Before graduating high school, nearly one out of three adolescent girls will experience depression, anxiety disorders, or eating disorders, approximately twice the rate of boys.” (Commonwealth Fund, 1999)
These statistics are unacceptable to me and sadly, have not changed since being published. Where are we going wrong in our approach to raising the next generation of young women? Of course, we can point to the media for blame and how derogatory images of women pollute our belief about how and what we can grow up to be, but I think the problem runs deeper.
As parents, we have the most powerful influence over our children’s core beliefs and value of self-worth. In the parenting role, we need to take a step back and really think hard about the subtle messages we are giving our girls each day… in the way we talk about other women, with our own inner gossip that may say, “we are not good enough” and how we choose to talk with our children (or not) about the subtle gender messages from their favourite media programs. “Did she really need to show cleavage when she won the court case?” “What might it say about a woman’s ability to create an argument on merit and intelligence alone?”
Next time you look in the mirror and mutter, “yikes, how did I get these wrinkles around my eyes” or “I need to lose 5 pounds so I look good better in my jeans”, imagine a young girl is watching you. Your behavior speaks louder than you may think. What subtle messages are you giving her about “what give you value” “what gives you worth” “what qualities make a woman beautiful”? As Moms, we are leadership modeling all the time. It is essential to build awareness around the messages we may be unconsciously sending. The most important thing a woman can do to help girls build a foundation of confidence and self-esteem, is to lead by example, by allowing young girls to see that you are confident in your own skin, SO BE JOYFUL ABOUT WHO YOU ARE (Dove research, 2011).
As always, I love to hear about how this information has been impactful in your family and please bug me to write about topics that are relevant to your experiences with your tween/teen.