Raising a mentally and physically healthy girl can be a challenge due to the issues that girls face while growing up. Even well-adjusted girls have stories of self-esteem problems, bullying and peer pressure. If they haven't struggled with these issues, they know someone who has. According to Stephen Hinshaw's book "The Triple Bind," almost all teenage girls feel immense pressure to measure up to others in some way.
Body Image Issues
In an age in which girls are constantly confronted by images of the "ideal" body on television, in magazines and online, an unrealistic image with which to compare themselves is as close as the smartphones in their pockets. However, the pressure to achieve a perfect body doesn't just come from the media. Families, peers and coaches can also exacerbate body image issues. Rader Programs, a network of treatment facilities for eating disorders, reports that up to 62 percent of female gymnasts, dancers, divers and figure skaters suffer from disordered eating 1. If your daughter spends time in an environment in which coaches and competitors value extreme thinness, monitor her closely for signs of unhealthy eating, excessive exercise and self-injury.
Gone are the days when girls were expected to do well in home economics but not in math. Today, girls feel immense pressure to do well in school and get into a good college. In an interview with The New York Times, Newton North High School Principal Jennifer Price says high-achieving girls often feel pressured to start building their college resumes by the time they're 14. They might feel that, in order to get into a decent school, they have to make perfect grades and participate in lots of extracurricular activities, all while maintaining an active social life.
Dating and Sex Issues
Prepuberty girls between the ages of 8 and 10 experience a surge in sex hormones, which can precipitate their first crushes. Girls often have their first romantic relationships in junior high, even if they're not yet allowed to date. With relationships comes sexual pressure, and with teen sex comes potential sex issues. Although many teenage girls have positive dating and early sexual experiences, Education.com reports that one-third of 16- to 18-year-olds feel sex is expected in romantic relationships 4. Girls need accurate information about sex and dating from an early age, and the conversation should be ongoing as they grow up.
Friendship and Bullying Issues
Ask any girl in America what "frenemy" means, and she's likely to give you the answer right away -- it's someone who likes you one minute and dislikes you the next. The feeling of being on shaky ground with their peers isn't unique to girls, but it's one way female bullies exert control over their victims. According to PBS Parents, cliques start to form in elementary school, when having a best friend becomes vitally important to girls 2. Shy girls might need help developing the social skills that lead to friendships, so help them find ways to participate in their interests. A girl who loves to read and write might make better friends in an after-school writing class than on the soccer field or cheerleading squad.
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