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Helping Girls Grow

What are girls made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice. That’s what girls are made of. This old adage expresses past generations whimsical view of girls. With many cultural changes in our spoken view of girls and women we no longer talk in such terms.

Today, the public view of girls is tough and diverse while maintaining a feminine perspective. In fact, public respect for all people has improved greatly over the past 30-40 years. What about personal feelings within girls, are they better than ever?

Jill was a bright, smiling, active girl. She played on soccer and softball teams. When she scored a goal or made a hit she would smile and raise her arms in celebration. As Junior High approached she heard stories about how boys would grab and poke you, but she bravely went off to school. At times those things did happen, but it wasn’t “cool” to rat on others. As she began her junior high school career, many of her former teammates began dropping out of sports. They no longer focused on sports, rather their personal appearance and boys became their focal point. Eventually Jill decided to quit, too. She heard about parties and her best friend, Marcie, talked about an unsupervised party she had gone to. Little by little, in order to fit in, Jill gave into these changes, sort of as a way to be “cool” and fit-in” with certain groups. At times girls whom she thought were her friends would tell someone else what she had shared privately. A person, who was her friend one week, got with others the next week and wouldn’t talk to her at all. All these feelings became more and more bewildering to Jill.

What’s a parent to do in these difficult times for our girls. We may not be able to prevent many difficult experiences from taking place, but, as parents, we can help our girls maintain perspective by keeping an open talkable relationship with them. Spend regular time with your junior high age daughters. Stay involved in their activities and at times, when they need to share, listen without judging or ridiculing. Be specific in teaching her the difference between whom she is versus how someone may feel about her. Teach her specifically about personal characteristics you observe that are special about her. Help her understand that she is special to you as your daughter. Believe in your daughter beyond today’s difficulty, give her a hope beyond today’s feelings. Parent time and openness can bridge many crisis feelings. This will help your daughter’s private feelings match a public respect for her that needs to be conveyed.

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