Rites of Passage for Your Daughter
The conversation with the group of young women that day had been one of excitement and laughter as they planned the upcoming special Night of Celebration. Each girl’s family would join in a special rite-of-passage ceremony that would culminate with each princess’s father reading a personalized blessing over his daughter. However, after the meeting, one princess was not as excited as the rest of the girls, so I [Doreen] initiated a conversation with her.
Darla shrugged her shoulders with frustration as I asked if she would please reconsider asking her father to impart her blessing at the ceremony before she asked her youth pastor. With exasperation she began to blurt out her reasons for not wanting to give her father this privilege: “He spends all his time on that dumb computer! I can tell my parents are not happy. I feel like they might be talking about divorce. I wish he’d spend time with me. I know he used to be a Christian because he used to go to church. I hate being at home. I look for something to do every day just to be away from there.”
It was evident that the power of her parents’ words — talk of divorce, as well as a lack of loving words — had begun to kill hope in Darla’s heart.
My heart grieved for her, knowing also that at just 13 years of age she was already dealing with depression. However, I spoke quickly, reminding her that this might be an opportunity to hear her father publicly say things she never thought he knew or noticed about her. I told her that this would be a day she would remember for the rest of her life and, if possible, it would be best remembered with her father.
Lastly, I asked her if she would allow him this opportunity. She begrudgingly agreed and said she’d let me know of his decision within the next few days. The following day, she called.
“Mrs. Hanna, this is Darla.” (Long pause.) “Well, he said yes.”
Her tone of voice reflected an irritated disappointment that he had agreed to participate. However, she changed the subject and with excitement told me of the dress a girlfriend was going to let her borrow and how she was looking forward to celebrating with some of her friends.
After we hung up, I called and spoke with Darla’s dad, Rick. I explained what he needed to do to prepare to impart her blessing. I sensed sincerity in Rick’s voice and felt assured that God was at work.
The night of the ceremony I happened to be standing at the front of the church when Darla and Rick arrived early. As she stepped out of the car, she looked radiant in her beautiful navy blue formal. She ran to find the other girls who were applying their last touches of mascara, lip gloss or blush. All of them were complimenting and helping each other. In the meantime, Rick had searched and found a parking place, then rushed in asking where he was to sit. I saw that he had a yellow pad of paper in hand. The moment he sat down, it was evident he was still jotting down notes in preparation for Darla’s blessing.
The evening moved along smoothly and I soon found myself introducing Darla and Rick. They stepped forward, taking their respective places at the podium. Then Darla folded her arms across her midriff and looked over the heads of the audience. It was so obvious that she was still not happy to be sharing her special moment with her father.
Rick began speaking his blessing with a tone in his voice that reflected tenderness. As Rick’s endearing words poured out, Darla’s arms soon dropped to her side and she looked directly into her father’s eyes. His words were warm, loving and sincere, bringing life back into Darla’s heart. It was evident he truly loved Darla and recognized the importance of this opportunity with his daughter. Darla’s eyes filled with tears and a smile brightened her countenance. Rick, with great delight in his eyes, crowned her with her tiara. Then Darla hugged him warmly. You could hear the sniffles of joy in the audience!
As this celebration came to a close and we headed to the reception, I overheard someone affirming Rick, complimenting him for the powerful words he had spoken into Darla’s life.
The Fruit Continues
Within a couple of weeks after the celebration, I was more than delighted to see Darla’s parents in church together! Several more weeks passed and I saw Darla’s family of five all sitting together on a Sunday morning. I found Darla after church and asked her what had transpired, as I had never seen her dad in church prior to these two occasions.
She excitedly began to share how life had been changing in their home since her celebration. Her dad was no longer spending hours on the computer. She could tell that he and her mother were actually being nicer to each other. And she was thrilled that now her family was going to church together.
I called Darla a year later and asked her to speak at an event to raise money, allowing more girls to experience the joy of being a Modern-Day Princess regardless of their economic background. The evening of the fund-raiser arrived and soon she was sharing about her Night of Celebration. She stated that she had heard things from her dad that she never thought he had even noticed or cared about. With tears of joy she shared of her parents’ reconciliation. Home was a place where she used to find any excuse to leave. Within months after the ceremony, she was happy to come home and actually liked staying there — it had become a place of refuge (her exact words).
Her excitement shone as she shared that “Dad has taken me out for coffee several times just to talk — it’s a miracle. He has even said that he will support me when I go on a mission trip!” she exclaimed.
