Whether it’s her coach, teacher, the local librarian, or her best friend’s mom, it’s easy to feel a little unsure or even threatened when your daughter starts looking up to, taking advice from, or confiding in another grown-up in her life. As her parent, shouldn’t you be the adult she turns to for these things? Or what if you’re at work when she gets home from school each day, and you’re worried much of the parenting you’d hoped to be doing is being handled by her babysitter or daycare providers?
Before you get yourself totally whipped into a frenzy—stop! “There’s this enormous pressure that parents, especially mothers, feel to be all things to their children,” says Girl Scouts’ Developmental Psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. “But this is a case where it takes a village! Having several trusted, caring adults to look to for guidance, inspiration, and support as they grow up is a huge benefit to kids.”
In fact, studies show adolescents who receive warmth and acceptance from outside adults in addition to the love and care they get from their parents typically have higher self-esteem and fewer depressive symptoms. Dr. Bastiani Archibald explains one reason why this makes sense: “As they get a little older, kids can start assuming their parents are giving them compliments or praise because they ‘have to,’ or because they’re biased. When they hear these things from other adults—those who they see as having no obligation to say nice things or cheer them on—it can be incredibly reassuring.” Additionally, there might be issues that arise during adolescence that your daughter doesn’t feel as comfortable asking you about—so having a trusted adult or two around whose values match your own, and who she would be likely to turn to, is really important. And if you get to know these other adults—and let them know you see how much thought and energy they’re giving to your child—they’re more likely to urge your daughter to share information with you in times of crisis or potential danger so you can help her through it.
Another wonderful benefit of having a real network of interested, caring adults around your girl is that it’ll give her that many more examples of opportunities available to her, and of ways of living her life. “Of course, as her parent, you want her to know that she can be or do anything she dreams of,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald, “and having a diverse group of role models in her life will make that even clearer. After all, if she can see it, she’s a lot more likely to think she can be it!”
The bottom line is that although of course your girl needs you—you’re her parent, after all!—there’s no need to try to be her everything. Instead of being intimidated by other people she admires, learn more about them yourself, and be thankful for the added joy, fun, and wisdom they’re bringing to your daughter’s world.