Today’s world puts a lot of emphasis on popularity, and how it can set the tone for what’s “acceptable. ” The truth is you can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try. Adults have already learned this lesson, but it’s a hard one to impart to a child. Knowing what “normal” is can be tricky.
Girls, especially, seem to want as much approval as possible. Research on adolescent behavior has found that young girls are under increasing pressure in several areas. This is particularly noticeable in the way they emulate their favorite celebrities, and follow trends. For instance, when young celebrities started wearing sophisticated headbands to red carpet events, ordinary girls began doing the same, and all of a sudden, headbands became a fashion staple.
According to Joyce M. Roche, President and CEO of Girls Inc. , an organization that encourages young women to reach their full potential, “society still sees girls through a gender lens that requires them to be pretty and passive, while increasingly expecting them to be smart and successful. ”
One study commissioned by her organization surveyed more than 2000 school aged girls and boys, and over 1000 adults. The results indicated that 71% of the girls wanted to go to college, but most did not know how to achieve this dream. One-fifth of the respondents said they did not know an adult they could trust to help with a problem. Fully seventy-six percent of girls in grades 9 to 12 were overly concerned about their appearance.
Another alarming trend is that girls in elementary school are worried about how to look skinny and how to “dress right. ” In fact, the study revealed that over half of the girls in grades 3 to 5 were dealing with these issues.
There is nothing wrong with a child wanting to look her best. Although self-esteem is rooted on what’s inside, it’s also true that how you look on the outside can help a lot. For instance, a little thing like wearing fashionable hair accessories can be a way of expressing a healthy self image.
As parents, we can’t always control what happens to our children once they step out of the confines of home. Here are a few things you can do to help relieve the pressures that many youngsters face. Girls Inc. recommends:
Provide access to a wide variety of baby gifts. Not just the “for girls only” kind - pick up some boy items, too. Dolls, dress-up clothes with matching hair clips, as well as trucks and chemistry sets. Make it clear to your child that it’s okay to play with all of them.
Alleviate school pressure. Elementary school should be full of fun and exploration, as well as learning.
Avoid gender bias at home by distributing the household chores evenly. Make sure that everyone lends a hand.
Be a good role model and expose your child to good role models outside the extended family. You can introduce your children to adults across the career spectrum, to show that men and women serve many different and equally important roles in society.
Rachelle Salinger is a freelance writer whose two passions in life are: family and fashion. This mother of two loves to stay on the loop of the latest trends in hair accessories and the best baby gifts in the market. She currently writes for No Slippy Hair Clippy, purveyor of the finest non-slip hair clips for girls of all ages.