Dannielle Miller, an educator who works with thousands of Australian teenagers every year, says we view adolescent girls as “either vulnerable victims in need of protection, or as a wanton and wild demographic we need to be protected from.”
Too often, we ignore or overlook their resilience, their bravery, their talents, their friendships, their achievements.
Teenage girls face a number of real issues. Body image angst, disordered eating, self harm, binge drinking, navigating technology safely, developing and maintaining respectful relationships are all extremely tricky and many of them are unavoidable.
As parents and educators we need to build them up, not tear them down. We need to celebrate their wins and let them make mistakes.
Instead of fuelling the self-fulfilling prophecy that teen girls are either troubled or trouble, Miller suggests we do the opposite.
Here are her top 10 tips for raising happy, confident teen girls.
1. Encourage her to critique culture, not herself or her peers.
Once empowered to decode the mixed messages she receives, these will have far less negative impact on her.
2. Admit your mistakes.
Show her that you are comfortable with imperfection ( this will give her permission to embrace her own imperfections too).
3. Hold hope.
Encourage her to understand there’s always a way forward. Work through solutions with her, rather than catastrophising.
4. Don’t be just another adult who always knows best.
Avoid excessive criticism and make home a shame-free zone.
5. Teach her that her worth will never be determined by a number on a scale.
She is a somebody, not just a body.
6. Encourage her to expand her emotional vocabulary and express the full range of emotions.
Is what she feels anger, sadness, loneliness?
7. Appreciate she may have adult sized problems and only child like strategies to fall back on.
She may be overwhelmed by expectations she consistently can’t meet.
8. Build the Sisterhood.
Find connections for her – other adults she can turn to, peers etc. These may be found in books (introduce her to feminist writers).
9. Empathy, empathy, empathy.
And love, love, love. Despite the fact she may withdraw at times, she will stay crave your understanding and deep affection.
10. Don’t underestimate your role in their life.
Girls can’t be what they can’t see – be a positive role model.