Despite all the progress made, our society still puts women through the wringer emotionally. From impossible body standards, to victim blaming, to the pressure to always put others before themselves, there is a whole lot for women to deal with from their teens and beyond. Although parents and caregivers can’t shield girls from the world, there’s a great deal they can do to prevent them from internalizing damaging societal messages. But what are the most important lessons to teach? Parents need to teach the most crucial emotional skills girls need to learn to navigate the world more effectively. Here are some skills to consider teaching your daughter by the time she turns 13.
1. How to respect and express her feelings.
We often neglect to teach our girls emotional intelligence because the popular stereotype is that females are good at getting in touch with their feelings and communicating them. In the real sense, when women are overcome by emotions, they become incapable of making decisions. Emotional Intelligence means having the ability to describe and express the full range of human emotion. But when girls are taught to value being happy and liked over all, they often suppress or can’t acknowledge more difficult experiences. It’s recommended that parents “authorize” their daughters’ emotions. When your girls express authentic emotions, even if they’re difficult, you take them seriously. You don’t deny them or challenge them.
2. How to feel beautiful and have a positive relationship with her body.
Lost in a sea of selfies and reality television, girls might not know how to view themselves beyond objects of desire. Teach your daughter that she is beautiful because of who she is in her heart and mind, not because of how she looks or how she dresses. Point out that, as cheesy as it sounds, real beauty does come from within. Help her understand that trying to be sexy won’t make her beautiful, because she is already beautiful without changing her appearance. Build her confidence in who she is apart from her looks and explain to her that confidence translates into beauty. Make sure her Dad is telling her how beautiful she is too. Also, Parents should discuss sex and know and use the right names for genitalia and do their best to “represent sex as a healthy, beautiful experience that should be had with joy and consent.” That means talking about what consent means early on and emphasizing that a girl’s body belongs to her alone.
3. How to stand up for herself.
Studies show that girls are encouraged by both parents and teachers to be sweet and conciliatory. And while we don’t want to send our daughters into the world with a chip on their shoulder and their fists raised looking for a fight, we need to let them know that it is okay to stand up for themselves and voice their beliefs and opinions. So tell your daughter that she can express herself strongly, but respectfully. And, if someone is mistreating her, empower her to say, “I don’t really like the way you’re treating me, so I’m going to go now.”
4. How to understand boys.
Boys and girls do have differences when it comes to their brains. Boys are more visual. Boys have more testosterone than women. These biological facts make boys and girls think differently, and approach life and problem-solving differently. Teach your daughter that she has great value, not just because she is a girl, but because she is a person and that boys are not better or more valuable than girls.
5. How to learn from friendships
Girls are frequently told that friendships are paramount, and that may be why they can be so singularly focused on those relationships. Relationships help girls learn to assert themselves, compromise, and set boundaries. Parents should view friendships as an opportunity to show girls what healthy relationships look like and how they can relate to others and themselves. Encouraging her to communicate honestly and reasonably assert herself, provides her with skills that she’ll need to push for a raise as an adult.
6. How to work hard and have faith.
Help your daughter understand that working hard is the key to moving forward in life. Reward her hard work with praise. Point out the link in her own life between her hard work and success. A strong faith will help your daughter navigate the challenges of life. It will serve as the basis for her standards and the choices she makes. Teach her about the power of faith. Teach her how to strengthen her faith. Pray with her.
7. How to feel self-compassion
It’s easy to be one’s most unforgiving critic, no matter gender. But girls get a lot of messages that it’s important to please others. So when they experience a setback, it often feels like letting someone else down. Research shows that adolescent girls may be exposed to more interpersonal stress than boys. That makes them more likely to ruminate on negative feelings, which puts them at greater risk for depression. To help prevent this cycle of suffering, parents should teach their daughters how to deal with failure. What we want is for girls to have is the capacity to move through a setback without beating themselves up. This means teaching a girl how to relate to herself and practice self-compassion in a moment of crisis. It’s important that instead of criticizing herself harshly, she focus on the universality of disappointment and practice self-kindness. By realizing others share that experience, she’ll be better prepared to treat herself compassionately and develop resilience.
8. How to deal with the online world.
Help your daughter see that the online world is not the real world. Be sure that she’s spending more time with you and your family than with her online community. The more time that she spends online, the greater her chances of feeling discouraged about what other girls have that she doesn’t, be it their clothes, their bodies, or their boyfriends.
What else are you trying to teach your pre teen daughter? Share your Comments below.
By Caroline Wangechi