Young girls are in distress. The demands of toxic social media and exam pressure, coupled with confusing messages on body image, are all causing girls anxiety and heartache.
Parents need to influence daughters to find their inner strength and embolden them with self-belief, teach them to call out injustices and find inspiring female trailblazers to show her how it’s done.
Here are nine ways to raise confident, resilient girls:
Arm her with killer phrases
It is so important to teach little girls how to speak up and speak out, so she can assert herself properly.
Arm her with the kinds of words and language she can use to be authoritative, knowing “what to say and who to speak to” is half the battle.
Remember that strength is part-attitude, so ban negative speech and undermining statements.
Nurture her interests
We want girls to reach higher because, it is believed that self-esteem comes from a sense of belief in your ability and a positive image of yourself. It’s important for your girl to get a sense of who she is, where her passions lie and what she’s good at.
As parents, your job is to help find these interest ‘sparks’, and make pursuing them, easy. For some girls it’s going to be drama, for others, it will be knitting or dancing, it’s about giving them the opportunity to explore what’s right for them.
Show her female role models
You can’t be what you can’t see. When we witness someone else performing an action, our mirror neurons respond just as they would if we had carried out the action ourselves. Show your daughter examples of strong women in top positions to inspire them to strive for the same.
Role models can be anyone. From your grandmother to the leader of a football team. Showing them relatable female figures, local or otherwise, tells your girl they’ve got a place.
Allow them to fail, safely
Success is a journey, not the end destination. Teaching your daughter this could help toughen her up. Showing girls (and all children) that the end-goal isn’t what’s truly valuable, it’s the route from A to B, and the challenges faced along the way, will help build their resilience.
Think of it as “character learning”, “trying, striving, sometimes failing and trying again.”
Make sure she understands what she’s gained in the process, ready for her next attempt, because “what we don’t want is girls to back off.” Praise the effort she’s put in and the time it takes for your girl to get there, “…then you’re much more likely to have young people who persist when tasks become difficult.”
Get her reason through what interests her
Get your daughter to reason through what interests her, giving her a greater understanding of who she is and what she’s good at.
Get her thinking critically too. Ask her what she’s learned, “Did you learn patience? Did you learn tolerance? Did you learn not to get cross?” By “stepping back, letting them make mistakes, allowing them to fall” your girl will be armed and able to face future hurdles, or haters, head-on.
Encourage flexible friendships
The pressure to be surrounded by an intimate circle of sacred women can be overwhelming.
Encourage your daughter not to be so exclusive with her pals. Flexible friendships, based on things like play rather than just an intense emotional connection, can be fun too.
Helping girls cultivate inclusively, group friendships will mean they might feel less “anxious and think ‘I’ve got to cling to my one main friend.’”
Teach her mindfulness
The ups and downs of life are completely normal. But, if your daughter is regularly feeling anxious, mindfulness, a mind-body based approach to manage intrusive, negative feelings—can help her live more at the moment and have better control over her jungle of thoughts.
Explore the greatness of girlhood
Being a girl can be awesome, so make sure your daughter knows that, talk to her about being female in a really positive light. Make sure that your home is somewhere girlhood is always celebrated.
As she gets older, you can talk more explicitly about the realities and challenges of being a woman. Don’t gloss over the barriers like the challenges of being a mum and trying to hold down a career.
Get your daughter to think big, and listen to her when she opens up.
Ask her what she thinks about something. Encourage her to vocalise her ideas and explore different viewpoints, rather than just sitting back, passively waiting to be asked.
Get them to reason through their choices to give them a better grasp of who they are and what they’re good at. Probe them.