What a blessing for me to have seen God work so mightily because of a young girl’s act of obedience and a father’s choice to verbally bless his daughter. Rick’s willingness to accept God’s call to be the priest of his household and to publicly speak words of blessing upon Darla brought him to a place of reconciliation with Darla, his wife, his two other daughters and — of greater importance — Jesus Christ.
As we have just seen how the power of Rick’s words changed his daughter’s heart, remember that the power of your words as a mother, daughter, mentor, father, friend or whatever your position in life, is influencing the lives of others. And while not every situation will mirror Darla’s, we can count on God’s words to be a “power of life” (Proverbs 18:21); and with our words we will affect the lives of those around us as we speak blessings, not curses, into their lives.
You may be thinking that you’ve already blown it with your daughter. You’ve said things you regret. Let me encourage you: Today is a new day. Start fresh and commit to speaking words of truth and blessing into your daughter’s life. Your daughter may be hesitant to receive your words at first, but with consistency and perseverance, you can show her that she can trust you to be careful with your words. And by this, you become a model for your daughter to speak righteously to others.
Words Are Powerful
Celebrate personal moments in a powerful way that can breathe life into a young person’s heart and future!
It is important to take a few moments to see the history of the power of the spoken word, and how it all got started. Let’s go back to the beginning in Genesis 1.
God said on the first day, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). (There it is — the first spoken word!)
God said on the third day, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear” (Genesis 1:9).
Then on the sixth day God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness …” (Genesis 1:26).
Take note! The first thing God did with Adam and Eve was to speak a blessing upon them: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’ ” (Genesis 1:28).
What an amazing time it must have been for Adam and Eve to enjoy God’s presence in the perfect world of the Garden of Eden. They were completely free from fear and they could talk face-to-face with God. Not one bad word was spoken until …
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ ” (Genesis 3:1, emphasis added).
Satan, by his words, twisted God’s instructions and created doubt in the mind of Eve. He tempted both Adam and Eve to sin. However, even though they were ushered out of God’s perfect environment, God didn’t stop communicating with mankind. You might remember a few examples:
- He spoke to Noah regarding building the ark in Genesis 6.
- He spoke to and through Moses to establish the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.
- He spoke through the prophets of the Old Testament and John the Baptist in the New Testament.
- Most importantly, God sent Jesus to fulfill His Word: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, words were a powerful part of His effect on the world. Yes, we can quickly recall His amazing miracles and His death and resurrection, but what He said during those times has powerfully influenced the lives of millions of people for more than two thousand years! A few examples of this can be found in the following Bible verses:
- Jesus said to His disciples, “Let the little children come to me! Never send them away! For the Kingdom of God belongs to men who have hearts as trusting as these little children’s” (Luke 18:16, TLB).
- When He was on the cross He said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
- Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Luke 21:33).
- In His ascension, “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:51).
I would love to know what words of blessing Jesus spoke over His disciples that day of ascension. Scripture says they returned with great joy to Jerusalem, so I can just imagine what He must have said!
God’s written Word reminds us how much God wants to bless us, as well as how we are called to bless others: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Blessings Lead to Celebration
Webster’s Online Thesaurus lists these related terms to “keep” or to “celebrate”: honor, praise, bless, revere or consecrate. (Can you believe it? Blessing and celebration are synonymous!)1) As I [Doreen] was researching the word celebration in the Bible, I recognized that all celebration started with and comes from the heart of God. It is evident that our Heavenly Father loves to celebrate and bless His children.
As mentioned earlier, when God created Adam and Eve, He blessed them. He celebrated what He had made and wanted many more people to bless, as His blessing was “to be fruitful and multiply.” This brings to mind how people experience the joy of newborn babies. We celebrate what has been made in our image, and from that point on, we begin to bless them!
When God brought His people out of Egypt, the first thing He called them to do was to celebrate. And in Exodus 23:14–16, God commanded that His people should keep three celebrations in His honor:
- The first is the Feast of Unleavened Bread — today this is called the Passover. The Passover is still celebrated yearly as a reminder in the Jewish community of their rite of passage. God took them from slavery in Egypt, through the parted waters of the Red Sea and into the Desert of Shur (freedom).
- The second is the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits at the beginning of the harvest.
- The third is the Feast of Ingathering, celebrating the bounty gathered at the end of the harvest.
