Welcome to the show today, friend. If you have a teen daughter, you are going to love this episode. My special guest is Kari Kampakis, author, speaker podcaster and blogger, from Birmingham, Alabama.
In this interview, Kari shares from her new book for moms “Love Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy and Connection With Your Teenage Daughter.” And she should know because she has four girls, so we talk a lot about our experience as moms raising girls.
In This Episode We Talk About:
- Joys and challenges of raising a teenager girl.
- How hard it is not to take things personally.
- How to bridge the communication gap when your daughter doesn’t want to talk to you.
- How to communicate in ways that are going to bridge that gap.
- How to build a connection with your daughter.
- How to show her you love her.
Where to Find Kari Kampakis:
Find more encouragement, wisdom, and resources:
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Episode 12 Transcribed For You!
Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you’re failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone and you have come to the right place.
Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy, and I am on a mission to equip you to love well and raise emotionally healthy tweens and teens that thrive. I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our family and to impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and becoming more of the mom and woman you want to be, welcome. I am Sheryl Gould, and I am so glad that you are here.
SHERYL: Welcome, Kari! I am so happy to have you on the show. Thank you for being here.
KARI: Thanks for having me, Sheryl.
SHERYL: I cannot wait to talk about your book. You have so many nuggets of wisdom in this book.
I wish that I had this when my oldest was a tween, and so much of what you share, I’ve learned the hard way. I know moms who are listening will be helped by what we’re going to talk about today. And you also come with lots of experience because you have four girls, so can you just share with our listeners their ages and what that’s like for you?
KARI: Yes, they are. You’re right; I have four daughters. My oldest is a high school senior. The book started from her journey when she became a teenager at age 13 and the mistakes I made, but she’s now a high school senior. I also have a 10th grader, an eighth-grader, and a fifth-grader.
So I have a lot of material from my personal life. And like I said, a lot of the mistakes I’ve made that I like to share with other moms learn from my mistakes and do it better. And also I write I wrote this book for moms. I wrote two previous books for teenage girls. The first one was released in 2014. So that really kind of started me on this path to writing for moms and writing for teenage daughters, just trying to help families build those relationships during some tough years.
I wrote this book for teenage girls and traveled around the country and spoke to different groups. I had a heart for girls at the time. I’d have moms that asked me when I was going to write a book for them. In my head, I thought it would just be a harder audience even though I love my mom friends.
What parent feels equipped to write a book for their parents? I felt like we’re all learning as we go and, and I thought maybe 20 years from now, I’ll be able to look back and have some wisdom to offer.
But what happened was as my daughters became teenagers, I started struggling myself. I started struggling to find some of the advice that I needed and found that to be a lot more careful to protect their privacy in the teenage years. It’s not like when they were little, and you had trouble with my potty training. You could ask pretty much any mom for advice, and it’s just readily available.
I just found myself wrestling and going through a phase of how I still parent them and not lose that relationship. I questioned how to connect and still be that safe place for them. And, you know, it took a lot of wrong turns and mistakes to kind of find my way. But I had the privilege of meeting great moms through the work that I do. I hear all these stories and things that have worked for other families.
I wanted to share the wisdom I’ve gained from people I’ve met over the years, share personal stories as a mom, and what has worked in my relationship with my girls.
SHERYL: That’s one of the things that I love about your book so much, and I’m so glad that you didn’t wait because you’re in the trenches. You’re writing it while you’re going through it.
I want to talk about being hard on ourselves and hearing how real and raw you are in the book. We need to hear that rather than like, “I’m this expert, and I have it all figured out.” Because it is such a journey, you start the book by talking about how you had that closet floor breakdown, which I found comforting. So will you talk about your closet breakdown?
KARI: Yes, it’s so funny how those rock bottom as a mom that you think I will never share with anybody you share later on. When you grow and become a better mom or better person, you’re ready to share that wound from the past.
What happened was, I was writing these books for teenage girls and being called an expert, which I’m not, but I just consider myself more of a resource.
During that time, my daughter became a teenager. She was your typical oldest child: very compliant and easy. I found our relationship was starting to change. Over the years, you hear all these things like teenage girls are such a pain.
I had these narratives in my head. Instead of looking at myself and what I could be doing differently, I let my pride get in the way.
I was blaming it all on her. I looked at her emotions, moodiness and was like, “I gotta put an end to this, or else she’s going to walk all over me. And so I was laying down the law.”
I was changing too and our relationship.
We were arguing over stupid stuff that I can’t even remember, but it built up. I kept thinking, “We’ll work through it. She’s going to start listening to me, and it’ll get better.”
