Empowering Young Girls in the 21st century
By Dawn H. Haaz, Psy.D., Psychology Resident
As a psychotherapist, I have worked with many women who have struggled with low self-worth, negative body image, and a history of unhealthy relationships. They have often suffered from depression and anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and abusive relationships. In working with these women I have realized unfortunately they did not always have the opportunity during childhood and adolescence to develop the foundation to become empowered (i.e. have the skills, confidence, and resources to stand up for oneself and make positive choices). My experience helping these women has inspired me to develop ways to empower young girl. After all, it is not easy being a girl in the 21st century. In addition to the typical pressures of sex and drugs that teenage girls in every generation have to contend with, girls today are faced with increased competition, cyber-bullying, an unstable economy, and the pressures that come with increased media coverage. With the help of Psychology Intern, Samantha Lohr, M.E.d., I am facilitating Camp Girl Power, an empowerment camp for girls 11-13 years old, in order to help young girls overcome these challenges. Please see the flyer below for more details.
By providing girls with the foundation to feel empowered at a young age, they will have an enhanced ability to develop into healthy, successful women who can reach their fullest potential. Based on self-reports of teenage girls involved in girl empowerment groups these groups were found to improve girls’ self-esteem and subsequently improve their decision-making, including their ability to resist pressures to engage in risky behavior such as drinking and smoking (British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health, 2012). These girls also reported an improvement in self-respect, self-acceptance, and body image.
Additionally, here are 5 ways you can empower young girls in your life:
1) Boost their self-confidence- Focus on their strengths and let them know you care about them unconditionally.
2) Teach them to be assertive- Teach them to ask for what they need and want without being disrespectful of or attacking others.
3) Help them figure out who they are- Help them discover their values, goals, and passions. If they have a stable sense of identity, they are less likely to give in to peer pressure.
4) Help them form healthy relationships- Help them distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships. Encourage them to be in relationships that make them feel good about themselves.
5) Help them make positive decisions- Teach them how to anticipate the consequences of their decisions and make ones in their best interest.
British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health (2012). “I love it because you could just be yourself.” A study of girls’ perspectives on girls’ groups and healthy living. British Columbia: CA.