God’s heart of celebration is a reminder that we truly must be created In His image, because we, like God, love to party! Isn’t it interesting how, between the U.S. government and Hallmark Corporation, they have created many days for us to celebrate?
January: New Year’s Day (It is truly a rite of passage celebrating the step from the old year into the new one.) and Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February: Presidents Day and Valentine’s Day
March: St. Patrick’s Day
April: Easter (This is another passage — from death to life!)
May: Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and the National Day of Prayer
June: Father’s Day
July: Fourth of July (Another passage — from bondage to freedom!)
September: Labor Day
October: Halloween (or Harvest Parties) and Boss’s Day
November: Veterans Day and Thanksgiving
With a quick search on the Internet, one can find more than three million opportunities to celebrate something. Doesn’t it seem much more logical to celebrate personal moments in a powerful way that can breathe life into a young person’s heart and future? As you grew up, did your cheerleaders in life (family, friends, teachers and coaches) remember your significant moments with celebration?
A new year, a graduation, a birthday or an anniversary — all such events mark a rite of passage.
Think back in your own life. What word of encouragement or affirmation spoke life and hope into your heart? Was it a comment from your mother? A high-five or “Way to go!” from your dad? A hug and kind whisper from your grandmother or grandfather? Perhaps a teacher or a coach complimented your character or talent? Maybe it was a pastor or youth worker who took the time to give words of encouragement?
Take a moment to jot down 10 nice things that you remember an adult saying to you when you were between the ages of 10 and 21.
If you could list 10, you are fortunate, and you will likely want to repeat the gift of words in the life of a young woman (or women) in your world. If you cannot list 10, you may even more strongly sense the need to be an encouraging adult in the life of a young woman. You can offer words of affirmation and set up opportunities for others to give her powerful, life-giving words of encouragement, too.
In addition, for many young women, the first prom serves as a pseudo-rite of passage, and we relegate this vital duty to a 14- to 18-year-old boy who may or may not have the best interest of the “princess” in mind. How much more valuable it is to celebrate a young woman’s life through a rite-of-passage experience and celebration ceremony in the company of adults, leaders and friends speaking truth and encouragement to her.
We believe it is in the nature of every culture to celebrate significant moments in life. A ceremony defines a moment and helps a young woman embrace her family, church and friends who will come alongside her as she ventures into her future. A ceremony also solidifies her decisions and requires accountability — both are key in holding her to her commitment to live as a daughter of the King.
Ideas for Creating Traditions
Here are a few ideas real moms and dads have created to set an atmosphere where words of affirmation and moments of celebration can be shared.
A teenage girl will see a rite-of-passage celebration and a blessing as a natural and normal activity if you can weave encouragement into her life on a regular basis. Look for times, places and opportunities to share encouraging, affirming and inspiring words with your daughter. Following are a few ideas real moms and dads have created to set an atmosphere where words of affirmation and moments of celebration can be shared. See which of these traditions might work for your family!
On a Nightly Basis: Our [the Farrel] family prays at every meal, and every night before bed we pray with each child and bless and affirm his character and choices. Then each child prays to thank God for the day. Lane Jordan, author of 12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Mom, added her twist to this ritual and writes:
The one thing I did that created a tradition was to carve out time each evening and read to my daughters. With the age difference of the girls, I had to do this reading two times. So I remember having to make a crucial decision between that and television. I am so thankful God gave me the desire to do the reading! The result of this special time together gave us the time to talk, to bond and to give them the head knowledge and heart longing for God’s Word as well as for great literature.
The girls “let” me read to them until they were 15 years old! With their heads on my shoulder or in my lap, I was able to have the physical contact that I believe so many mothers yearn for from their children. I also believe that this time helped them to stay on the right path from so many of the destructive choices that are in our world today.1
[Note from authors: This kind of tradition sets up a daily time of natural, open sharing and affirmation between a parent and teen daughter — even after the “reading” time might come to an end.]
On the First Date: Ron and Gina work with youth through Teen Impact ministry. (Ron mentored two of the Farrel boys in high school.) Gina shares this idea: “When Petra and Paige (our daughters) went on their first dates, Ron gave them each a ‘Celebration’ present. He gave them each a cross necklace and told them how much he respected them for honoring their contracts and going on their first dates with growing Christian men.”
