How To Help Your Catholic Daughter Through Puberty: Cultivate The Soul Of Her Heart So She Will Bloom

by Faith & Life, Family, Self-Knowledge

As the snow and icy wind begin to die down and melt into the sunny warmth of spring, I can’t help but get excited about the gardening season! Not only do I love the sprouts of green interrupting the once white and brown landscape, but I also love the sacredness of cultivating my yard and working the soil (Gen 2:15). It is in my garden that God speaks to me very clearly and has answered many of my heart’s most pressing questions.

Lately, as my oldest daughter begins puberty, I’ve been wondering, “Lord, how do I help my daughter grow to love you and herself, especially as she begins puberty?”

His answers came to me in the garden.

What A Garden Can Teach Us About Raising Daughters

Parenthood is a special vocation. God invites parents to share in some of the most profound aspects of His divinity: we are invited to create, cultivate, and nourish life! As we grow to love our children with each breath they take, we also grow in our understanding of God’s love for each of us.

As a mother, I am especially called to tend to my daughter’s growth. It is one of the biggest honors of my life to help slowly unfold the beauty of femininity with my daughter as she blooms into a young woman.

Like accompanying our daughters through puberty, growing flowers in a garden takes work. We must plant flowers in a healthy growing environment, ensure the soil is healthy, sow the seeds, protect it until it gets strong enough, allow certain stressors to make it resilient, then stand back and allow the plant to do what it was designed to do: blossom and flourish!

But what can a mother do to cultivate a relationship based on trust, compassion, and fun with her daughter? Let’s take a look at each of these gardening steps and how they may apply to raising happy, healthy, and holy daughters.

Setting up the Environment:

Like any good gardener, we must ask ourselves, “Is this environment conducive to growth?” An ideal garden is a place that gets sunlight and is set apart from the rest of the yard. 

Son-Light

How is your family exposed to the light of God? Is prayer a part of your family’s identity? Do you take your children to Mass at least each Sunday? Do you bring them to Eucharistic Adoration? Are you exposing your children to the light of God’s truth and love through scripture?

When your family is exposed to books, movies, music, art, etc., that illuminate what is good, true, and beautiful in the world around us, they receive a necessary ingredient for spiritual growth. It’s never too late to build your family identity and incorporate Jesus and His grace into the very fabric of your day-to-day lives.

Some Practical Ideas:

  • Sunday Mass is a must!
  • Try reading the readings together before going to Mass. (Saturday mornings are often a good time to do this.)
  • Develop a prayer routine with your daughter. Consider taking her on a one-on-one date to work through a daily, weekly, and monthly prayer goal. Check out this free Prayer Routine worksheet.
  • Teach her to look for the Good, True, and Beautiful by watching a family movie on a monthly basis and following it up with a good discussion. (Check out the monthly Catholic Family Movie Night blog post on our website for ideas!)
  • Consider a monthly holy hour as a family…then go get ice cream or go out to eat!
  • Encourage quiet time, a time when our daughter can listen to God. 

Set Apart from the Rest

If you have a backyard garden, it is most likely set apart from the rest of the yard. This space is intended for growing and must not be trampled to protect tender sprouts. Likewise, your expectation for your daughter is that your family is a place where things grow. We are not like the rest of the world who may be content with worldly things. We are made for heaven. 

Likewise, family life is the arena in which we practice virtue. We are in a training ground of sorts. A part of that is not walking all over our daughters. We need to give them a space dedicated to growth, but that space is theirs, not ours.

Some Practical Ideas:

  • Come up with a few virtues you value as a family
  • Have regular check-ins to see how God is working in the lives of your kids
  • Come up with a prayer routine. Each month have a check-in to see how everyone’s prayer life is doing.

The Foundation: A Healthy Soil

We’ve established the importance of a family environment that has great sun (son) exposure and a safe space to grow spiritually, set apart from the world. The next step before planting seeds is to make sure the soil is ready.

Love makes things grow. Daughters learn they are a delight through the way we parents love them. Love is not an obligation, but an example that sets hearts free to imitate such love. When our daughters FEEL loved, the seeds we parents sow fall upon fertile soil. As we are reminded in Luke’s gospel, “ the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15).

Some Practical Ideas:

  • Consider doing a mother-daughter date to take a love language quiz with your daughter. Talk about effective ways to love one another.
  • Tuck In Time is a great way to regularly check in and actively love on them.
  • Make sure she has one-on-one time with her daddy. My husband takes my daughter a couple of times a year on daddy-daughter dates. They go out to eat and pick out a toy. Depending on your daughter’s love language, you may decide to do something different. 

If your daughter is regularly loved by both mom and dad, the soil will be very fertile indeed and ready to receive the seeds of our Catholic faith that we strive to sow.

A note: Caring for the soil is a never-ending venture. In the garden, we supplement the soil with amendments at the beginning of every gardening season and continue to supplement with fertilizer throughout the season. Likewise, during puberty especially, our daughters may occasionally have days when they just need some extra love and attention. Our love is a fertilizer that keeps them growing well.

