My birthday is right around the corner. Like in a couple of days right around the corner. And while I don’t usually celebrate my birthday (you might not know this, but my brother and I agreed to stay 29 forever. Best pact I’ve ever made), I’m making an exception this year.
Not because it’s a big one. Please, friends, don’t rush me into a new decade. Let me enjoy my, ahem, late-ish thirties.
Not because I want presents. Ok, maybe I’m just a little bit curious about the contents of the J.Crew box that arrived last night. But it’s not about the presents.
And not because I do enjoy some Ducle de Leche cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory (hint, hint). And a little Sterling Cabernet (hint, again).
None of those reasons stand out this year.
The reason I’m bringing my birthday out of retirement is that the United Nations declared October 11th the International Day of the Girl. In doing so, the UN has established a day to recognize the rights of girls and the unique challenges that girls face across the world. The UN is committed to ending gender stereotypes, discrimination, violence, and economic disparities that disproportionately affect girls.
Now that’s a day I can get behind.
Before you start thinking that maybe these issues don’t affect your daughter(s), consider this:
Are you ready to empower your girls?
Empowering our children starts at home. We can’t avoid the difficult conversations with the hope that those issues will resolve themselves. They won’t.
Body image begins to affect girls in 2nd and 3rd grade and, in some cases, even in preschool.
Bullying happens. Admit it. Look for the signs. Be proactive. Stand by your child.
The pressure to be perfect is as much external as it is internal. Choose your words carefully.
Competition can be healthy, but it can also lead to undue pressure and poor choices (even on the field).
So what’s a mom to do?
Open the Lines of Communication: Bottom line: Your kids won’t talk if you won’t listen. You can’t jump in with a quick fix every time a problem arises, and sarcasm and eye rolling (or very heavy sighs) will cause your child to shut down. Listen before you respond. Allow your child to vent and process her emotions. Ask follow up questions. Let your child know that you are there, without judgment, to listen and help at all times.
Start a Mother/Daughter Journal: It’s no big secret that girls start talking less the older they get. More often than not they are embarrassed or afraid to bring up difficult topics. A mother/daughter journal on your daughter’s bedside table gives your daughter the opportunity and space to write you a note that you can read and respond to while she is at school. Maybe it’s the highlights of the day, maybe it’s the latest trend that she just has to follow, maybe it’s the girl who bullied her during lunch…the back and forth without the fear of judgment gives your daughter an opportunity to feel heard. Bonus: It gives you time to think when difficult questions arise.
Volunteer Together: Helping others is a great way to spend time together and feel good about something you’ve done. Search for monthly volunteer opportunities and choose one that appeals to both of you. Spend some time doing good to feel good together. Quality time spent together is always a bonus.
Date Nights: Schedule a weekly date night (or afternoon) with your daughter. Being involved and present is the key to strengthening your bond, particularly when puberty hits. Get your nails done, go out to lunch, walk on the beach…find a fun weekly activity and don’t cancel! Our daughters need to know that they are a priority. Show them by prioritizing special time.
Mother/Daughter Book Club: Looking for a new way to instill a love of reading? Organize a monthly book club with a few of your daughter’s friends and their mothers. Have the girls take turns choosing the books and leading the discussion. Reading with your daughter helps foster the relationship and keeps you involved in her interests. Bonus: Take turns creating healthy, fun snacks for book club to address good eating habits.
Watch What She’s Watching: Kids are plugged in and tuned out today. We live in a technological world, and that isn’t going away. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and remain in the dark. My mother watched every single episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 with me. I have never forgotten that. It helped us stay connected during those pesky teenage years. Watch the shows that your daughter is so excited to see each week. Discuss them. Get excited with her. If it’s important to her, it should be important to you too.
Peer Mentoring: Some schools have peer-mentoring programs in place, but many do not. Consider establishing a Big/Little Sister program in your daughter’s school to help girls support one another. When girls are empowered to support one another, competition decreases. Empower your girls.
Discuss Body Image & Bullying: Girls think about appearance and weight. This is a reality. Girls worry about body image. Girls bully other girls and tease them based on appearance. I wish they didn’t, but they do. Talk about it. Discuss healthy choices. Discuss the meaning of empathy and what to do when someone bullies. Point out those ridiculous ads plastering the magazines and talk about reality versus professional touch ups. Don’t be afraid to tackle the difficult subjects. The more comfortable your daughter is in her own skin, the better she will be able to cope with the ups and downs.
I’ve said enough. It’s up to you now. And I’m off to eat that cheesecake…
Would you just do me one quick favor? Please help me celebrate my birthday this year by empowering your girls and spreading the word about the International Day of the Girl. Thank you, my friends.Pin It