On a Pivotal Birthday: Television personality Christie Rayburn, cohost of Marriage Uncensored with Dave and Christie, created a rite of passage of the “feminine kind” for her daughter Taylor on the day she turned 13. The centerpiece of the table at that celebration was 12 white candles and one pink one.
Colossians 3 was selected as Taylor’s life Scripture passage, and that set of verses was framed and was part of the centerpiece. Christie had invited key women in Taylor’s life to the celebration, and beforehand, she had given each woman a character trait to focus on. That trait was to be the focus of some words of wisdom prepared to share with Taylor.
At the celebration birthday party, first, Christie shared the privilege of being Taylor’s mom, and all the roles she had played in Taylor’s life (teacher, disciplinarian, spiritual advisor, etc.). Christie then invited each woman to share the trait and any words of wisdom she had for Taylor. Each woman spoke truth into Taylor’s life and committed to continue to be a positive influence, mentor and role model for Taylor.
The celebration continued as Christie would introduce the next trait of a godly woman, and one by one, the invited guests were encouraged to speak into Taylor’s life. Christie then explained to Taylor that as she transitioned into her 13th year, she would be taking on the responsibility for growing and developing her own life, and that Christie’s role was now shifting.
Christie concluded the ceremony as she blew out the 12 white candles and Taylor was asked to light the one pink candle, signifying she accepted the responsibility of womanhood. Then this gathering of women prayed and enjoyed each other’s company and desserts together. Christie plans to invite these same women back to celebrate Taylor as she crosses into adulthood at 18 as well.2
Annetta E. Dellinger, an author known as a “Joyologist,” creates memories for her family with a dash of laughter and a splash of encouragement. “On our daughter’s 13th birthday, she got 13 of her favorite foods to eat. She received a box with 13 little gifts (lotions, brushes, candy, etc., and one special item she requested) to open one each day for 13 days.”
[Authors’ note: You can add 13 cards of encouragement, 13 words that describe her or other affirmations to bless your daughter.]
More Ideas for Traditions
See which of these traditions might work for your family!
Pre-Graduation: Annetta describes what became a new family tradition: “On the Christmas before spring graduation, I went back through all her school pictures and made photocopies of different ones, which were then used as name tags on everyone’s gifts. Each person passed their gift around before opening and made silly and serious comments about their memories of the picture. What a fun night of memories! I also secretly learned her favorite foods and served them for our family Christmas dinner. From that date on the rest of the kids wanted the same treatment!”1
Annetta knows the secret of opening a heart — joy. A little laughter can set a loving atmosphere that prepares a heart to receive the more serious words when given. Laughter, because it releases endorphins, helps energize and embed a shared moment into the memory.
On Her Spiritual Birthday: Pastor’s wife Cindy McMenamin shares a tradition her family did for her daughter, Dana, on the yearly anniversary of when she began a relationship with Christ. Cindy explains:
Early on in Dana’s younger years we established a tradition of recognizing her ‘re-birthday’ — the anniversary of the day she first gave her life to Christ. So on her first re-birthday at age eight, I gave her a “blessing” bracelet (what most people call a charm bracelet) and each year would add another “charm” to represent a blessing that she has in Christ.
Eventually, she got the charms at certain occasions that I wanted her to remember, with a heart of gratitude to God for making that occasion possible. For instance, at her first piano recital, she got a little silver piano charm to place on her blessing bracelet, to remind her of the musical ability God blessed her with.
After spending a weekend with her in Palm Springs, she got a little palm tree charm for the bracelet, as a reminder to thank God that we were able to have that weekend. When she turned 12, the “blessing” on her bracelet was a little cheetah purse that symbolized the “riches” she has in Christ. The bracelet, now full of blessings, is a keepsake that she often shows others as she recounts what God has blessed her with.2
To Share a Vision of Purity: Gina Rackley’s girls received purity rings on their 13th birthdays after completing the Relationship Contract created by Pam and Bill Farrel. Gina shares, “Petra lost her ring during her junior year in high school at a track meet. She had put it into her pocket right before her hurdle race and when she took her sweats off, she lost it. She was devastated and crying because she knew that we would never find that little ring in that huge football field. So, we stopped and prayed and trusted that it would show up. We walked up and down the field with her friends looking but found nothing.
“At the very end of the meet, a mom from the other team came up to Ron (who was coaching at the time), not knowing that Ron was Petra’s dad or that she had lost her ring, and told him that she had found this ring. Petra saw the faithfulness of the Lord and how He answers prayer.”
