It can be hard for a teenage girl to chat to her mum – or anyone – about a sensitive issue. A mother-daughter private code may help her talk when she’s feeling awkward or unhappy.
Think of a time when you kept a secret from your parents. What was it? Why didn’t you tell them? You were probably scared they would disapprove in some way. But how would you feel if your teen daughter kept similar secrets from you? Disappointed? Angry? Worried? Wouldn't it be best to encourage more openness to start with?
Listen without judgement
"Parents don't realise that the white lie or avoidance of the truth is more about your child wanting to stay connected to you," says clinical psychologist Dr Tara Cousineau. "The trick is to create an environment where you are not judgmental and can hold your child's perspective in view.
"Often this is simply by being open and honest in your own life – with your spouse and friends. Your daughter is a keen observer, and she’ll feel more confident to raise tricky subjects with you when she sees you act with integrity. She has to know that you'll listen and help her without judging or jumping to conclusions."
Girls sometimes find themselves in situations that they didn't choose to be in, or that have turned uncomfortable. They don't intend to lie, but are caught between protecting their friends and social status, and protecting you from knowing about it.
Using a codeword for dealing with problems
Dr Cousineau suggests creating a codeword that your daughter can use to alert you to common teenage problems or when she wants to talk about a sensitive issue. Situations when codewords come in handy include:
- Doing badly at school
- Attending a party where there are drugs or alcohol
- Being touched inappropriately
- Developing problematic eating habits
- Being teased or harassed
- Relationship advice
- Having feelings hurt by a family member or friend
If you come up with a shared private codeword or phrase, it could strengthen your mother daughter relationship by preventing misunderstandings and allowing you to help her when she needs it most. She may want to use it when she’s away from you, perhaps needing you to come and help her. Reassure her that she can call or text you and use your codeword whenever necessary.