He wrote the book out of concerns for increased mental health issues which many girls now face and are facing earlier and earlier. “Anxiety and depression have doubled in the last 10 years. Girls’ suicide (levels) are increasing – whereas in boys it is going down. All the problems – eating disorders, binge drinking and cutting – are anxiety disorders with the same common cause but it depends on the girl how it plays out” said Biddulph.
“It is important to stay very close to your daughter and know what is going on and have boundaries as she won’t be very good at setting them herself.”
The rapid developments in technology and social media means that the world of teenage girls today is a far cry from the world their parents experienced. On a daily basis they deal with cyber bullying and mean girls, the media which tells them the only thing that matters is how they look and the fallout from low self esteem and bad body image.
Tips on how to safe guard girls
Sexualisation of girls by the media: from an early age try to avoid toys and dolls which emphasises the importance of how a girl looks. As they get older question the way women, especially celebrities, are portrayed by the media. Talk to them about the importance of dressing to please themselves rather than to please other people in order to get their attention. Explain what sort of attention they are attracting by wearing revealing clothes.
Body Image: Make girls feel that they are interesting and their ideas have value. Let her know that she is more than how she looks and her thoughts and opinions are valued. Above all tell her that she is loved for being herself.
Technology: constant checking on Facebook and texting to friends may be a good way to keep in touch but it is also leading to a new syndrome of ‘mean girls’ these are girls who use social networking sites to bully, humiliate or hurt others. “When girls are anxious they also get nasty (and often) the nasty girls at school are the ones with the least parental love and support.” To safeguard against this and to help them negotiate healthy social interactions, limit their time with technology, encourage them to find other interests or hobbies. Join a group where the girls all have like minded interests and she can experience positive social exchanges. Get her out and about in the nature.
Mentors: teenage girls need to be shown strong successful women, that doesn’t mean celebrities in the media, but real women who work hard and succeed in their everyday lives, women who are comfortable with themselves and who they are. Steve advocates starting an “auntie movement and have them over their house for weekends and becomes a real active presence in their nieces lives. Because this might be part of the immunization of our daughters.”**
Boyfriends: research shows that 20% of girls have 3 or more sexual partners by age 17: “This is not coming from desire. When 14-year-old girls have sex it is not because of desire but because it is something they feel they have to do. It is like homework.”* Let her know it is OK not to be pressured into a relationship with a boy who demands sex. As they become older it might be part of a loving relationship but it also needs to go hand in hand with respect, equality and mutual consent.
Be a dad: if a dad is interested in his daughter and lets her know she is interesting and intelligent, then this is how she will expect to be treated by all the men she meets in her life. She will then be drawn to men who respect her and she will have a sense of self respect. So dads have quite an amazing mental benefit if they’re friendly and interested in their daughters.
Steve Biddulph is a Generation Next guest speaker at their Mental Health and Wellbeing for Young People seminars which are held Australia wide during 2013.
For more details or to register go to Mental Health and Wellbeing for Young People.
**Hope 103.2 radio interview
Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Daily Telegraph. Raising Girls (Steve Biddulph). Hope 103.2