As adults we look back at our teen years, sometimes with affectionate nostalgia and other times with horror, depending on the experiences that we had. Our teen years are more than just a memory; this is the time when our adult persona starts developing. Our experiences as teens can have long-term effects on our life and our relationships as adults. In some cases, to have a better understanding about the people that we have become and our choices in life, we need to go down memory lane and reflect back on our life as teens. In this interview, teen life coach Sheri Gazitt talks about how relationship patterns that teen girls experience, affect their relationship choices as adults, and how mothers could help guide their daughters to have healthier and more satisfying relationships.
Sheri Gazitt is a parent and teen educator who delves into difficult topics that parents and teens face every day, such as: beauty, perfection, decision-making, stress, and bullying. She has been a guest on Q13, Chat with Women, Disney Radio, and The News Chick, and has been quoted in Parent Map and school publications. Among those she has advised are delegates from the World Council, Seattle University, Boys and Girls Clubs, Seattle Storm, Girl Scouts, and numerous PTAs. Prior to establishing her own company, she worked as the GoGirlGo! Director for the Women’s Sports Foundation. Her early career was spent in the research field within Neurology and Neuropsychology departments. The combination of her professional experiences and her personal life gives her a unique perspective on the teen world. She has three daughters of her own spanning high school and college. All of them act as consultants and give their stamp of approval on content.
How do relationship-patterns women experience as teens affect their future relationships?
Many of our patterns develop during our teen years. This is because it is the time when teens are figuring out who they are and how they relate to the world. If girls experience unhealthy relationships during their teen years, whether it’s with a friend, boyfriend, or parent, that can be reflected in their romantic relationships later in life. For girls who experience unhealthy or abusive friendships as a teen, this opens the door for future abusive relationships.
What recommendations would you offer teenage girls to help them have more healthy and satisfying relationships?
For teen girls who are dating, it’s important that their dating life is balanced with their friendship life. They need to continue to hang out with friends and have fun without their boyfriend/girlfriend. Also, they need to make sure that they aren’t looking to their romantic partner to make them feel better about themselves or to fill a hole in their lives. Happiness comes from our own inner voices not from those around us. And keep in mind that dating should be fun and exciting when you are a teenager.
Also, teen girls need to realize that when they have sex with someone, it increases their emotional connection. This is primarily true for girls not boys. Women have a different chemical reaction to sex than men. So sex should come after a friendship and an emotional bond is formed, not before.
Let’s talk about a girl’s relationship with herself. What are the most common issues teen girls are bothered with today, and what advice do you have for them?
Teen girls are very hard on themselves much like moms these days. They want to do it all and be the best at everything. Many girls are striving not for betterment or excellence but for perfection. And expecting perfection can really hold you back and cause so much anxiety and stress.
I tell both teen girls and their mothers, when you make mistakes, learn from them and move one. Don’t beat yourself up about them.
My advice to girls would be to enjoy life. Find YOUR passion, do what makes YOU happy. When you find your passion you will flourish and find your own personal success. And with that, you will find happiness.
How would you advise mothers to help their daughters have healthy relationships?
We would all love it if our kids wouldn’t date before 30, but that is not going to happen. Teach your daughters what is healthy in a relationship and what is not. Talk to them about how they deserve to be treated. Even before they start dating, start the conversations about your house rules on dating, what they want from a relationship, and the importance of setting boundaries in a relationship. You should also have the uncomfortable conversations about sex. It doesn’t have to be one long conversation that covers everything, but have short and frequent conversations. The best way to start these conversations is to ask them questions. Let them steer the conversations by paying attention to their cues. If your daughter starts dating, it’s extremely important to be attentive to how the relationship is progressing. Watch for signs of an unhealthy relationship such as possessive behavior, isolating behavior, and aggressive behavior. It’s up to us as parents to guide our girls when they need to get out of a difficult relationship.
What can a mature woman learn from her teen years?
If a woman realizes that she is tough on herself, I would encourage her to reflect back on her middle school years. Many relationship patterns start during that time in friendships and romantic relationships. Consider what patterns are serving her well and which can be laid to rest once and for all. Just realizing the source of some habits can help to kick them to the curb.
What message would you like to give women?
I want girls and women of all ages to truly embrace who they are with all of their amazingness and all of their imperfections. Love yourself unconditionally. When you truly love yourself, the rest of your relationships will bloom.