How to help girls navigate tough social situations

Not long ago, I asked a group of 20 school-age girls to write down the one thing they wished their parents would do more of when helping them navigate tricky social situations. None of them struggled to answer the question.

At the end of the session the girls asked to share their answers. They each had a story to tell. Two themes quickly emerged: “Just listen,” and “Stop telling us what to do.” They shared their frustrations, laughed out loud about their least favorite parent interventions (“meetings with the other girls and their moms” top this list) and came up with a list of rules they wish their parents would follow.

Bottom line: Our girls have a lot to teach us.

As a mother, I know the pull to protect my daughter from every little thing, and the urge to try to fix things for her. But I’m not her, and she’s growing up in a much different era than I did, so I have to step back and listen to her needs. That isn’t easy.

Results of a survey from the Dove Self-Esteem Fund shed critical light on the emotional needs of young girls:

  • The top wish among all girls is for parents to communicate better with them.
  • Ninety-one percent of girls ages 8-12 turn to their mothers as a resource when they feel bad about themselves.
  • Fifty-four percent of girls in that same age group turn to their fathers.
  • Seven in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school, and relationships with friends and family members.

Young girls face pressure from academic demands, social issues, athletics, planning their future, social media and family discord (to name a few). The goods news here is that, although girls are struggling with self-esteem, they want our help. They want to connect with their parents for support and understanding. How we respond when they seek our guidance is crucial. Here’s what girls told me they want, and what they said isn’t helpful, in terms of providing support.

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