Child Therapist Shares Tips To Raise Motivated, Confident Girls
Being a girl can be tough. There’s a lot of pressure to fit in, to look or act a certain way, and it can be overwhelming. A therapist is helping young girls find their voice and hopefully their way.
Erica Tatum-Sheade is a licensed child and adolescent therapist. She’s the founder of GEMS, or Girls Empowered Motivated Strong.
"And it's focused on really just teaching girls or giving girls the skills of how to speak up for themselves, understanding what their values and their boundaries are, how to make good friendships, and maintain healthy friendships," she explained. "Just different skills that they need in order to feel confident and to feel empowered."
Because around age 8, she says something happens to their self-confidence.
"And then with girls, we see this huge drop," she said. "So it drops about 30% between 8 and 14. And so we know for a lot of girls, that's when puberty is starting. That's when they're doing more activities separate from their family... And their peer group is becoming more important to them. And so they're starting to notice the differences between them and the other girl next to them."
Ten-year-old Suri Hickson joined GEMS around the same time COVID started.
"I was a little sad that I couldn't see all my friends. But when she talked about, like, how to make friends and how to keep friends like long term and stuff. It really helped. I’m a little less shy now."
Tatum-Shade also works with middle and high school girls. But it’s those middle school years that she says can be an especially challenging time.
"Now they're entering into a much larger school and trying to figure out like who they are," she said. "We always describe middle school as they're trying on lots of pants, and trying to figure out which pants fit right. And sometimes they're the perfect fit. Other times, it's like, 'No, these aren't really for me.' So in middle school, it's we're really focused on how do you develop your sense of self."
Tatum-Sheade's Tips For Parents Raising Girls
- Teach her to use empowering language early by modeling it using compliments that reward the effort.
- Start early with body positivity, including with yourself, as they are always watching.
- Avoid statements like "you're so bossy or sassy" and use statements like, "I love how assertive you are."
- Keep her active-research supports that girls who participate in extracurricular activities report high levels of self-esteem and better body image.
- Start early with teaching her to be social media literate so she can discern between what is real and what is an unrealistic expectation of beauty.
- Let her explore, make sure she participates in diverse activities, has diverse toys, etc. There is more than one way to be a girl and that needs to be encouraged at each stage of development.
- Teach her her worth and validate it often; but also teach her to validate herself.