I didn’t even tell my husband about it. Right before she went to school, we got in a fight over something stupid. She left for school, and I think God opened my eyes to my pride and the fact that I was doing something wrong. It wasn’t all my daughter’s fault.
And after she went to school, my house was quiet. I started thinking about what was going on with us and how much I missed our relationship.
I went into my closet and cried. I was like, “I’m just gonna let myself feel this. I’m going to admit what has been bottled up in me for months.”
My husband came into my thoughts. So, I told him I was like, “I just cannot figure out how to balance parenting her with loving hearts like this is so hard. Our relationship has changed. I missed the warm, easy connection.”
That was really my turning point moment of like, how do you love a teenage girl? How do you love a teenager in general? It’s funny that I’m sharing that story because, at the time, I was thinking, I’m never telling anybody about this. That day, I went to the gym and saw a friend who is ahead of me and often gives me good advice. I asked her: what do you do when you and your daughter fight?
She goes, you got to circle back around, you know, don’t just let it go unaddressed. After you’ve calmed down, go back to her and apologize and ask, “Is there something I did?” or, “Is there something I can do better?”
So I did that with my daughter. Later that day, I humbled myself and I was like, “I’m just sad. I’m sad that our relationship has changed.” She told me she was sad too. And I asked her, “Have I done anything to be causing this gulf that’s going on between us?”
I honestly expected her to say no, but she said you have been more critical and harder to please lately. That was a punch in the gut. No mom wants to hear that. At the same time, I knew she was right. In that season, I was kind of being more critical of myself. She’s the oldest child. I was putting higher expectations on her and rising to some challenges.
It made me do some self-reflection and work on myself. I apologized and told her I was going to work on it. It turned our relationship around. I realized I needed a new start and strategy.
A lot of what I share in the book is what has worked in our home. Of course, it’s never a perfect process, but the great thing about parenting is you can always do better and try it again if you mess up. Don’t just keep beating yourself up over that.
Apologize, learn to work through conflict, and then find a better way to do it.
And truly, you often become closer. I learned through all my research how important conflict resolution is. I think we do our girls a disservice because many girls don’t know how to resolve conflict, and that’s why they end their friendships abruptly or give somebody the cold shoulder.
Even America’s top couples therapist says the number one predictor of success in marriage is how well two people can resolve conflict. So I started thinking, instead of saying this as a bad thing, maybe help teach my daughters how we can work through these unhealthy ways, and it’ll help them in their relationships.
SHERYL: Wow, I love that, and it’s so true. Many of us growing up didn’t learn how to resolve conflict, brokenhearted in that authoritarian way down the rules and the law. We were just expected to follow the rules, or you’re in big trouble.
I think it’s difficult to know how to do that, and I love what your friend said to you. Repair is important, and asking your daughter, “Is there anything that you want to say to me?” You could get feedback and not take it so personally and get defensive because Cuz that’s a real struggle for us as moms. In your book, you talk about pulling away and them not wanting to be seen with us. How have you navigated pulling away?
KARI: Yes, that is something I think every parent of a teenager struggles with. When they are pushing for independence, I’ve learned that sometimes I asked myself, would I rather than be the other way?
I think that it’s normal for them to form their own identity. They’re preparing to leave home and live an independent life. They shouldn’t be tightly clinging to us.
So really, she’s on the right road, but we do take it personally. As moms, we’re typically the ones who are involved in the details of daily life. We give so much and pour so much of our heart and soul into our children.
When they’re little, they’re jumping in our lap and kissing us. That’s enough reward for us.
But sometimes with teenagers, we don’t get that reward. We’re doing the right thing, but we don’t feel like it because they’re mad, or there’s coldness.
I have learned that I can’t find my identity and my children. I can’t base my worth on whether they’re liking me today or whether they’re nice to me today. I have to find my value as a child of God and who I am as a person that’s not tied to my relationships.
So I’ve really got to find some confidence that separate from the relationships, I have that confidence, that’s not going to change based on the relationship changes.
I’ve learned the importance of really strengthening our adult relationships during these years. And you know, I’m married. And you know, my husband has really become an extra source of support during these years. I’ve had to turn back to my friends a lot in my friendships and needed them when my kids were small. I needed my mom friends.
And then you get to that sweet spot of parenting where you almost felt like I didn’t need friends because our family was so happy. Things were pretty easy. Everybody was out of diapers, it was just a kind of a good spell.
Then they get to be teenagers again, and it’s hard. I felt like I need people who really understand me and can have some compassion for me. You know, even my child’s not being so nice to me. So I’ve really felt like I’ve really found some comfort in those relationships, too.
SHERYL: Yeah, I love in the book, you talk about mothering ourselves first and how important that is to. That’s one of the ways we need to have those safe people that we can talk to and we can vent and get it out.
