Written by: Jill FitzGerald MSW, LICSW- Family Counseling Associates of Andover
I often wonder what my daughter will be passionate about, what her goals will be, and how she will feel about herself as she continues to grow as a young girl into a woman. As a mom, I do my best to provide an emotionally supportive and encouraging environment. That being said, there are and will continue to be many factors that contribute to her development. A scene from the movie The Help always comes to mind, during which a little girl is told everyday by her caregiver that she is “kind, smart, and important.” I often wish that this was the same message that our daughters received outside of our homes.
In the present media and popular culture, our girls are often times receiving negative messages that they can’t do things or should look and behave in specific ways as a result of their gender.
If you have an image of Miley Cyrus (post Hannah Montana) in your mind right now…you may be thinking…how will these emerging role models contribute to my daughter’s sense of self? The truth is, Miley Cyrus, and many other young women in the spotlight, are just that. Young girls. And they are being influenced by the same messages and pressure that our children will encounter. According to a study done by Girls’ Inc., “From magazines to marketing campaigns to music videos, girls today are bombarded by media images. Girls ages 8 to 18 tend to have media exposure on average for eight hours per day, and media use for six hours per day.
The media that girls are consuming contain strong messages that girls’ worth is tied to their appearance. Girls also receive powerful messages from the media about sexual behavior, substance use, and violence.” It is likely that none of this is new information to us, as we ourselves were influenced by societal ideals (many unrealistic) of how a woman should look and act. As a result, we were and now our daughters are at risk poor self-esteem, poor body image, difficulty with peer relationships, and depression. How then, do we create an environment of support, encouragement, and acceptance when our daughters are being exposed to all of this?
In addition to the loving and supportive home environments that we provide, within which an open line of communication is established, research has shown that engagement in girls’ empowerment groups has many benefits. Girls’ empowerment groups can vary in terms of focus and content, but the overall findings suggest that girls who attend these groups can expect an improvement in their self-esteem, ability to analyze and challenge media messages, leadership skills, and meaningful interactions with peers. Girls’ empowerment groups provide our daughters with the tools and skills to define their own ideals and goals. Girls’ empowerment groups allow for a safe and supportive setting for girls to connect with their peers, under the supervision of a trained mental health professional, surrounding the issues that contribute to their sense of self and how that relates to their interaction with the world around them. Girls’ empowerment groups facilitate an environment in which our daughter’s are “kind, smart, and important.”
If you would like more information regarding this topic, or would like to explore a girls’ empowerment group for your daughter, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com. I am currently offering a Girl Power group for girls ages 10-12 (description is on the www.www.fca-andover.com website) and look forward to hearing from you!