Susie Shellenberger founded Focus on the Family's Brio magazine for teen girls in 1990 and continues to serve as editor. Before starting Brio, Susie was a youth pastor and a high school teacher. She has written more than forty books, is in demand as an international speaker for women's groups and teens, and started the Brio Mother/Daughter Cruise for Focus on the Family. Susie lives in Colorado Springs and, in her spare time, enjoys walking her 150-pound St. Bernard and sometimes eating cereal for dinner.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: You have worked with teens and their daughters for many years now.What have you found are the biggest issues between moms and their daughters?
Communication between moms and daughters, being a good listener, and a teen daughter’s tendencies to push the boundaries are all big issues. Also, the daughter’s clothing choices, maintaining modesty, negative influences on the Internet, as well as overcoming peer pressure are often major issues.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: You talk about how moms can earn the right to be heard by their daughters. What can moms do to help their daughters become more responsive to them?
If moms can become more vulnerable, open, and honest with their daughters, the girls will appreciate the genuineness and honesty, and they’ll be more willing to become more vulnerable and open with their mothers.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: How can moms know they’re headed in the right direction?
When all of these start to click: moms and daughters are not in competition with each other, they have activities they enjoy doing together, Mom’s self-image isn’t determined by her daughter, they have spiritual discussions and pray together, daughters can be open and honest with their moms without feeling judged or belittled, the teen has one or more healthy male relationships, and they can say “I love you” to each other and know they truly mean it.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What tips would you give to hesitant moms to help them become comfortable having spiritual discussions with their daughters?
To start with, I’d suggest praying with your daughter before every meal, and when they become comfortable with that, that can build the foundation to pray together anytime and anywhere — not just before meals or at bedtime. And one way to begin privately praying with her is to step into her bedroom at night before she turns out her light. Ask her questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Ask her something like, “Honey, if you could change anything about today, what would it be?” or “What’s the most frustrating thing going on in your life right now?” And then follow up with “Let’s pray about that.”
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: Do you have any advice for how a mom can lead her daughter to Christ?
It can start with a discussion about sin: We were all born with sin, and someone has to pay for it — so it’s either us or Jesus. Either we’ll die in sin or we can accept Christ’s payment for our sin and live in heaven with Him for eternity.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: When is a good time in a mom’s life to look for this opportunity to lead her daughter to Christ?
There’s no magic age for when your daughter could become a Christian. She may be ready to accept Christ at age four, eight, or twelve. As soon as she can understand that she was born with sin and that Jesus loves her so much He died to pay for her sin, rose from the grave, and wants to have a relationship with her, she’s ready to ask for forgiveness for sins and to invite Christ into her life. I share in my book about a four-year-old who made a sincere prayer to God for salvation and her mom said her attitude and life changed almost immediately. Your daughter may not accept Christ when she’s four; it may not be until she’s twelve, a teenager, or even an adult. But saturate her life with prayer! God can and will make a difference.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What is the difference between knowing about Christ and knowing Him personally?
To know Christ personally requires a genuine relationship with Him, including consistent communication, love, and respect. For your daughter to have a personal relationship with Christ, she must confess her sins, seek forgiveness from Him, and place her faith in Him. Then she’ll be guaranteed eternal life!
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: You say that moms should live in such a way that their daughters can imitate them in every way. How can moms get this message to their daughters?
By praying and reading their Bible every day, God’s power will be working through their actions and reactions, and moms will be living such a life that daughters will want to imitate them! I have found that many parents who actually read and study the Bible with their children and who pray consistently with their children will see the reflection of their own spiritual growth in the lives of their kids.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: Why is it so important for moms to be sanctified?
For one thing, God commanded it. For another thing, if Mom isn’t sanctified, she won’t be a good image for her daughter to copy, and therefore can’t lead her daughter into a life free of sin.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: Why did you decide to include a Bible study in Raising a Spiritually Strong Daughter?
It’s a challenge for moms and daughters to study the Bible together and I wanted to provide an easy starting point. This interactive study is on the book of 1 John, which only has five chapters. They could complete it within a month if they did it every day. But it’s not how fast they do it that matters, it’s just completing it together when it works out in their schedules.