step back and ask, "will it matter in five years?" In the PowerSheets, we use the question "where do you want to be when you're 80?" to help guide our decisions today, and you can do the same with your teen.
A shorter, five-year horizon will help her weigh the pros and cons of all the decisions facing her each day. Will this decision help get her closer to or farther away from where she wants to be in five years? By prompting this question, you'll help her see that her small steps are moving her in one direction or another, and that she has agency in her life.
10. Be kind, even if she doesn't seem to notice or care. In the end, the things this community wants to grow almost always come back to relationships. We want to be better for the people around us, and that starts with extending simple kindnesses, rubbing her back, being present and listening, buying the donuts, making the pancakes, being generous with her friends—really, saying "I love you" repeatedly, in word and deed, through every available channel.
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Friends, we'd love to hear: how have you "cultivated what matters" with your teen or pre-teen? What suggestions do you have for this community? Leave your ideas in the comments!