Beginning the summer when a daughter is 13, each Rackley daughter also reads Preparing for Adolescence by Dr. James Dobson, with her parents; then each summer after, the daughter is assigned an additional relationship or character-building book.
Dana’s parents gave her a purity ring at age 16 with a little more panache. Since Dana is active in music and dance, her Sweet 16 was a “Hollywood” night complete with a “movie” (PowerPoint of still pictures and video) of Dana’s life set to a favorite Christian song and a live band from her Christian school that played favorite tunes. Dana was released to date by her dad after receiving her purity ring.
To Give Back: Author Nancy Sebastian Meyer writes, “For our daughter’s high school graduation party, we are in the midst of planning a special dinner to honor the people who have been instrumental in teaching and mentoring Becky throughout her life. In this way, she is celebrating theiraccomplishments and thanking them for the gifts they have already given her by giving them appreciation. This, we feel, is a good way to transition her from being in the spotlight to giving back to those who built into her life.”3
On a Tough Day: Nancy also knew the beginning of menses is a hard day for most girls so she planned to do something special with her daughter whenever that day appeared: “I wanted to make it a positive celebration rather than allow it to be something to fear getting — or not getting — as soon as all the other girls. So I promised Becky that regardless of the day, when her period came we would take off and share a ‘girl’s day out’ complete with ear piercing (for which she had begged a long time).
“On the special day, we skipped school to celebrate with the earrings, a makeover at the mall, lunch at a fun restaurant and a game of miniature golf — all to make her feel really good about being a woman with additional responsibilities.”4
With Dad: Rich Meyer (Nancy Sebastian Meyer’s husband) has a tradition of taking his daughter out for breakfast on the first day of school, then giving her a new charm for her charm bracelet, along with some words of encouragement to launch her year.
To Remember: When my sons and nieces and nephews were small, we [the Farrel family] had more than one Christmas when money was tight. One year I felt God tell me, “Then write them a story.” So I created a children’s story where the punch line at the end was “and the angel is you!” Then each child was given an angel-shaped ornament (made of paper!) and the child was placed in the center of the extended family circle where everyone would say something nice about that child, and it was recorded on the ornament.
When the boys were all teens, we took one Christmas to reread what people said about them to remind them of all the good others saw in them. When fiancées and wives began to enter our family, we again pulled out the ornaments to read and rejoice to see how many words of blessing had actually come true through the Lord’s power in each of their lives.
If your own daughter is still very young, you might consider tweaking this Christmas tradition and each Christmas give her a “crown” or princess ornament (or any ornament that would hold special meaning for your daughter) and tie to it a new positive trait or area of growth you have seen in her life. By the year of her rite of passage, many tiaras will be sprinkled through your Christmas tree, and perhaps these can be wrapped and given to her the night of her rite-of-passage celebration, as she graduates high school, at her wedding shower or as a gift for her to begin her own tree and her own affirming celebrations as she forms a new family.
Other Rites of Passage
What is the next teachable moment or transition in your daughter’s life? How can you add affirmation and encouragement to that moment?
Dr. Catherine Hart Weber comes from a rich heritage. Her father is Dr. Archibald Hart, a best-selling author and frequent guest on Focus on the Family radio. Her mother, Kathleen Hart, is a professor and leader among clergy wives. Catherine is a woman with a priority and conviction of celebrating life’s meaningful moments. She shares here some of the traditions she and her daughters have created. As you scroll through these ideas, ask yourself, What is the next teachable moment or transition in my daughter’s life, and how can I add affirmation and encouragement to that moment? Let’s hear from Dr.Weber how and why celebrating is a good idea:
There were several moments worth marking in my girls’ lives as they developed. Some were thoughtfully planned out, and others were more spontaneous, as they happened.
Celebrating firsts and intentionally marking transitions are important landmarks in a girl’s development. They are like building altars of remembrance to reflect back on. Celebrating with rituals and traditions has significant impact on each stage of a girl’s development, especially when her mother and father and other close family and friends are positively involved. (Gathering family and friends at significant moments affirms the positive events and phases of a girl’s development, launching her into the next stage.)
Some of the more significant birthdays were 10, 13, 16, 18 and 21:
- 10 because you are now double digits.
- 13 because you are now a teenager.
- 16 because you can legally drive.
- 18 because you are now able to vote and have some adult privileges.
- 21 because you are usually considered an adult.
