By: Yuki Hayashi, Nancy Ripton and Emma Waverman
Growing up can be tough. As your little girl matures and her body begins to change, she will be entering a whole new world and will need your help. But don’t worry. Our guide will help you engage her in conversations that will give her the confidence she needs and empower her to make smart decisions.
Besides dealing with school and activities, tweens are busy carving out their identities and navigating the intricacies of their social networks. And, unlike in previous generations, this soul-searching often takes place under the scrutiny of social media.
Girls face more cultural expectations about their appearance and behaviour than boys do, so having a posse of gal pals on their side is crucial.
“Research shows that female-to-female relationships are the cornerstone of girls’ and women’s sense of selves. Girls and women learn how to be in the world by mirroring other girls and women,” says Esther Kane, a registered clinical counsellor and self-help author in Courtenay, B.C.
But in a culture of sniping, the path to female unity isn’t always a smooth one. Gossip, exclusion, social media harassment and other forms of bullying can create a toxic environment for our daughters.
“It’s more important than ever to teach girls what is healthy and what is unhealthy in female relationships,” says Kane, whose counselling practice specializes in female relationships.
These three steps can encourage positive relationships:
1. Be Chatty
Don’t limit dinner or commuting conversations to the topics of school or sports — ask about your daughter’s relationships with other girls at school.
“Stay in tune with your daughter’s feelings and experiences within her female friendships, and let her know you’re always there to talk if she needs to,” Kane says.
It’s easier to help if you stay in the loop than it is to try to rush in later when a problem arises.
2. Help Her Identify Bullies
Nip bullying in the bud the first chance you get by teaching your tween to recognize bullying so she can reject it — and encourage her friends to do the same. Parents need to stay on top of this.
“It’s vital that we teach girls to stay away from bullies and others who don’t bring out the very best in them,” Kane says.
Various websites can help you gain a better understanding about bullying nowadays, so use all the resources you can. Bullying can happen anywhere at any time since our children are so connected to everything.
3. Set a Good Example
“Model healthy, loving and supportive relationships through your own friendships with adult women,” Kane says. “Kids are more influenced by your behaviour than by your words. Girls are emotional sponges who literally soak up messages by watching their parents interact with others.”
In other words: act less “real housewives,” and more Tina and Amy — for everybody’s sake.
If your teen is looking for more information, send her to beinggirl.com.