Sow Seeds of Truth

The seeds can be sown once the environment is established and the soil is prepared. This is the time in our daughter’s life when we can intentionally share our faith and all the goodness of God with them. This is a time when we can tell them how much God loves them. We can explain that the Sacraments are not just things we “ought to do” but beautiful expressions of God’s love for us and excellent ways to receive the priceless gift of God’s grace.

This is when we can tell them Mary is always there to hold us, My kids tell me all the time that I am their “Second favorite mom,” which is music to my ears because I know Mary is their favorite mom. On several occasions when I have lost my patience or just feel tapped out. I have literally told them that I tag-teamed Mary, so they should talk to her instead of me. 

Tell her one of the secrets to enjoying life is praying a rosary each day and then gift her with a rosary made specially for her. Tell them this is how you can grow closer to Mary. She will always be your daughter’s cheerleader and will always be there to give supernatural comfort.

Show your daughters how to listen. Help them to practice silence, always allowing God space to speak to them, to tell them how good and beautiful they are. Take them to adoration and Mass regularly and teach them to ask Jesus what His will is for her life. 

The best way we sow seeds is by showing them the seeds that have been sown in our lives and taken root and grown and born much fruit. Invite your daughters into your prayerful and holy habits. 

Some Practical Ideas:

  • While in the car, turn down the radio and pray a rosary. Invite your daughter to join, but don’t force it.
  • Clean the kitchen while listening to praise and worship music. Ask your daughter what her favorite “Jesus-y” song is and play that one while she helps you clean or fold laundry.
  • Take your daughter to the dollar store and pick out a nice pen, a journal, and a canvas bag. Make a date to decorate the bag as her “church bag” that she can take with her Mass and Adoration.

Protect (but Don’t Overdo it)

Now that the environment and soil are ready and the seeds sown, we watch for growth. When we see that growth, we pay particular attention to what that sprout may need. As the seedling sprouts, it is especially vulnerable to environmental disruptions and pests. Likewise, as our daughters slowly begin to dip their toes into independence and who they are apart from their parents, they may feel especially vulnerable. Like a good gardener, we must protect them from potential harm.

Harsh Environments

Sunshine, water, and wind are good and necessary for a plant’s growth, but too much sunshine can scald, too much water can drown, too little water can dry out, and too much wind can uproot the sensitive sprout. As our daughters grow through this vulnerable season of rapid change, the environment has a very big impact on their impressionable hearts.

As the loving gardeners charged with our daughter’s growth, it’s our job to protect her and teach her healthy habits of moderation. Balance is an art best learned through example. 

What sort of example are you giving her?

Potential Pests

Besides the environment there are pests that can destroy the seedlings. A good gardener tries to protect the seedling, but even the best gardeners cannot protect their plants 100% of the time. A good gardener checks on the plants regularly and looks for any evidence of pests. Likewise, we as parents should do our best to limit exposure to unholy things, not allowing certain movies, books, and music that do not have good, true, and beautiful messages to grab hold of our seedlings. As our daughters become independent, they may have more playdates, extracurricular activities, and time away from home. We cannot and should not hover over them, but check in with them often about their experience. Sometimes if we suspect something, we may even ask them, “Is everything ok? Did anything happen that made you feel uncomfortable? I’m always here to talk to you.” 

Resiliency

Lastly, if you grew seedlings indoors, completely protected from harsh environments or pests, the seedlings would be weak and never grow to their full potential. Likewise, we must not attempt to protect our daughters from every little harm. Our children are “antifragile,” meaning that most minor stresses actually make them stronger in the long run. According to Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, authors of the book, The Coddling of the American Mind, our kids “require stressors and challenges in order to learn, adapt, and grow” (Lukianoff and Haidt, 23). 

Although some protection is a good idea, we must never attempt to protect them from everything. Instead, we must allow certain stressors, gently check in frequently, respond to their needs, adjust their environment, and equip them with the tools necessary to endure potential stressors.

Some Practical Ideas:

  • Have well known family rules when it comes to what is appropriate and what is not
  • Be sure to check in with your daughter frequently about her experiences away from home. Listen, observe, and make room for her to tell you if something made her uncomfortable.
  • Don’t immediately try to take care of her stress for her, but equip her with tools to navigate the rough waters. (Example with diet, rest, exercise, etc)
  • Make room

The seedling is off and growing! It is starting to resemble the plant it’s supposed to be, leaves slowly changing shape and color, maybe even giving off a fragrance! These changes inform us more and more of what the plant is becoming. Although not a seedling anymore, all new plants take some time to get established to grow to their full potential.

Likewise, as our daughters start to take on a more feminine shape, we parents are reminded that they are no longer little girls; they are becoming young women. Although not fully grown women, they need our guidance, but not in the same way as seedlings do. 

Our role as the loving gardener is to make room around them, allowing them to grow. There are two ways we can do that.

She is not Me

As our daughters grow and develop into the women God calls them to be, we may see them taking shape much differently than we did. We may notice that she is much skinnier than we were at that age or that she may be developing much larger breasts than we ever did. Her body will most likely look quite different from our own. This is a reminder that she is not you, and you may have to allow her extra room to live her own life, not the life you would choose for her.