When our kids turn this age, you’re talking about not getting any sleep or, you know, the toddler twos, it changes. I see moms have a lot of shame. They don’t want it to get back to their kid if they’re talking about their challenges or struggles. Yet, you shine the light on that you’re struggling. We struggle with these things. I think it’s so important that moms know that because we see social media and everybody looks so happy. Can you talk about not having that safe place to go? What can what you see can happen?
KARI: Yes, I’m into philosophy. I say this because I used to be the type who would struggle alone. Growing up, I was one of those bottlers, who bottles their emotions up. That’s not healthy either. My big philosophy is don’t struggle alone.
You really have to find your safe people. I think it differs for every person. Like I said, for some people, it might be their spouse and their closest friends. For other people, it might be a colleague at work might be their therapist, it might be their hairdresser. It might be your mom or your sister.
But you know, a mom ahead of me once told me that as your children get older, your village gets smaller. And I think that’s something that’s really important for parents to think about is that, you know, the kids are little, you have these huge playgroups, you can relate to a lot of moms, you can share all your stories, it’s funny, but as they get older, you’ve got to protect your teenagers privacy.
And it also becomes more important to have, I guess, advice in your life with people that have the same values as you do, because that the gap and parenting really differs as our kids get older. And it really does kind of come out of our philosophy comes out of what our values are.
So you really want somebody who’s kind of on the same page with you, nobody’s 100% the same but, but I do think it’s good advice. You don’t need 50 people giving you advice, you know, having one or two trusted advisors is enough.
And and even now, I have certain friends that like for each child. One of their friends knows my child, loves my child, and she can help me. She’s a still vault, she’s not going to say anything.
But it’s just good to have somebody who knows you, is a good rational thinker, who loves you, and who will reaffirm that you are a great person, you’re a great mom, and just give you that comfort and encouragement you need.
I think we’ve got to do that for ourselves as mothers and have those kind of friendships. We’ve got to be that kind of friend to other people too, but we live in a world where we’re so busy. We’re so child-centric; I think sometimes we pour so much time and energy into our children, so that when they disappoint us, we just feel like total failures. We don’t have anything else to go that helps lift our spirits.
Being a woman of faith that also rely a lot on God and prayer and my faith as well. But I truly believe that God gives us people to help us get through those hard times.
SHERYL: Yes, 100%. We need good friends, and we need to be able to have that power of prayer and knowing that God is going to fill in those gaps, those things that there’s so much that we can’t control, which I want to talk about as well.
I want to quote you because you were talking about something important about blaming ourselves. One of the issues that moms often struggle with is we beat ourselves down when we feel like we’re failing.
“The truth is a mother’s confidence is fragile. Despite any bravado or outward appearance that we have our act together, it takes only one glitch fight or failure to trigger our deepest insecurities. Even the most epic high can suddenly come crashing down with one mistake, one argument, one comment we wish to retract.”
This is so true; we are so hard on ourselves. What have you done that has helped you to not beat yourself up to be kinder and more compassionate to yourself?
KARI: Yes, and this is something I really struggle with. I’m a one on the enneagram and we tend to be perfectionistic.
SHERYL: I love the enneagram. I’m a two. I think we can be so hard on ourselves. Especially in a year like 2020, I think we really learned the importance of self care, self compassion, and self love.
KARI: I’ve rely heavily on my faith and ultimately go back to my identity is not in my motherhood. And that actually, I’ve just written a new book. And that’s the theme of that book is that, you know, you’re not just a mom, you’re much more than a mom.
But that’s not my identity: my core identity is my identity is a child of God. And sometimes I’ve just got to just go sit on the porch and just clear my head and just forget about all the ways that I feel like I’m failing or the way I’m seeing myself. I just pray and ask God to help me see myself through his eyes: remember how loved I am even on my worst day.
I’ve learned how to show myself some grace. Even if I’m doing my best, and others don’t see it, God knows it. He’s the only one whos opinion matters, but He’s going to work all things together for good.
And also, like I said, you know, knowing that we can ask for forgiveness and do better next time. I think it’s so good for our children to say that to not see us stuck in defeat, stuck in those failings of things will never change, because they’ve got to see us kind of fighting that good fight and saying, things are not ideal, but I’m going to give myself credit.
I’m proud of myself for doing this today. I did this well today, and I’m going to work on this. But at the same time, I’m going to love myself and show myself some grace.
SHERYL: We can give that more to our to our girls and our boys. I think what you’re saying is so important to remember. And also that it’s not good to try and do it all perfectly in front of our girls, because it gives them permission to not be perfect either.
