When people know that we have four boys and a girl, their first comment would either be, “Oh she will definitely turn into a tom boy,” or ”Oh, I am sure she is a spoiled little princess.” It is indeed intriguing to know how our beloved daughter will turn up to be. However, being the only girl in the house puts bigger responsibilities on her shoulders.
As a matter of fact, having raised three boys before the arrival of our little princess along with her twin brother, I haven’t had to worry much about how the media influences a girl’s mind set, character, and behaviour. However, as I look around and observe the consequences it is resulting into, my heart aches.
I also realize the colossal obsession with personal pictures through social media. Young girls might be misled thinking that life is all about alluring glamour, perfect bodies, and posing for social media. That is my main concern! Do we want our little ones to grow into believing in such an artificial world or strive to fit in it? Do we want them to be blinded by the physical beauty and neglecting the essence of the real self?
Recently, Essena O’Neill, an Instagram model, quit social media and declared that her online ‘dream life’ was all fake. She confessed how she would barely eat in order to pose in a bikini and that each uploaded picture was one out of hundred attempts. After realising the negative impact social media had on her mental and physical wellbeing, Essena posted: ‘I’m quitting Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr, deleted over 2000 photos here today that served no real purpose other than self-promotion. Without realizing, I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance.’
The question is how can we as parents help raise girls who are self-confident, successful, caring, mentally and physically healthy, and love themselves despite their exposure to the fake world of social media?
“Raising Girls”, by Steve Biddulph is one of the most amazing books that eloquently addresses the various ways parents can help raise girls to be the independent, intellectual, and beautiful ladies. Note, however, this book was written a few years ago, when technology hadn’t taken its toll on society yet. Still, I find it very efficient and must be read and applied by moms.
So how can we achieve those goals and guide them into being successful ladies in the 21st century which is dominated by social media (and all the negative influence that comes with it)?
From the readings I have done on this topic, I will share with you some of the basic points I found to be essential, and I hope will be able to implement:
Encourage Physical Risks:
According to Joann Deak Ph.D., author of ‘Girls Will Be Girls’, girls who avoid risks have poorer self-esteem than girls who can and do face challenges. As parents, we need to help them get out of their comfort zone and gently encourage them to overcome a certain fear.
Let her know your love:
All experts agree how important it is for girls to know that you love them for who they are and not how they look like. Talking all the time about weight loss or the types of food she eats, results in low self-esteem. She has to know that she is beautiful whether she is skinny, fat, tall, or short. It is important for us as parents to express our love towards her, and seek professional help in case things deteriorate.
Treat her equally:
Whether a girl is an only child or there are four others in the same house, equal treatment where no comparison is made helps girls in appreciating themselves for who they are and what they are capable of doing. So with our little girl, we do just that. Even if she is our only girl amongst four boys, does not mean she gets away with mischiefs.
Giving her responsibilities:
Helping girls in carrying out responsibilities and in deciding on the chores they want to manage at home, assists them into glowing as mature and liable females. They will learn how to be responsible, to carry out duties in an organized manner, and to manage and finish tasks on time. You can always start with simple chores and move on to more complex ones as your little girl grows.
Let her dream:
Imagination does not flourish without dreams and people who are creative are successful citizens world-wide. I would never set a limit to my daughter’s creative play, whether it will be with castles, dolls, balls, and even cars. Play in all its dimensions is essential for their growth.
Monitor media usage:
Parents need to encourage down time from devices where they can agree on “no device zones” at home; for example, at dinner and lunch times, in bedrooms, in toilets etcetera. Parents should also clarify that most of what appears online is fake and do not reveal the truth of the everyday life.
According to Dr. Wick, a clinical development psychologist, children who never get a break from social media develop anxiety. (Social Media and Your Kid’s Self-Esteem/Healthyplace.com)
Girls should know that there are good and bad times, easy and difficult moments, honest and deceitful situations. We cannot just keep them floating up in a glittery bubble. That is why, providing them with the basic information about social media and having them open up to us as parents, make them realize the reality behind them and be able to use it without being miscarried into its pits. To achieve such an open conversation with your daughter these tips come in handy:
- Communicate with each other where you listen to her worries more than you act the sage on the stage.
- Be her close and true friend.
- Set a good example by properly handling social media and its pressures as mothers. If a mother is herself preoccupied and seeks approval from social media, then she is indirectly sending a message to her daughter that acceptance via social media is to be sought. After all, actions speak louder than words!
- Try things together like checking out new applications, seeing latest trends and magazines, etcetera. She will come to realise that these could be fun activities and not to be taken too seriously.
- Invite her friends over to spend time together and not only in the virtual world.
- Encourage her to have a time alone to reorganise her thoughts, calm her soul, and just chill out. I believe that supporting girls into meditation at their early years help them in focusing more on their true self and maintain high self-esteem.
Maybe it is easier said than done, but one thing is certain that the media could shove our girls into a valley where shadows of darkness might simply overcome their talents and beauty if we do not teach them how to properly handle this powerful tool. We can all help each other as moms and raise them to be empowering women in the future. Please share your experiences with us here, as your ideas will enlighten us as well.
Below is a video that briefs the reality of how the media girls consume can change their lives.