Besides birthdays, it is important to celebrate all firsts and special occasions in a girl’s life, such as going off to school, getting your period (becoming a woman), going to your first dance, the prom, graduations and any other accomplishment or special occasion in their eyes.
You only pass by once, and these are landmarks of memories and opportunities to impact positively as each experience passes by. Stop and notice. Savor the moments. Celebrate with her. Bake a cake. Gather family and friends for a party. Give a card. Write a special note. Give a meaningful gift. Take her out for a special occasion. Take photos and videos. Make photo albums. Let her get dressed up — and get nails, hair and makeup done. Talk with her about each landmark. Listen to how it made her feel and what it means to her.
I [Dr.Weber] have realized over the years just how important it is that we listen to the hearts of our daughters, and get our clues from them, to set the pace and find what is most meaningful for celebrating rituals and marking moments — at the time. Imposing our expectations or ideals on marking the moments for our daughters is not the most loving response.
Be sensitive to your daughter’s personality, her heart and what would be most meaningful to her. It doesn’t matter what would be ‘ideal,’ what others have done, what your other daughters have done, what you did or what has been done for generations. Marking the moment meaningfully will only be a true celebration to be remembered if it is meaningful to your daughter. As moms, we need to remember: It’s not about us. It’s about her. It’s about marking the moments and milestones in her life journey. Let’s take a closer look at some of those milestones.
Birthdays. On my eldest daughter’s 10th birthday, we rented the roller-skating rink, and invited all the friends and family we could think of.
For our daughters’ 16th, they each got to choose something significant as their way to celebrate. Their father gave them both a piece of Tiffany jewelry. One chose a promise ring and the other chose a promise bracelet instead. He had a special date with them, and marked the significant time in their life. We also made a big deal when they could drive on their own.
For the 18th, it’s off to the spa. That is when you can legally have a massage (in the state we live in), so it’s a chance to do something new. Their dad gave them another significant piece of jewelry from Tiffany’s.
Becoming a woman. The ‘becoming a woman’ transition usually comes as a surprise. Often neither mother nor daughter is prepared. For both my daughters, their official ‘womanhood’ came unannounced. When one of my daughters was in fifth grade, I got a frantic call from the school. During the day, she was bothered by stomach pains, and then had to excuse herself during class to go to the bathroom. When she returned, there was some whispering and tones of ‘drama’ with her friends.
When I arrived at the school, I got wind of the rumors that were spreading among the boys. One announced that she had started her ‘masturcation’ which was refuted by another more knowledgeable boy who stated she had started her ‘womanly thing’ which was ‘white stuff’ coming out of her. Needless to say, there were some confused little fifth graders, not at all prepared for this rite of passage. It is coming sooner for young girls these days, often before they even want to know about all these details.
The onset was a shock and somewhat traumatic for my daughter and me. This made it even more important to mark the transition. At first she was resistant to making a big deal about it. She felt shamed and needed time to process the jolt and all the implications. After a few days, it slowly settled in, and we talked more about it, and then began to celebrate the wonder of the beginning of ‘womanhood’ — ever so gently and appropriately for yet still a ‘child.’
There is no one right way to celebrate becoming a woman, especially when you are just a child. It is different for each girl. As a mom, I learned with my first daughter that you need to be sensitive to what is meaningful to the child, depending on her age and the circumstances. Let her set the pace and give the clues for what will best mark the moment.
I had thought about how I would mark ‘the moment,’ and had a pre-conceived plan in place. However, the sudden onset and the somewhat stressful circumstances threw my whole fantasy off. I had planned to go to tea with some family and friends. To share the moment and do something ‘ladies’ would do. Instead, I had to be sensitive to process my daughter’s unexpected embarrassment and the repercussions of the social and personal adjustment for her.
It’s common that young girls don’t want to talk about it or make a big deal about it. They need time to process the changes in their body; so, responding to what she seemed to need, I gave her some space and went slowly, starting with logistics. “Would you like to go to the drugstore and pick out some pads that you would like? Would you like to put together a special bag for your personal items that you can keep in your backpack?”
I only talked about what she was comfortable with and was sensitive to go at her pace. Over a few weeks and the next time round, she was a little more comfortable talking about it. I took my cues from her.