In chapter two, you share 14 realities impacting today’s teen girls. In addition to not beating ourselves up, it’s important to remember what’s impacting our girls and the pressure they’re under? What are a couple of the realities that you can share that you write about, you don’t have to share all 14. But are there a couple that stand out to you that you list in the book, yet?
KARI: I think it’s just the pressure, the pressure to succeed, the pressure to impress the pressure to be perfect. I think that’s the most overwhelming thing that our girls feel. And you’re so right. I think that as we admit our human humanity and our weaknesses and our mistakes, it just gives them permission to do the same. And they need that.
Because if we think we’re seeing a lot of perfection, at least in the mom world, we’re kind of in that place. I feel like having written for teenage girls, it’s just funny because you look at what they tell each other on Instagram, you’re so perfect, I want to be you. You see how we wire ourselves to this perfectionist mindset. You think that’s the goal is perfection.
As moms, we’re trying to unwire ourselves of that mindset, like we can’t be perfect on this side of heaven. That’s just we’re doing the best we can. But it is so important to model to our girls because they see perfection all around them.
They feel like failures when they’re not measuring up. I keep thinking of this girl who’s you know, the 17-year-old girl, very cute, very successful about the world standards. But she was at this retreat with her parents, and they were having this deep heart to heart talk. She just broke down in tears to them, and told them how they were so perfect. She expressed that she felt like she could never measure up. Her parents were heartbroken.
They’re not trying to portray that image to her, but what they didn’t realize was by not sharing any of their humanity and their humaneness, they were doing her a disservice. They’re just playing into that narrative she was already hearing from the world.
I had a conversation about this with my husband’s priest recently. He’s a Greek Orthodox priest, and he talked about how he used to work in Greece. He was a priest there for ten years, and he said that America has this obsession with superheroes, more so than any other culture.
We kind of see ourselves as superhumans and superheroes. And when we don’t meet those standards, we just feel like failures. And he wrote a book called, “How to be a Center.”
Maybe the problem is our culture, and what people are telling us what success means for us.
I hate to say lowering standards, because that’s not a very popular thing to say. But just being okay with like, this is good enough for today. I have author friends who put out a book a year. I mean, they can just whip it out, they can write a book in six weeks.
I’m so envious, but I’m like for me I would get no sleep, neglect my family, and would be moody and grumpy all the time. It just would not work for me, so I can’t do that. I’m a slow writer. It might take me a couple years to release a book, but that’s just what works for me. I think it’s really just knowing what works well for you and what do you want out of your life.
Prioritizing the right things, not sacrificing your faith or your family or the things that matter most, but yet doing the jobs that we’re called to do, and giving ourselves grace as we do it.
SHERYL: That comparison. I’m working on a book right now, and it’s taken me like three years. And the comparison thing — our girls and social media, it’s really tough because they’re looking at all those pictures and comparing themselves. We can do that, too. I know, you weave in a lot of your own struggles with your girls, how have you done that? Where you’ve been able to kind of balance that talking about your own challenges with your daughters?
KARI: Yes, I have. Because you know, we live in a community. And I think most people do now that there is a lot of success and excellence all around them. I’ve, I’ve always just even as we’re driving to school, just share stories about, you know, from my childhood or my past, or like, you know, one time I was a bad friend to somebody, I did this mom, you did that.
I was like, I know, I feel bad. I just remembered this the other day, and I feel bad about it. I feel like I need to apologize to her. I didn’t really realize it at 16 I say it differently. They’re different eyes at 48. But I think it’s just little conversations like that, or, you know, today, you know, the other day, I made some toast for my girls. And one of them was like, Mom, just please don’t burn it, you know, it’s like, okay, so like, I burnt out it, I wish I did. And that’s really embarrassing, but I just can laugh about it. Like, that’s just not one of my strengths being in the kitchen. And so it’s just being able to laugh at ourselves and know that I’ve got some things I’m pretty good at some things I’m not that good at, and you do too. And even one of my daughters, I was talking to her the other day, because she struggles in a subject.
I saw this in an article somewhere, I was like, you know, the thing about school is, you know, school expects you to be great at every subject. And in real life, that’s not really feasible. And in the workplace, that’s not feasible, you don’t have somebody doing everything in a job, you have people specializing at what they’re good at.
School doesn’t really predict your success for many reasons. You’re not expected to be a superstar in seven different subjects. You can really focus on your one or two or three strengths and do very well. A lot of the intelligence out there and the talents can’t be measured by school. It can’t measure things like creativity, or empathy or kindness. So we can help our kids see that big picture.
They’re growing up in this society where it’s numbers-driven and there’s success and perfection everywhere.
