Raising a Strong Girl

Story by Emily N. Roberts, MA, LPC, therapist at Triangle Psychological Services in Cary. Photo by Raymond Larose.

Cary, N.C. – There are certain characteristics that every parent wants to see in their daughter, from doing well in school to having good friends.  Parents desire for their daughters to be confident and well-adjusted.  Unfortunately this is not something that happens overnight.  

No One Size Fits All

This process can look different from girl to girl, and even between multiple children.

Some daughters can adjust well and thrive as they develop.  For a variety of reasons, some do not adjust as quickly or as easily.  Many of you have likely experienced that girls can be fragile and confusing creatures who seem impossible to please as they head into the “tween” stage.  It seems easier to learn particle physics than try to figure out what has upset her.

Influence of Media

Whether you like it or not, your little angel is headed towards being a teenager and those waters can be difficult to navigate.

With influences like Lady Gaga, Twilight, reality shows, and Abercrombie & Fitch, your daughters are being bombarded with how they should dress, how they should act, how they should treat boys, and what real life is supposedly like.  These values rarely line up with the values parents would like to instill in their daughters.

Research has shown that as girls head towards the teen years (11-16), images from the media result in lower body satisfaction and self-esteem.  Without intervention, the media influence increases greatly by the time they reach 16 (Clay, Vignoles, & Dittmar, 2005).

You’re Not Cool. It’s Ok.

Although all of the influential voices may not be bad for your daughter, they are impacting her. What can you do as a parent to make sure your daughter is hearing your voice among all the noise?

Even though your daughter may act like you are the last person she pays attention to, she is listening.  She is caught between depending on her mommy and daddy and realizing that you are definitely not cool.  Having a positive relationship can be difficult at this age.

6 Ideas for Raising a Strong Girl

Here are 6 ideas to help you connect with your daughter:

  1. Show Interest in What is Important to Her – They key to this is not showing interest in what you think she should be interested in or what you are interested in, but what sheis interested in. So spending time listening to her favorite boy band or watching her favorite movie may not be your idea of fun, but it will mean so much to your daughter that you took this time with her.
  2. Support Her When She Tries New Things – This “tween” stage is a time for your daughter to begin finding her identity.  As she tries new things, from softball to ballet, encourage her as she tests her abilities.  By supporting your daughter as she attempts these things, whether she succeeds or fails, she will know she has you there when she needs you.  Your daughter may not enjoy the same things or be good at the same things as her siblings.  With her parents’ support, she will be confident as she develops her own self-confidence.
  3. Build Her Up – Dissatisfaction with her body can begin as early as six years old and the desire to be thinner emerges in girls as young as fourth grade (Clark, Tiggemann, 2006). In one study of girls ages 5-8, over half of them desired a thinner figure (Lowes & Tiggemann, 2003). Your daughter needs to hear that she is beautiful and that she does not need to look like the latest pop star.  From helping her pick out appropriate clothing to educating her on what the media portrays, parents have a great opportunity to influence daughters towards a healthy self-image.
  4. Spend Time With Her One-on-One – Quality time with your daughter is one of the most important gifts you can give to her.  This does not come easily.  One effective way of making sure this quality time happens is to schedule it. Write it on your calendar like every other event and appointment.  Take your daughter on a date, help her with her homework, or take her to one of her favorite places.  She will feel loved as you take time out of your schedule to connect with her one-on-one.
  5. Get to Know Her Friends – Your daughter’s friends will forever be changing, but make a point to learn their names, things they like to do together, or how they know each other.  Your daughter will be more comfortable sharing with you what’s going on in that relationship when you have shown interest.
  6. Listen to Her Opinions, Even When They are Different from Yours – As your daughter is developing, her likes and dislikes are also going to further develop.  Although her opinions may not all be correct, listen to her without correcting her.  Encourage your daughter to think for herself and she will feel more comfortable confiding in you.

Acceptance

A strong daughter comes from a home where she is comfortable to express who she is and encouraged to be herself.  When a daughter is accepted by her parents, her identity is reinforced and she can be comfortable in her own skin.   Through all the noise she faces, your daughter will begin to discover who she is and who she wants to be.

As she journeys through these difficult years, she will know that she has a safe haven at her home where she is validated by her parents.  She is free to discover who she is as God’s creation. Take time today to tell your daughter what her strengths are and how beautiful you think she is.  Those words will stick with her for a long time.

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3 replies
  1. Lynda Harrington
    Lynda Harrington says:

    You made some excellent points in your counseling advice. I expecially agree with supporting them in their activities of physical interest to help them build self-confidence whether it is in the field of arts or sports, etc.

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