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Women are graduating with more advanced degrees than ever before and have more female role models in just about every public sphere you can think of. While girls' levels of academic achievement have risen to the point that they now outperform boys consistently, their rates of stress, anxiety, and depression have risen as well.
A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found the girls to have three times the number of depressive episodes as the boys, and the rate at which girls reported feeling depressed nearly tripled in just one year. In other words, while girls are doing everything possible to be all that they can, they're not enjoying it.
Like you, I want my daughters to have boundless opportunity. But more than that, I want them to be happy—and a big part of that means making sure that they're ready for whatever challenges they'll someday face. In that spirit, I spoke to some of the biggest change-makers in our country—people who are leading the charge to make sure girls enter adulthood feeling good about themselves—to find out what parents can do to help their daughters thrive.
Now I'm sharing what I learned. It can be easy to forget that parents, particularly mothers, are a powerful influence. Even teenagers, whom we assume are easily swayed by peer pressure, say that their mom matters most: 63 percent of girls who report that they have a role model say it's their mom, and 48 percent turn to their mother for support when they have a problem, according to a survey of nearly 1, girls ages 13 to 18 by Keds and Girls Leadership.
Only 15 percent go to their friends first for advice. Chances are you're everything to your daughter—including her biggest role model. Report after report finds that the way a mother acts in front of her daughter largely influences the child's behavior, and there are ways to model a healthy self-image that benefit both of you.go
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First, watch what you say, especially gossip. My 8-year-old uses baby talk when she's unsure about something, and I remind her that she has important things to say and people may not take her seriously if she uses that voice. Even at LeanIn. One way to flip the script? Get active.
- What to Read Next.
- The Short Fictions (Lovers relatives and other enemies.).
- In The Shadow of Rainbows.
When your daughter sees you go out for a run, or you dance in the living room together or help her scale a rock wall at the playground, you're teaching her to love her body. Finally, as important as Mom is, the significance of Dad or a father figure can't be understated.
The Secret to Raising a Happy, Confident Girl | Parents
Meg Meeker, M. One-on-one time is crucial: "Lots of dads, and particularly single or divorced dads, think that an outing with their daughter needs to be sensational. But pulling her into the menial—grocery shopping together, washing the car—shows that you value her company in the context of your life. All right, brace yourself: Between elementary and high school, a girl's self-esteem drops 3. The antidote? Encourage your young daughter's individuality, and you'll lay a foundation that will be her emotional scaffolding as she enters the trickier tween and teen years.
Cast a wide net when encouraging your daughter to discover her passions. During a trip to the library, don't nudge her toward Pinkalicious. Even if she's the girly-girl type, who's to say she wouldn't also love a world atlas? Instead of signing her up for gymnastics because it's the popular choice, present a range of options and see what she picks.
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Once she shows an interest in something, give her lots of chances to explore it. It's key to help her hone her interests when they're different from the rest of the family's. It seems obvious, but it can be hard for moms when they aren't the mentor. Instead, realize that sometimes you'll be the bridge who connects your daughter to the expert. You might be surprised to learn that letting your daughter screw up is one of the best ways to build her confidence.
Show your daughter that mistakes are a normal part of life. Speak up often! The process of learning through trial and error will build her confidence. Right now, the highlight of your kid's social life is being the line leader, but tough social situations start earlier than you think.