Home' Aurora : Aurora October 2013 Contents Growing up is hard for girls. Our daughters have
opportunities open to them that have never been
so favourable. Equally, however, they are subject to
enormous pressures around appearance and behaviour
which often catch parents by surprise and make the task
of parenting so much harder. The speed and volume
of communications in today's world mean that our
daughters are bombarded relentlessly with messages
often at odds with the messages we as parents want
them to receive. Real dangers of lack of self-esteem, and
a skewed understanding of women's role in the world, lie
in wait for girls, and it can be hard to stem the tide. How,
faced with this overwhelming pressure from a flawed
society, can parents help their daughters navigate the
minefield of growing up?
One of the fundamental principles in helping our daughters
to prepare for the world is to teach them about values,
and the first step in this process is to understand what the
world is teaching our children. Greater awareness leads
to greater clarity of thought around the issues, and often
a greater motivation to intervene. The world in the early
decades of the twenty-first century is different from the
world most parents experienced as a child, and the values
today's parents took for granted as a child have, in many
instances, slipped from public view.
It can be very hard indeed for young people sometimes
to gain a sense of what is right and what is wrong. If
they take in, unchallenged, the messages around them
(often propounded by people in the public eye), about
positive approval of selfishness, a narcissistic approach to
appearance and the acceptability of unbridled unkindness
and even cruelty to others, they will certainly develop a
distorted sense of morality. Bullying is rife in our society,
and our children are very easily influenced into believing
that this is how people should behave. Couple all this with
the diet of casual violence pervasive in film and media, and
a worrying and disturbing picture is painted of the world
view that our children receive.
It is important not to despair, however, and not to feel
like a single voice calling in the wilderness; each and
every parent -- each and every adult -- has an incredibly
important role to play in the lives of our young people,
simply by not being afraid to talk, clearly and frequently,
about what matters, and to model this behaviour. Having
a child in the house is an excellent opportunity to explore
your own values, and to learn how to articulate them in
words and actions. If you are and do what you believe,
and if you are able to talk openly and freely about why you
believe as you do, then your child will listen.
There are particular messages our daughters need to hear.
They need to know that they are valuable as human beings
in their own right, and that this value does not depend on
They need to understand that while enormous progress
has been made in how women are valued, that there is
much still to be done, not least in societies where girls are
still denied an education.
They need to appreciate that they -- and all members of
the human race -- have a joint responsibility to seek to
make that positive difference in the world we all desire.
As parents, you have a golden opportunity to explore
these values in the home.
I believe the final step in our growth as parents, in terms
of how we bring up our daughters to learn how to be
good and valuable citizens, is to recognise that we cannot
do this by ourselves. A parent alone cannot bring up
a child successfully; it requires the input of the entire
community -- the extended family, the school, the church,
the friendship circles, the wider world. Parents need not
feel afraid of asking for and expecting help; together, we
have a collective responsibility in bringing up our children.
Equally, they can and should help guide this collective
responsibility through, for instance, their choice of
community, friends and school.
Our daughters deserve special attention for they have
particular pressures they must learn to combat. They are
amazing young people, just waiting to make their positive
contribution to the world; we owe it to them all to give
them every opportunity and help along the way.
Dr Helen Wright is Headmistress of Ascham School,
Sydney, and author of Decoding Your 21st Century
Daughter: The Anxious Parent's Guide to Raising a
Teenage Girl. She is the mother of three children, two
girls and a boy.
BY HELEN WRIGHT
Dr Helen Wright
A parent alone cannot bring up
a child successfully
Arguably, parenting has never been more difficult, and bringing up daughters
has its own challenges. Dr Helen Wright, author of a recent book on the subject
of raising girls, offers some prudent advice.
What really matters
in raising girls today
www.mn.catholic.org.au Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
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