You talk to therapists, and they talk about how like, the troubled teenager looks so different now than it used to be. You could tell he was troubled, they had bad grades, they had unkempt hair, you know, they did, they looked the part. And now I think the biggest at-risk group of teenagers is like upper-middle class, privileged society.
I think it really flies under the radar because they look, they look so successful on paper, they look great, they seem happy on social media, yet inside, they feel empty, they’re struggling. And they’re not really building that inner self, that inner self, that’s really going to make them happy. That inner life, I guess, is what I mean to say. But they’re not really developing and cultivating that part of them. And they don’t know why they feel so empty, because they should be happy with everything they have.
I think it’s so important, even more so for our generation, to have that relationship with our teenagers, maybe even more so than our parents with us, because they’re struggling with a lot more. And, you know, things like suicide and depression and anxiety, it’s a lot more of a reality now than it was 20 or 30 years ago. So the stakes are high. If our teenagers are struggling or feeling isolated, which most of them are, if they are feeling that and they don’t feel like they can come talk to us about it.
SHERYL: Oh, gosh, that what you said is so good. I think on so many levels, so many things. I mean, I love that you said that about the grades, because I’m seeing that a lot with the parents that I’m working with is and especially with the pandemic, that’s just a whole nother layer. Yes, that I think we set these expectations that are so high for our kids. And yet, I never thought of it that way, in the way that you set it with the grades. It’s like, of course, like I was horrible at math was just right. I would never go into anything that had to do with numbers. In fact, I did have for a very short time a job where they had me do a spreadsheet.
I had to like calculate the SAT sales and I remember I brought it in and they had to call me into the office and they’re like, what is what are you have no idea. I mean, it was like the worst job for me to have. And it’s the same with our kids, like expecting them to have putting on backpressure. And I think we mean Wow. But I do see that because we live in an affluent area, and there is so much focus on where they go to college and, and it’s so stressful for our kids, and then they get into this performance.
Like, I am less than if I’m not performing, and I’m it. It’s just loaded. And rather than you’re talking about how they have so much empathy, and different strengths and cultivating those things. What do you think about the expectations? I mean, you do talk about that, in the book about how do we, how do we kind of curb that and still, you know, have some expectations, but not put so much pressure on our kids?
KARI: Right? And it’s hard. And you know, no, as a parent, it’s a fine line, because you just want your child, our big thing is, we just want to see you doing your best. And, you know, we, our kids study the table, you know, so one had had some not so great grades recently, and she was upset about it. And we’re like, it’s okay, we have seen how hard you’re working like we and that’s that’s enough for us.
I think some parents feel like they have to stay in their job more, because maybe they’re a little bit lazy or not so driven. So it is hard, like how can you help them rise to their potential, but not just put so much stress on them. And and I think that if one thing this year pastor has taught us is just the importance of mental health.
Knowing that if our mental health is not there, whether we’re mom or teenager, then nothing else is going to be there. And I’ve been wanting to know article on this because it’s really fascinating to me, but I know you live in Illinois, but you’ve probably heard of Coach Saban, Nick Saban at the University of Alabama. I mean, this amazing legendary football coach is a friend of mine. Her daughter plays golf at Alabama, and she was telling me this is before the pandemic that mental health is like the number one priority for all the student-athletes at the school.
It’s because of Nick Saban. And there are articles out there that are pretty fascinating. But he realized that if the mental health of their players were not there, the physical ability wouldn’t be there. And so they’ve even trained like their trainers, I kind of see them like there’s almost like a bartender in a bar that you just kind of a pulse on what’s going on.
They’ve trained their trainers to notice things like is he wearing the same clothes several days in a row? is he acting more withdrawn than normal, I think they have a psychologist that’s kind of just around the area that the player sees. And that way, if they need to talk to somebody, they know the person, they’re kind of comfortable talking to them, but they really prioritize mental health. And getting that right, because everything else follows from there. And I really think we can do that with our children is just helping them get to a good place mentally, and knowing that if that’s if that is intact, then they are going to have that sense of purpose and drive and, you know, self-worth that we want them to have, too.
SHERYL: Yeah, focusing on the relationship and the mental health piece. So important. And at this age, it’s really easy with our daughters and having raised two girls.
I certainly understand that you talked about in the book, your first chapter about really choosing our words. And it is easy to focus more, for whatever reason, on the negative at this age. And maybe it is because they’re pulling away more and we feel bad, that’s hurtful, and so we focus on it. I think you talk about projecting onto our daughters. And I know I say I am a recovering image manager. It would be very easy for me to focus on, like what they were wearing. All of that stuff that doesn’t matter so much and you even talked about when your daughter’s face was breaking out. Can you speak about a little bit about what you’ve learned through that kind of shifting your focus from the negative to more of the positive?
