Practicing to be a Woman: The Art of Teaching a Girl How to Navigate a Life of Intention (By Gabrielle Anderson, lmft)
I am a mother of two. I hear myself frequently talking about the act of practicing with my children. Now that my daughter is approaching her teen years, the talks become more focused on her actions of practicing to be a woman and all of the roles that that could entail.
What is it like to be a woman? What type of woman do I want my daughter to become? I ask myself these questions and find myself growing within the process too.
Helping a young woman find her feminine balance is not an easy task. When helping a teen in my office navigate this path, I take the job very seriously. What responsibility we have, those of us who offer guidance to girls of all ages. How much of our guidance comes from our own pasts? Our own experiences.
Helping Teen Girls Evolve Their Core Identity
Girls hear messages from so many places and find what they believe to be facts from many faulty sources. Teaching teens to mindfully choose their paths means that these girls need to have a strong well-rooted core identity. I often find that this is not the case.
How can a girl know who she is in her relationships if she is unsure of whom she truly is? One of my favorite things to do in the therapy office is to help middle and high school girls identify and evolve their authentic selves; to piece by piece develop that core identity. I can’t tell you how many times I have received a phone call from a parent looking for a particularly labeled therapy to stop their daughter from cutting or thinking about suicide. SO many times, I find myself coming back to helping these girls love themselves and become in touch with their core identity
When girls practice being a woman, they make conscious decisions to bridge the lives of today with their lives of tomorrow. Children learn that babysitting is practicing to be a mother and diligence with chores is practicing to be a reliable employee and loving a sibling is practice for loving a spouse. None of it matters if our girls are not well rooted in who they are.
Our Responsibility to Model What it is Like to be an Authentic Woman
It is our job as the adults in these girl’s lives to mentor them with love and respect. To explain the ways of life and the world and to teach them what it means to be authentic. Our children need our guidance and support. Our girls need us to not only tell them what it is like to be a woman, but to show them what this is like. To model for them a love of one’s body. To show love and kindness to their dad and friends. To be authentic both at home and within their community.
Finding the Portal into Our Girls' Feminine Worlds
Girls today have so many sources competing to teach them what it is like to be a woman. Making sure that our example, our voice is the loudest and most believable of them all has to be a deliberate focus. Sometimes this means as parents that we look for the openings that our children present to us and use them as opportunities to help teach them about life.
I find myself brainstorming with parents of teens often to help them identify these doorways. Some children are more open in the car, others become vulnerable and connect when alone with the parent at a restaurant. I remember one mom of a distant teen found value in climbing into bed with her daughter to have night chats in the dark.
Look for the portal into your child’s world. Although it is often camouflaged with brush and other prickly bushes, chances are it does exist. Girls do not learn to navigate life on their own, but they will find information both right, wrong, helpful and detrimental. It is our job as parents and the helping professionals in their lives to guide them and teach them how to be authentic and women they can respect and love.
Gabrielle Anderson is the mother of 2 and the director/owner of the Family Therapy Center of Northern Virginia, llc
When I first became a therapist, I worked in a handful of hospitals, day treatment centers and school settings that implemented behavior modification systems. I think it is just as important to notice what works as well as pick up on why a system might not be effective. In my experience, it is important to have a system that is balanced. One that looks at stopping negative behavior all the while shaping positive behavior that you want to see.
Systems that focus on praise alone will miss the opportunity of teaching a child self discipline and natural consequences. Reflectively, systems that focus on punishing negative behavior or discipline alone miss the chance to build up the child and help him strive for positive behavior. Avoiding punishment is not the same as an internalized locus of control.
Behavior Plan Part 1: Stop the Negative Behavior:
These blog entries are written by our very own clinicians. When inspiration hits, another entry will be logged.
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