Parents often feel that their children just have to deal with whatever pressures, insults, and social stigmas come their way.
The thinking is, “I got through the rocky road of barbs and being left out, and so will my child.” But those parents were likely teenagers at the time, in a position to handle such issues with more maturity or perspective.
Hurley points out this isn’t just a teen problem anymore, with younger girls facing bullying in person and on social media.
“What happens in the elementary-school-age years directly affects what happens in the tween and teen years,” she says.
Girls start from a point of weakened self-esteem: 69 percent of girls between the ages of 7 and 21 feel they are “not good enough,” according to a 2016 Girls’ Attitude Study.
Many younger ones already know the pain of exclusion and instant reputation loss via social-media outlets. The same study done in 2017 revealed that half of the 7-to-10-year-olds worried about being bullied online.
A University of Oxford study of boys and girls’ technology use makes the concern over our daughters being bullied seem very wise: Girls aged 8 to 18 spend more time on their cellphones socializing than do boys, who focus more on playing video games.
What Parents Can Do
A parent’s job is to bolster and teach young girls how to be a good friend and to provide the social skills they need to move on after being bullied or left out.
As the Vermont study and many others confirm, parents can make all the difference. They can help girls get ahead of the inevitable anxiety they will face that could squash their self-image and smother their drive.
Hurley believes, “Our girls have the opportunity to put an end to mean girl culture and change the narrative of girlhood for the better, but they need us to guide them along the way.”
A good starting point, Hurley says, is to define the words gossip, teasing, taunting, public humiliation, excluding, cliques, and cyber-bullying.
She adds that you should do this even if your child doesn’t have get screen time or have her own phone.
As much as parents would like to believe — and some say — that they avoid the subject because they don’t want their daughters to worry, the reality is that your daughter probably is worrying about mean behavior because she sees it happening all around her, if not to her personally.
To help you guide your child through the rocky terrain of childhood and the teen years, Hurley recommends:
- Take time to connect with your daughter whatever her age.
- Listen when she talks — really listen.
- Discuss and monitor her social media usage.
- Teach her what you know about friendship.
- Model the power of friendship and unconditional support.
- Support her through the ups and downs she faces.
- Encourage her to work together with friends.
- Explain how to consider a friend’s perspective in a disagreement.
- Show her how to accept her role in a conflict with peers.
- For detailed ways to protect, support and encourage your daughter, see No More Mean Girls (link is external).
Copyright @2018 by Susan Newman