|When I got the notice about Laguna Playhouse’s production of “The Secret Life of Girls” I was a bit disappointed my daughter wasn’t home to be able to see it with me. She’s a collegiate now, but several years back, she was a young teen experiencing the exact same issues being explored in Linda Daugherty’s play about teen bullying, cliques, peer pressure and the intense emotional challenges facing girls as they navigate through grade school and high school. Since I didn’t have my daughter around for a night out, I decided on the next best thing: I took my 16 & 13 year old nieces. It was a perfect opportunity to bond with my sister’s kids and touch base with them about their lives and challenges they may be facing in school. On the drive down to Laguna we talked about what they’ve seen in the school halls. They talked openly about being picked on by bullies, seeing other kids ostracized for being quirky and different; my littlest niece had even been punched in the head. I had no idea. Luckily, these are great girls who’ve been able to overcome their challenges. Many aren’t so lucky.
The Secret Life of Girls follows Abby, who tries to find acceptance on her school’s championship volleyball team. She encounters Stephanie, the popular girl in school, who uses her friendship as a weapon of manipulation by pretending to be friends with a girl one day and then backstabbing her the next. Exclusion is another key issue explored in this play (such as when a girl emails her friends an invite to a party and says “Don’t tell anyone—it’s just us four tonight!”). Gossip, rumors and cliques are other issues explored in the play—issues that can break the hearts of young girls at a vulnerable time in their lives.
The performance was a part of the Theatre for a New Generation program that presents current issues in dramatic form with post show audience participation panel discussions. Plays are chosen for their relevance to the concerns of teenagers and for their ability to communicate frankly and directly, at a level those teenagers will respect and appreciate.
The idea is to get families and kids talking and sharing about what’s going on in their lives. Not an easy task, but it’s important to ask the questions. Driving time is the perfect opportunity to ask about their lives. Start in by saying you heard something on the radio or from a friend, then ask a question about a topic. Here’s the most important thing: let them talk – don’t lecture or give advice right away. Repeat what they say so they know they’ve been heard. Ask open ended questions like, “How did you react to that?” or “What happened next?” Again, don’t lecture. Ask them if they’d like advice, and if they say yes, be gentle in how you approach the subject. Be wise and calm, don’t berate or nag.
Being the parent of a teen is very challenging, but when approached from a place of patience, love, support and encouragement, it will reap many benefits in the years to come. Participating in events like Theatre for a New Generation at Laguna Playhouse is one tool parents can use to nurture the parent/teen bond. I’m looking forward to more productions from TNG in the future, and hopefully, more nights out with my nieces…
…and maybe even my collegiate when she stops by for a visit.
resource: Queen Bees and Wannabes (thanks, sis, for recommending this book years ago!)
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