She may be a sunflower and you may be a rose. They don’t grow the same way, and they have different needs and growing seasons. Some flowers bloom much earlier than others. Let her be the flower God created her to be.

Room to Grow

We may realize that she is doing big things with her life! Maybe she wants to organize a school-wide charity drive, and the thought of that makes you sweat. Maybe she wants to go out for varsity her freshman year. Maybe her goals and dreams are bigger than you can imagine. Or maybe she needs space. Maybe she is an introvert and thrives with a long leash. Gardeners need to make room for the plant’s growth. We must not overcrowd them with too many opportunities and responsibilities and, at the same time, allow for them to grow, even if that means we take a step back.

Slowly, we must allow the plant space to grow to its potential, always checking in, sprinkling love and attention, and occasionally providing support for their growth.

Some Practical Ideas:

Let them be who God made them to be, even if that is different from you. For example, I am not a ‘girly girl’ who loves hair, outfits, and makeup, but my daughter, Joy, can’t get enough of those things. I don’t think it’s wrong to love those things, it’s just not my cup of tea. So, I allow Joy to like those things and teach me about them without letting my indifference to those things known. I would hate for her to think I thought something was wrong with her because she’s not like me.

Remind our daughters not to compare themselves to others. There is this beautiful quote from St. Therese of Lisieux, “If every flower was a rose, Spring would lose its loveliness.” We must encourage our daughters to stay in their own lane and do what God calls them to do, even if no one else is. Consider writing this quote on her bathroom mirror as a reminder.

Don’t immediately volunteer to help, but make your support known to them if they need it.

Harvestime Wisdom

Harvestime, typically autumn, is a season of change. While some people love change, others are scared of it. As a daughter experiences the changes in her body, emotional regulation, and personality, it helps her to see how normal change is. Remind her that who she is becoming is a process. As we see the changes in Fall, point them out to her and remind her that all beautiful things have seasons of change. This is the perfect opportunity for us to teach our daughter that her identity is not in her leaves, blossoms, or even her fruit. 

Deeply Rooted

All her growth started with the environment and the health of the soil. Her family and her faith in God will always keep her rooted in her identity as a daughter of the King of Kings. Those roots are foundational for her health and personal identity. She is God’s beloved daughter and she is good. Regardless of what she looks like, what her grades are, whether she has a ton of friends or not. Regardless of rain or shine, hot or cold, summer or winter, calm or stressed in good times and in bad, she should be rooted in the knowledge that she is His, always and forever. 

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7)

Bear Fruit

When ready, every plant has a harvest time. Harvesting often signals the plant to produce even more. Likewise, our daughters all have gifts that must be shared with the world. Like any good gardener, we must help her share her fruit (gifts and talents) with the world! As our daughters discover who they are, they may find they have talents and spiritual gifts. Typically in high school, teens are ready to uncover the spiritual charisms given to them at baptism are set ablaze. We can help our daughters uncover their charisms and encourage them to share them with the Body of Christ and discover the excitement, joy, and peace accompanying sharing our charisms. This discernment can help our daughters settle even more deeply into their identity as a loved child of God and provide clarity for the next steps in how God may desire her to use her in her young adult life.

Some Practical Ideas:

  • Teach your daughter to embrace her changes! Sometimes we have to lead by example here! Take her shopping for a new bra or clothes that fit her better. 
  • If she is curious, she can check out this free spiritual gifts assessment on our website. Then, talk about ways she can share her gifts with the world around her.

Prepare Her for Wintertime

After harvest, a gardener knows her work is almost done but not quite finished. A good gardener prepares her garden for winter. She cleans up, puts away unused tools, sprinkles a garden bed of fresh compost to slowly nourish the hidden, sleeping roots of her beloved plants.

The garden can look quite sad in the winter. No beautiful blooms, verdant foliage, or delicious fruit. It is sometimes tempting to despair when life is slow, boring, fruitless. But winter is a necessary season of hidden growth, and each of us are all called to experience spiritual winters. In fact, winters are necessary for the health of all perennials. Winter teaches us to rest.

One last little way we can help our daughters grow into holy and happy young women is to teach them to rest and rest well.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is nothing. When we do nothing, we so clearly see how much God does. Sometimes we need to be like Mary, not Martha (Like 10:38-42)

When your daughter runs into a tough situation, teach her to be patient. Remind her that God is working here. Things are happening, just slowly. Be patient like Hannah (1 Samuel 1:2 – 2:21)

Teach her to choose hope and trust in God’s will for her life, even if it looks a little different than what she was expecting. Say, “yes” like Mary (Luke 1:26-38)

Like any good gardener, continue to seek the wisdom of others. Keep learning and praying.

Discover more resources on puberty for Catholic girls

Looking for a book to help moms support daughters through puberty, slowly unfolding the call of Catholic femininity? Check out my book called Bloom: Unfolding the Beauty of Femininity in Light of the Son. Available on my website: Www.jumpincatholic.com/bloom-book

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