The idea of keeping up with the youth of today can feel pretty daunting. What influences a teenager today is very different to what influenced you as a girl.
There is no doubt about the pressures your daughter faces as she embarks on the path to womanhood. You aren’t allowed to be a child for long nowadays – it seems girls are encouraged to wear makeup, dress in the latest fashions and even appear “sexy” at an increasingly young age. Everyone is in a hurry to grow up, be everywhere and do everything. Experience is currency.
Mom Emma initially struggled with understanding where her daughter Olivia was coming from. She found her to be cheekier with her than she had ever been with her own mother.
“I found myself getting annoyed that Olivia didn’t have the same respect I had for my mom when I was growing up,” she explains. “But, over time, I realized that her cheekiness showed a closeness that I didn’t have with my mom . Olivia feels more relaxed with me so she can express herself differently – and she lives in a different world to the one I grew up in. Once I accepted that, it felt like we started communicating so much better. We understand each other more now.”
Body image campaigner and expert Jess Weiner says this is a common feeling for moms . “Rather than fighting the world that your daughter lives in, try to embrace and understand it. Watch her favorite TV shows or browse some of her favorite magazines together and find out why she likes them. At the same time, make sure you share your own world with her, your likes and dislikes. You are laying the foundations of your adult relationship together. Understanding, trusting and supporting each other requires both of you to listen and share.”
It can help to cast your mind back to when you were your daughter’s age. That bewildering period when your body was a stranger to you, a new school was on the horizon, and your first love had broken your heart. A heady, endless cocktail of confusion, elation, frustration and amazement.
What were the relationships you had with the significant women in your life like during that period? Your mom , aunt, grandma – were they around to offer you the support you needed? And are there things you’d like to do differently, now that it’s your turn to offer that support?
Consuming media and having a social life online is unlikely to feel optional for a girl of today, rather more like a simple, unquestioned reality. She’s not likely to be daunted by it, but may also not realize the pressure it is placing on her.
“The media is desensitising a whole generation to the meaning of privacy – everything is recorded, photographed, uploaded, shared and commented on,” explains Weiner.
Scantily clad celebrities with dysfunctional relationships – which they are happy to discuss in front of millions of strangers on Twitter – are the new role models. Recent research, Uncomfortable in our skin: the body-image report, found that young girls today are bombarded with up to 5,000 digitally enhanced images a week that suggest how they should look and feel. Put like this, is it any wonder that they think cosmetic surgery is easy, affordable and something to aspire to?
To help girls cope with these pressures, first accept and try to understand the different influences and pressures in their lives compared to your own generation, then open the doors for communication. Simply starting a conversation with her will show that you’re interested in her world.
“The more open your attitude and the more interest you take in her world, the more likely she is to open up to you,” says Weiner. “She needs unconditional support from you as you’re the most important and most constant role model in her life.”
To protect privacy we’ve changed the names of the people whose stories we tell on these pages. But the stories they tell are absolutely genuine.
Want to get closer to your daughter? Use our checklist for ideas on how to find the common ground.
Uncomfortable in our skin: the body-image report
Twitter: Jess Weiner
Facebook: Jess Weiner
Jess Weiner CEO of Talk To Jess and Dove Global Self-Esteem Ambassador
Article date: 26 June 2013
Review date: 26 June 2014
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