KARI: Yes, I have learned that not every thought I have needs to be voiced, especially with a teenager. And I do think we get more, you know, it’s easy to get more critical. And we don’t see it as criticism, we see it as helping them become an adult, you know, we’re trying to help them become an adult. And I think what has happened with me is I realized, as you know, my kids became teenagers, especially as they hit their 16th birthday. I’m like, I got two more years.
So it’s like in our head as moms you kind of start hearing that countdown clock, like I got two more years to teach them all these things and to you know, just remind them how to be a good guest at somebody’s house all these things I think we can get so caught up in those lessons and correcting that we just forget to love them and encourage them. And we forget that they might not be hearing many positive words or much affirmation at school friendships are not necessarily what they used to be even. And so how important that is for them to be getting that from us.
It’s funny you mentioned that story of her skin breaking out because that’s probably the number one story moms mentioned to me when they read that book. They feel it because I’ve done the same thing too. It’s just something.
\In the first chapter about choosing your words and the timing of your words very carefully. And it really just goes back to the fact that our words as mothers have superpowers, you know, we don’t forget, even you know, we don’t forget what our moms have said to us, for better or for worse, and our daughters are going to remember to and I don’t want to make that anybody feel bad, because like I said, we can always apologize, do better. And the witness is a long-term relationship and in any long-term relationship, we’re all gonna make mistakes.
That’s just how it is, especially with family, but we can, you know, keep trying to find ways to do better. But in this situation, my daughter, Nah, she’d had a few different breakouts and in her face was breaking out again. But I didn’t notice it. At first, we were driving in the car, having a great conversation didn’t even feel like her mom, she felt like my friend either. Like we were just singing and laughing and having a great time, just one of those moments that you really pray for as a mom. And when we stopped in the driveway, I looked over at her and her face was like the sun was glaring on her face. And her acne was kind of back. And my instinct as a mom was to ask her Are you taking your medicine?
But I know my child. She’s very responsible. She wanted her acne to go away even more than I was concerned about it. And I knew that when I asked her that same question a few months before her face just fell. And she said, Yes, I am. I know my face looks terrible.
And so I remember that I think God just called that demand. And so I just bit my tongue. And I’m like, I know she’s taken her medicine. And if I say this, now, I’m totally going to ruin the moment we just had. So I want to end on a happy note. And so she got out of the car happy. It was a great conversation. And I was so thankful that I didn’t waste that moment by saying something that really didn’t need to be said at that time. Maybe another time. But and maybe in another way, but I didn’t have to say it. And I think that’s just an example. There are so many things we can do as moms; we don’t have to say every thought when it comes to mind, we can really just pray about it first and be wise with our words.
SHERYL: Yeah, well said. You quoted William Barclay in the book: “If we find ourselves becoming critical of other people, we should stop examining them and start examining ourselves.” I thought that was so true. With our daughters, it’s easy to put ourselves on them. Have you seen that with yourself? With your daughters? That’s been a challenge for you? What would you say to the moms that, that struggle with that? Because I know I certainly have?
KARI: Yes, I think especially as you’re when you’re early in that journey, I think as you get farther into it, like you and I are now you realize the things you did wrong, good. But I think the natural inclination, and I read this during research is that moms tend to see their daughters as perfected versions of themselves.
I thought that was pretty powerful. I have been guilty of that because I am a perfectionist. I have been guilty of trying to make them better than me, a perfected version of me.
And that’s why I want to fix all these things. And then to really realize that it’s not my job to fix them, you know, I am guiding and loving and advising. But you know, there’s a saying to connect before you correct. And you know, teenagers are like anybody else. And the thing about our kids as they get older, they can choose whether or not they want to listen to us when they’re little they think we hung them in and so they listen, every word we say, as teenagers, they have a choice, they have a lot of other voices in their life. And so if we want to be somebody that they listen to you, they’ve got to feel like we love them, they’ve got to feel like we see the best in them, even when they mess up, there’s a way to do it, like I am so disappointed.
This is so out of character for you, and you’re gonna face some consequences. But this is not you, this is not who you are. I know I have raised you that you are better than this, and we’re gonna get through this.
I want you to write them out an apology or walk with them through their mistakes and things that they maybe need to work on. But giving them hope, reminding them of who they are, and showing them how loved they still are.
I really think that’s what it means to become a grown-up is to really be that person for our children as they grow up, that they’re going to mess up. But if we still love them through their mess-ups, they’re going to listen to us, they’re going to take our advice and our words to heart.
Whereas if we just come down like a hammer, they’re not going to want to come home and they’re not going to want to listen to us. That’s really the challenge for us as parents.