Graduations. For my eldest daughter’s eighth-grade graduation, we hosted a party for the entire class. We opened up our home, and cleared out the living room and converted it into a karaoke party room. We rented a deejay with disco lights and had lots of food. The kids broke off into small groups and worked up routines together to the karaoke songs. They had so much fun, and so did the adult chaperones.
For high-school graduation, we had a family party with cards and presents and gave the gift-of-a-lifetime gym membership and another piece of Tiffany jewelry.
Turning 21. This marks the close of the last stage of development and rite of passage for a ‘child,’ a more significant launching, dividing the line between teen and adult. This ritual is for the parents as much as for the child. Your baby is now officially an adult — whatever that entails.
I remember when I turned 21.My dad and I went out to lunch, and I asked if I could call him Arch — seeing as we were both now adults. Well, that lasted about as long as the lunch did.
But it was a ritual that seemed to capture many elements of the rite of passage.
A tradition from generations in South Africa, where I grew up, is to give a ’21 key’ signifying you now hold the ‘key’ to the rest of your adult life. It is also the time to begin a ‘hope chest,’ giving gifts that would contribute to establishing your own home and adult life.1
Creative Traditions Build Relationships
You can create unique and personalized moments where the gift of words can be given that will breathe life, hope, healing and love into your daughter’s future.
In my [Pam’s] book Got Teens?, written with Hearts at Home founder Jill Savage, we share a few more ideas for family traditions:
Terrific 12. You might be able to beat your daughter to the starting line of womanhood by making her 12th birthday packed with firsts. (For some early bloomers, you might need to move this up a year and do a “Double Digits” party at 11.) Buy her first razor to shave her legs, her first set of high heels or her first makeup set; take her to have her ears pierced or whatever next step you feel is age appropriate for your family.
Sweet 16. Try one of these ideas to mark this big moment (or adapt it to whenever you feel she is ready to date):
- On the Town: Host a formal dinner party where her closest friends (guys and gals) dress to the nines and eat the fanciest gourmet food you can afford. Play classical music, or hire a harpist or a string quartet.
- Dance the Night Away: Host a dance, one where couples learn some classics, like the waltz, swing, tango and two-step. You will have to spring for a band, dance instructor and food, but it will definitely be a memory.
- High Tea: Take her and a few of her closest friends (and maybe their moms or all the female relatives) to high tea. Bring along photos of her growing up years — and yours. Hand down a piece of jewelry that has been in the family for a couple of generations.
- Passport 2 Purity: As she enters her teen years, take her away for a special weekend with Mom. Using Family Life’s “Passport 2 Purity” resource, discuss her changing body and the new season of life she is entering. Take some time to go shopping and have some special girl time to mark this transition in her life. (Passport 2 Purity can also be used with your teen son.)1
If we give the gift of words wrapped in creative tradition, one day those words will boomerang back to bless us, as author Linda Newton discovered:
I have two beautiful daughters. They arrived bringing flights of fancy with fairy princesses, dollhouses and our personal favorite — tea parties. I bought my oldest daughter, Sarah, her first tea set on her third birthday. That same day we filled the tiny plastic teapot with sweet tea, made bologna sandwiches with the crust cut off and served banana chips with a dollop of peanut butter — Sarah’s favorite. Then we sipped tea and chatted about the clouds, the flower garden and our new puppy. Life couldn’t get any better.
When Sarah was five, she was joined by a baby sister. Ashley was barely old enough to hold a teacup when she was invited to join us. And the three of us drank our tea with delight even though Ashley’s table manners at the time left much to be desired.
As the years progressed so did the tea parties. Bologna sandwiches gave way to cream cheese and cucumber. Sweet tea was replaced by loose-leaf tea we found at various specialty shops. The conversations evolved as well. We now discussed hairstyles and friendships — important things in the life of teenagers.
The girls grew and Sarah married and moved out. About that time a teahouse opened in our little town. No more plastic dishes or paper plates for us; we had the real deal. At least once a month I’d pick Ashley up after high school and we’d head over for tea and scones in the early afternoon. Many times we were the only ones in the place.
Time stood still as Ashley and I talked about her future plans, kids in her class making heart-breaking choices, or whether Sarah’s husband was going to be okay while he was stationed in Iraq. Those were deep and precious moments to be treasured.
Ashley, too, grew up and headed off to college. One year during spring break, I was blessed to have both girls home at the same time, Sarah from graduate school and Ashley from her second year at the university. This was a rare moment for us so I headed off to the grocery store to purchase our Easter feast.
