Some mothers of teenage girls don't believe they have aprayer of understanding their daughters. Celia Straus, on the otherhand, has two girls of her own and two books full of prayers, a Web siteand a loyal following, all testifying to her ability to embraceteenagers, angst and all.
Six years ago, when her oldest, Julia, was 12, Straus realized thather daughter was beginning to pull away from her. Suspecting thatadolescence was a time when girls might need their moms most and confidein them least, Straus searched for indirect but meaningful ways to stayconnected with her daughter.
One night Julia surprised her mother by asking her to leave a prayeron her pillow. Theirs was a mixed Christian-Jewish family that did notpractice a specific religious tradition. But God was--and is--areality in their lives, so Straus honored her daughter's request, overand over again.
"The project was my effort to bridge the gulf that was developingbetween us as she confronted the confusion, the changes and thepressures of growing up, and I confronted the accelerated pace of lifethat leaves many of us parents with little time for heartfeltconversations with our children," she said.
The nightly prayers became "a way to handle this time in our liveswith grace and courage and love," Straus said. "The prayers wereindirect expressions that let her know I understood how she was feelingand what she was going through, and they were attempts at finding pointsof entry into her interior life, which was closed to me."
In time Straus' younger daughter, Emily, then 8, asked for prayersof her own. Again, Straus complied. Eventually, she gathered the best ofall those prayers into "Prayers on My Pillow" (Ballantine Books, $18.50,224 pages). A Web site, www.girlprayers.com, followed, along with a CDof prayers read by celebrity moms and a second book, "More Prayers on MyPillow" (Ballantine, $18.50, 200 pages).
Straus, who answers at least 20 e-mail requests for personal prayersevery day, hears often from mothers and daughters who cannot seem tofind a starting place for the conversations they say they want to have."Here in the Straus house [where Julia is now 18 and Emily 13],there's still plenty of complaining and miscommunication," she said. Butshe has learned a few things over the years. Here are a few of hersuggestions:
"It's picking your battles, of course," she said, "but it's alsowaging them in ways that are win-win for both you and your daughter."
"Spending time together at a mall is a great experience," Straussaid, but it doesn't inspire conversation about emotions, values orgoals in life.
Leave the journal in the designated spot, where the other writer canpick it up and respond to what you've written or record something of herown. Don't get hung up on whose turn it is to write, or whether sheresponded to what you wrote. "Think of it as an indirect sharing, ashared diary, a chance to communicate indirectly about your feelings,"Straus said.
"I didn't have any of that growing up," Straus said. Girls todayhave a harder time finding solitude. "I do believe there is less timefor them to reflect on themselves. We overestimate theirself-absorption."
Teenagers need some time alone to attend to their inner lives,Straus said, just as adults do. A parent who makes her own inner life apriority sets a good example for a teenager to do the same.