SHERYL: Yeah, really powerful stuff. It’s like you’re on their side you’re for them. So then they know that and that humility, that as moms we mess up our girls are learning they’re growing, of course, they don’t know how to navigate all of these things at this age third learning and they’re going to mess up and they’re going to make mistakes and, and not always make the best choices. Rather than coming in with that shaming voice, we end up carrying into our adulthood. I know we all have them, those different voices, but how can we give our daughters, more loving, compassionate voices, even when they mess up. What are a few of your ideas?
KARI: It is the simple things. And I think it really goes back to knowing your child. I laughed as I was writing that list because we had a lot of food on there, but that’s my kid’s love language.
I have a friend that said her daughter loves Greek salads. When she came home from cheer tryouts, she knew she’d be stressed and exhausted. So her mom had a great salad waiting for her.
It’s just those little things. If you want to go on a walk, especially if they’re kind of stressed or need to get outside, maybe just inviting them to go on a walk.
We somehow got into watching Downton Abbey with my daughter who’s about to graduate. Her friend was watching it with her mom, and she’s like, “Hey, Mom, do you wanna watch this with me?” I had some other things going on that night, but of course, I’m like, “Yes, I will drop everything to come watch it with you.”
That’s kind of become our thing at night when we have a little an hour here. We’ll go watch an episode of Downton Abbey. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and it doesn’t have to require planning or a lot of time to find these ways to connect with our daughters.
In Birmingham, we’ve talked about this as a family’s going to this ax-throwing place, you go through these acts, heard about that, and the teenagers love it and say I’m like I’ve never done that, that might be kind of something fun to do with them. We also have a class here, it’s a studio called 315 that a lot of the teenagers love my daughter’s friends work there. And it’s you know, it’s bike cycling, and also some bar and some other things too. And so I’ve started doing these classes with my daughter on Saturday morning, which I love it. But mostly I just love being with her.
We’ll get to get breakfast after that. So it’s trying to find something that your daughter enjoys that you can do with her, or offering to pay for something, like some earrings for homecoming.
But it really is less complicated than we think. And I do believe they want to spend time with us more than we realize. But sometimes it does have to be on their terms. And going back to the walking story. I have this in the book, my friend is a single mom. She and her daughters were kind of disconnected. She’d read some of my suggestions on Facebook once, and she asked her daughter that afternoon, “Do you want to go walking when you get home from school?”
Her daughter’s like, “No mom, I’m kind of tired.” But try not to take it personally.
Two days later, her daughter came to her and said, “Mom, do you want to go walking today?” And she was exhausted from work. She really didn’t feel like going but she knew that invitation might not come again. So they went walking. She said they had the best conversation and they agreed to go walk in again. It was helpful and therapeutic, so I think it’s just those little things that can really mean a lot and stay with our teenagers even longer than we think.
SHERYL: Yeah, and even if they turn you down, still inviting them to do things and not giving up. I love the story that you shared about the cookies. You had baked cookies and your daughter was like, “Mom, are those cookies for me?”
Even that spoke so much love that you were thinking about her. I don’t think we think of just those little things like I used to get my son redfish. Those little things that convey, I’m thinking of you and you matter to me.
KARI: Right? I think we all just like to feel known. I mean, it isn’t. It’s kind of like there are certain people are just good gift-givers. If you’ve ever had a birthday and somebody gave you a gift that’s so unique and so you know like those are always Your favorite gifts like wow, they know me. They remembered that they saw this in a store and thought of me.
I think we all long to feel that way because it’s a form of love. But who knows better than us moms? Because we’ve raised them, and we know these little details about them that other people might not know.
SHERYL: Well, just two more questions because I know we could talk for so long. But I really want the moms to get your book to get because there’s so much more to talk about.
One of the problems that moms are talking to me about is the pandemic. Our kids have been using their phones more than ever. What have been some of the technology rules that you’ve laid down? How have you balanced that with your girls?
KARI: I have one that she used to not be into her technology that much. Probably in the last year has gotten a lot more into it. It’s a lot of, snap-chatting friends. I’ll kind of say sometimes, “You’ve been on your phone. Maybe put your phone down for a while. I feel like you’ve been on it a lot lately.” My husband and I just got through with Lynn right before Easter, lent season. Often, we’ll sacrifice something we enjoy just to turn it into some reflection and have faith.
She agreed to limit her screen time to two hours a day, which was big for her. The great thing about that is once they do that, they realize how much time it frees up and how much better they feel.
I think something you know, it might be as moms, we can like, you know, take the Let’s all put our phones down for the day or for the weekend. Or we’ll go on a walk or hike and not check technology. But I think our teenagers do need that to remember what it feels like with it and without it.
