by Steve Biddulph
I did this webinar this week, and this blog is a review and overview of the important points raised. I felt the content was too important not to share, even if it’s only a little. Nothing I write here can compare to the full webinar and Steve’s viewpoint and delivery, so if you wish to know more please check out his website.
I decided to do this webinar because I have a son and 2 daughters and one of them is 9 yrs old and has been having a bit of a difficult time with her emotions. This is not my area of specialty and I am not claiming to be an expert here, so if you like what is written here, Steve has lots of published material available.
As a mother and a PHN, I feel it is important to keep in touch with what our children are going through. Every generation have different challenges. I don’t claim to be a perfect mother or have the answers for all my children’s needs, therefore I am always open to some guidance.
So who is Steve Biddulph
Steve is an Australian Psychologist and Parent Educator for over 30 years. He does live talks that reach a worldwide audience.
For the last 25 yrs he dwelled mostly on the mental health of boys and men, because that was where he felt there was the greatest need. However, about 7 or 8 yrs ago he noticed that the mental health of girls has gone over a cliff.
If girls are going to go off the rails they will do it by 14 yrs old.
- 1 in 5 girls have anxiety or depression and are on medication
- 1 in 12 girls have an eating disorder
- Self-harm has trebled in the last 5 years.
There are multiple causes, and everyone in the family thinks they are to blame.
Blame is not a useful word.
Steve says there are 2 causes:
- At home.
- In the world.
Girls worry about the smallest things. If a girl tells a joke to another girl, and she looks unamused or unimpressed, that girl will go away and analyze and over analyze why that girl reacted that way. It can affect her. Girls are very socially aware of the feelings around them.
According to Steve, the term “pre-teen” is a marketing term, invented by companies to target pre-teen girls, so that they can exploit and profit from their vulnerability’s and anxieties. He gives the example of a girl who is preparing to go to the shops, who may spend an hour getting ready in order to present herself to the world. If you think about it, this is not ‘a happy time’. These girls are worrying and thinking: “do i look ok?” and “will I fit in?”. He calls this the ‘premature sexualisation of girls’, where outside influences affect how young girls see themselves and present themselves to the world.
The 4 things that media (social media, T.V. and magazines) teaches girls:
1) your LOOKS are the most important thing about you
2) your BODY is never good enough
3) SEX is what you exchange for love, affection
4) It’s fine and normal to HAVE SEX with people you don’t KNOW or even LIKE
(He does make the proviso that for some adults, some of the above points are perfectly acceptable and his aim is not to call into question their choices. This list is directed towards pre-teen girls).
He goes on to say that 60% of young people worry about their looks (boys and girls). I actually would have thought this was much higher.
But TV is safe right?
Adults watch TV in order to switch off yes? I know I do. Occasionally we will watch something educational, but mostly we want to rest our brains for a bit.
Kids watch TV to figure out the world, and to figure out how things work. They observe and learn how people talk to each other, how they dress and express themselves. The TV is the 3rd parent in the room, especially if it’s on all day. He advises us to turn on the TV only to watch specific programmes or for a set amount of time, and gives the example of a toddler in a room playing with no TV or radio. You will hear them having a blast with their creative play. They make up their own little episode and so enjoy doing it. I know I often hear our 3 year old laughing out loud when she is on her own playing with her Paw Patrols or Peppa Pigs. Steve says that if a TV or radio is on you won’t get that talkative play out of small children.
Next he said something that really struck me. If a TV is on, you will never have a serious conversation with your partner or children!!! Definitely guilty here.
A word to Mum’s
Love yourself, and show your daughter that you love your body as it is. Every time you step out of the shower and dry yourself: tell yourself: “I have a beautiful body”. Your daughter will see and feel this.
The Importance of Auntie’s
This blew my mind!!! Outside of the relationship a girl has with her mother, the most important person in your daughter’s life is her Auntie. This really resonated with me and I remember that when I was a pre-teen, I actively sought my Auntie’s company and advice because I felt that I couldn’t confide in my mother. Of course now I tell my mother probably too much, but at that age I just felt that I couldn’t.
Steve says a 12 yr old girl is sure of only one thing: she doesn’t want to turn into her mum. (Not in all cases, and this changes with age).
He advises that Auntie’s should have their niece to stay regularly from about the age of 8 yrs old, and that she should try to take her out for lunch or a walk once a month if she can.
So what about the importance of friends (peer group)
According to Steve, a girl’s friends should not be the people she is talking to about her problems. They don’t have the wisdom and skill to support each other, as they are likely coping with their own problems. He says most people feel better when they share their problems…except for teenage girls!!
Father’s are the key to self-esteem in girls!!! He says that it’s common for dad’s to back off when girls start to reach puberty as they feel they don’t know how to react, or address any potential girl issues (this is a generalisation and not always the case). All over the world, men are shocked at how important they are to their daughters. He advises dad’s to be available and actively seek out one on one time with their daughters.
5 Core Stages of Girlhood
At this age, all your baby/toddler needs from you as parents is to know they are loved and secure. That’s it.
At this age, they want to explore. This is where dads come in big time. Dads mess with their kids more. They throw them up in the air and tickle them and generally walk a fine line between play and safety. Little girls that do more with their dads are much more stress resistant.
This is the age of friends. Girls will come home 100 times in friendship angst. Your daughter will check are you busy? If you look like your too busy kids will keep their worries to themselves. If you feel that your daughter has something on her mind, make opportunities for her to chat. When she does, be less anxious than your child about their crisis or worry. Listen.
This is when your daughter will start finding her soul. When puberty comes girls become more introverted. They may write journals. This helps her to work out who she is and what she believes in. This is where her Auntie really comes in.
She is now preparing for adulthood. Help her.
Before I did this webinar, I was feeling quite anxious. Would Steve highlight something I’ve been doing as a parent, that would make me feel even more regretful and to blame for not supporting my daughter’s development?
However Steve’s presence and manner of speaking is so gentle and kind. I actually felt more hopeful and calm after watching it. I feel like I now have a roadmap, that makes sense to me as a mother. His approach may not gel with everybody, but I certainly found it enlightening, inspiring and reassuring.
A huge thank you to Tania Lawlor for bringing this webinar to my attention. I hope this post helps someone out there who may be feeling anxious about their daughter’s happiness or they’re looking for a practical guide for raising girls.