International Women’s Day is on Sunday. It’s a day that celebrates the many talents and strengths of women. In celebration, we have rounded up some tips to raise an empowered girl. I know we’ve likely missed some points so let us know your experiences and opinions in the comments. Here is our list:
1. Encourage her to voice her opinion and speak for herself. From an early age, it’s important to give your daughter the opportunities to speak about her opinions and feelings. Listen and show her that her opinion is valued. Let your daughter debate hot topics with the adults and, leading by example, teach her how to be assertive in a respectful way.
2. Help her build positive relationships. Disagreements with friends are a normal part of friendships but there is a huge difference between disagreements and verbal abuse. Girls are often taught to be nice, apologize, and consider others first. But it’s important to be kind AND have a strong voice and boundaries. Teach her how to express and own her emotions using certain vocabulary like ‘When you said this it made me feel this way.”
3. Have conversations about body image. This conversation is imperative because society still puts a huge emphasis on how girls look. Instead of commenting on your daughter’s appearance, make one about how she uses her body as an instrument to conquer achievements. ‘Wow, you held that handstand for a long time. You’re so strong.” Also, show her the importance of taking care of her body and being healthy mentally and physically. Take her to a yoga class. Try meditation.
There’s also nothing wrong with make-up and dressing up! But if/when your daughter experiments with fashion, rather than saying ‘You look pretty” try “You are really talented with the eye shadow. You can braid hair really well.” It’s then an expression of their creative side rather than as a tool to enhance their looks. Be mindful of the conversations you have about your body image as well. As parents, make sure you model positive discussions about your body and do not place emphasis on your appearance being the most important thing.
4. Buy her toys that make her think. Embrace the brain teasers and board games, the medical and scientific experiments, things to build towers and locomotives. Give her the tools to explore, think, tinker as well as dress up. Her toys get her thinking and believing in all the possibilities the world has to offer her.
5. Female role models. Learn something new. Make a new friend. Be assertive. Foster positive relationships and a healthy body image. Be the empowered woman you want your daughter to strive to be. Or perhaps you or your partner have females in your families who your daughter could look up to as well. The more examples of strong female role models in her life the more likely she’ll believe in the reality of achieving her goals.
A big part of raising this generation of children is figuring out what role technology plays in their lives. Kids are surrounded by social media to interact with friends and other people. As parents, it’s important to have a conversation with your child about using good judgment and staying safe when using these tools. Here are some important topics to discuss with your child about using social media, and the internet, safely:
1. Set up strict boundaries: It’s up to you as a parent to decide what age is appropriate to open a social media account for your child. When you do, it’s best to discuss the importance of not sharing or posting any personal information on their account. Signing up with a username, not their real name, and setting strict privacy settings is the best option for most people and especially minors. Depending on their age, or your concerns, you may also want to set a boundary where you have access to the account to start in order to monitor their use. Then gradually pull back as you feel more comfortable.
2. The internet is permanent: People seem to forget this and don’t think carefully before they post. Talk to your child about the repercussions and give examples of bad posts so they understand. Everything you share is tied to you now and 10 years from now. Many companies nowadays will conduct a search online and look at social media accounts before hiring someone. Stress the importance of taking a moment to ask themselves that if it’s not something they’d want their future boss to see, then they should probably not post it.
3. Stranger danger: Make this a rule for their safety. If someone they don’t know messages them online, don’t respond. If they ask for personal information, show your child how to block accounts. Social media makes it even easier nowadays for predators to connect with children so it’s important your child understands the risks and protects themselves.
4. Filters and filtering: Explain to your child that social media is not an accurate representation of people’s lives. People have the control to filter what they post so they tend to show the best days or parts of their lives and post photos of themselves edited with filters. As your child grows up in this digital world, it’s hard not to compare themselves to the images they see and think what they see online is real. We as adults can be guilty of doing this too!
Start with these conversations about social media and try to lead by example on your accounts. Set privacy settings on your accounts. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss seeing. Don’t add anyone that you don’t know on your accounts. Even try taking a selfie without filters!
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.