I have a friend who owns a summer camp. And they talked about how they hear that all the time at camp, and these girls are so relieved to be away from their phones. And they can’t wait to have these friendships where technology is not even around where they can just enjoy each other the old-fashioned way.
I think sometimes technology is such a part of their life that they don’t realize what they’re missing. If they’re always on technology, instead of seeing these breaks, those opportunities to really learn those lessons. And you might have seen that too when they fed retreats or something where they couldn’t have their phone.
I remember after the second one they went to, they were going to the next one. And my daughter and her friends were like, I can’t wait to be without my phone all weekend. And I never thought I’d hear that. But just they realized how much better they felt without it. So it’s different for every family. But just as moms, you know, just really don’t be scared to, to say something or to put limits. And it’s harder with older children qho are in college and they have no limits. So you have to want this for yourself. Like I’m trying to teach you healthy habits for your mental health.
Talk about how you know, try not to be on it an hour before you get to bed because it can interfere with your sleep, that blue light from the phone can keep you producing from producing the melatonin in your brain that makes you sleepy. So I think just having a lot of those conversations and explaining why it’s good to limit technology.
I also found that this works too sometimes, even using examples of myself like I’ve been grumpy lately or dissatisfied with my wife. And I realize I’ve been on social media more than I need to be. I’m comparing myself. So sometimes if as we share some realizations we’ve had, it might lead them to self-reflect to realize that they kind of feel the same way.
SHERYL: Yeah, I love that. I think doing that can be helpful. My daughter was on a retreat and couldn’t have her phone. And she said, Wow, I tasted my food. Like my food tasted delicious. Wow.
I was noticing everything. So when we are off of it, we notice how you feel and get our girls to connect with that. We can look around rather than down on our phones. We can feel better as well when we’re off of our devices.
A mom shared she’s struggling with her daughter right now and doesn’t know how to connect. What would you want to say to her to give her some comfort?
KARI: First thing, I’d want her to know that she’s not alone, that it is very normal, especially in the teenage years. I’m not saying everybody goes through that, but it’s normal. Our teenagers are growing up, and it’s part of the natural process forming their own identity. That can be apart from our family and from us. We have to give them the space to do that, but just know that she does still want your engagement in her life, whether she acts like it or not.
It’s to find those ways to do it. And my friend, Sissy Goff, who works with teen girls, talks about the posture to take with teenagers is breezy, you know, just okay. Sometimes, if we care more about something, then they’re not going to care anymore. If somebody buys my book for their teenage daughter, she may not want to read the book right now.
So don’t force it. If you force it, she’s not going to read it; just put it on her bedside table.
That way, when she’s having a hard time, she might pick it up and open it and be like, “Hmm, this book that my mom bought me is pretty helpful.” I think finding these subtle ways to be engaged in their life.
Say they want to spend some time in their room, but you know she loves avocado toast. So okay, bring in some avocado toast, and say, “Hey, I’m thinking about you and just dropping it off.” It’s just those little gestures that I feel kind of slowly bring them out of their shell. You’re just trying to build that bridge.
Don’t devalue your role in her life or your place in her life. Every long-term relationship goes through ups and downs, different seasons, dry seasons, and great seasons. Just hang in there and get yourself in a strong position. So you can just turn around and offer that strength and that love to her.
SHERYL: I love that. When we can love and invest in them and get that support for ourselves. It can be so helpful in bridging that gap, like you say, being their cheerleaders.
Well, I’m excited to have you back when your new book comes out. Have you picked a title yet?
KARI: We are working on that right now, but they have upped the release date to next April. So it’ll come out right before Mother’s Day. That’s for moms.
SHERYL: Wow, perfect. We’ll tell our listeners where they can find you and find your book.
KARI: Thank you. On all the traditional outlets, Instagram, Facebook, it’s Carrie Kimpakis. Then the podcast, which I kind of let go for a while as I wrote my book, but I’m getting back into it now. And it’s called the girl mom podcast. You can find my books on Amazon.
SHERYL: Wonderful. And I’ll provide those links. Thank you for all of your words and wisdom and everything you’re doing to support girls and moms with daughters.
KARI: Thank you for the work that you’re doing. I love this conversation and a lot how our work connected us and brought us together. So thank you for letting me share with your listeners.
SHERYL: Friends, thank you for tuning in to the show today. And I want you to know that you matter to me. And I’m so grateful for you, and I consider it a privilege that you would take time out of your busy schedule to listen in today.
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Reach out to me if you’re looking for resources, support, or want to share your heart with me at [email protected] Have a great week, and see you back here next week for another episode of the Moms of Tweens and Teens podcast.