When I returned the girls motioned for me to follow them out to the deck. There was the patio table set with my fine china, complete with linen tablecloth and napkins. The table was laden with cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches and completed with banana chips frosted with peanut butter. The girls poured our Blue Lady tea and we laughed and talked until the sun set. I felt so honored that of all the places my beautiful girls could be on that spring break, they chose to be with me. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who valued those treasured moments over tea.2
It will take a little effort, a little time, a little energy, but you can create unique and personalized moments where the gift of words can be given that will breathe life, hope, healing and love into your daughter’s future. Words are the gift every person can afford to give — and the gift a young woman most needs to receive.
When you give whatever time you have available, and speak whatever words God brings to your mind, young women’s lives will be changed for eternity.
I [Pam] could hardly wait for seventh period! It was the last hour of the day in my junior-high schedule. Mrs. Clough was my favorite teacher. She would read from a novel for 15 minutes in each class, and those minutes seemed magical as they transported me to faraway countries, and lives that seemed far more exciting than the simple life of an Idaho farm girl.
But it was the classwork we did, diagramming sentences, that I looked forward to most. The majority of the class would groan as Mrs. Clough would instruct us to take out our grammar books, but I loved this moment. Mrs. Clough would ask for volunteers to come to the chalkboard and diagram a sentence, artfully drawing out the subject, verb, noun, prepositional phrases and so on. I loved the work, but what I loved more were Mrs. Clough’s words of encouragement, “Pam, you can do these so quickly. You really have a knack for this! I wonder if there is a writer in you.”
The days I loved most were the days when some students wanted to hide in the bathroom or fake a stomachache to get a pass to the nurse’s office. Those were the afternoons we’d write in class, and then stand in front of the class and read our work aloud. As other classmates ducked for cover, praying Mrs. Clough wouldn’t call on them, my hand would fly up to volunteer. Mrs. Clough could be counted on to give the words I longed to hear, “Pam, I believe there is a book or two in that heart of yours. Wouldn’t surprise me if I one day will check out a book that you have written from our very own library!”
They were simple words. I am sure she must have said similar things to hundreds of students over her lifetime of teaching at that same junior-high school, but those words spoke life into my heart. I always loved to read, but after Mrs. Clough got a hold on my heart, I read voraciously, checking out several books — more than 300 or 400 pages long — at a time. I had to convince the librarian I could indeed read that many books in a two-week period.
I look back and I wonder what my life would be like today if I had not had the blessing and God-ordained privilege of having Mrs. Clough as my first writing mentor. She didn’t spend hours and hours of extra time with me — though she’d read anything I wrote and brought to her. She didn’t fawn over my talent and press me into summer college classes or encourage my parents to send me to a writing camp. No, her influence was simple. She gave a sentence or two of truthful encouragement every day for nine months, and within that year, a writer was born.
So often, as adults, we feel we don’t have enough time or training to be a mentor. We might feel our words lack eloquence — but that is the wonder of mentoring. Simple phrases of truth, aptly spoken, are like the two fish and those few loaves that the disciples gathered from a little boy’s lunch that fed the five thousand. When we give our small, simple part, God adds Himself and a miracle happens, and people are fed. When you give whatever time you have available, and speak whatever words God brings to your mind, young women’s lives will be changed for eternity.
In that little library, in that rural community, there are books with that young woman’s name on the spine. To date, I have written 30 titles, but it all began with a little seed of kindness that was planted by Mrs. Clough.
Next Steps and Related Information
Additional resources to help you with the transition of your daughter into a woman
Popular questions on this topic:
- Our teen daughter suffers from poor body image. How do we address this with her?
- Should I buy my teen daughter a bra even if she doesn’t need one?
- How do I support my daughter who wasn’t asked to a school dance?
- Is it normal for a teen to distance herself from her parents? I miss being close to her.
- Should I be concerned about my daughter being a tomboy?
- Raising a Modern-Day Princess
- Five Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter (Paperback)
- Got Teens?: Time-Tested Answers for Moms with Teens and Tweens
- Reaching Teens in Their Natural Habitat
- “Mom, I Hate My Life!” (Paperback)
- The DNA of Parent-Teen Relationships
- Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date
- Rites of Passage for Your Son
- The Impact of Everyday Interactions
- Develop Emotional Intimacy With Your Kids
- The Legacy You Want to Give
- Defining ‘Successful Parenting’
- Blessing Your Kids