Helping our daughters deal with peer pressure.
Back to school is an exciting time for kids – seeing old friends again and meeting new ones. But for girls, it also means facing intense pressure to look and act a certain way. Bullying and peer pressure are realities that many girls face at school every day.
Girls bully differently than boys, using relationships to harm and manipulate others. Girls don’t often come home with black eyes and bloody noses. Rather than using their fists, they inflict pain on one another through gossip, reputation bashing, and social exclusion.
Scars take the form of anxiety, depression, lower academic performance, poor body image, eating disorders, and early experimentation with drugs and alcohol. According to one source, rates of depression among girls have doubled in the past 10 years. Girls as young as 6 years old are affected, hindering their ability to learn and grow.
School age girls are still developing their concept of self-image. One of the main ways they form their personal and social identities is through their relationship with others. But peer relationships can often be a source of harm rather than support.
It is impossible to eliminate worry and stress from your daughter’s life completely, but there are ways you can help her manage and cope in an effective and healthy manner.
Educate her! Help her understand that rumours, gossip, backstabbing, and social exclusion are all forms of bullying and are not acceptable.
Build self-esteem. When a girl feels bad about herself, she is more vulnerable to peer pressure. Offer praise for skills, efforts, and successes – not just appearance. Celebrate your daughter’s achievements, help set goals, and encourage participation in activities that will build her confidence.
Be a good listener. Your daughter needs someone safe with whom she can share her worries, ask questions, and seek advice. Your support and guidance can greatly influence her quality of life. Show her that she doesn’t have to be perfect and that she’s not alone. With your help, she can build constructive and nurturing relationships.
Watch for changes in behaviour. Withdrawal from friends, nightmares, moodiness, physical complaints, and declining academic performance are warnings signs that the girl in your life may be a victim of bullying. Let her know that she is not to blame and you will help her find a solution.
Encourage her not to retaliate. It is very common for a girl who has been victimized to retaliate in kind. Explain to her that this will not prevent her from becoming a target again. Telling an adult is not “tattling” and is a much better solution than returning the behaviour.
Teach your daughter to ignore insults and snide comments directed at her. This will encourage her to actively choose what to listen to and what messages to incorporate into her self worth. It will also bring home the impact her own words can have on others.
Be a role model! Your daughter is always watching you and learning from your actions. So model positive communication and conflict management skills, stand up for your values and beliefs, and love yourself. She’ll follow your lead.
By teaching your daughter that she can resist stereotypes, think for herself, and love herself for whom and what she is – not what she thinks she should be – you can empower her to be strong, smart, and bold.