How to Strike a STRONG Start to the School Year!
For many of us, the back to school season conjures images of shopping for school supplies, earlier bedtimes, and carpools. But when getting our daughters ready for the school year, we should also remember that confidence is the best “school supply.” And while your daughter might be a little nervous about what the upcoming year will bring, you can give her the tools to handle situations and issues that might come up.
- Go to “all the things:” Although your tween or teen may want to blow these opportunities off as being unimportant, be sure to go to all back to school events. Knowing where to go on the first day is crucial to calming those nerves. It is also helpful to problem solve ahead of time. Ask, “Who could or would you go to if you had a problem?” Good starting places include the school counselor, homeroom teacher or nurse.
- Know your impact: As our girls start to pull away from us a bit and care more about what their friends think, we might mistakenly think that what we say and do doesn’t matter. But, research has shown that a majority of girls will choose their mom as their role model and number one source for advice. For these reasons, it is so important to model the behavior that we want to see in our daughters (this includes smart phone usage). That is why it is so important to monitor the way we talk about ourselves, especially regarding body image. If you are having a tough self-image day, share that with a friend, rather than complain to your daughter. If she hears the woman she looks up to lamenting her thighs, she’s much more likely to be hard on herself.
- Find her anchor activities: It’s great for girls to have activities where they can have fun, get invested in something besides academics, and maybe hang out with people outside of their everyday peer group. When your daughter may be having a tough day with her friends at school, these groups outside of her school community can be a soft spot to land. And having common interests and activities can help our girls who have a harder time connecting with others.
- Promote progress, not perfection: Our girls have so much pressure on them to be perfect, thanks to social media. Emphasize progress and doing our best, instead of getting it right every time and being perfect. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, credits her dad for her success because he encouraged her to step outside her comfort zone and make mistakes, even asking her, “How did you fail this week?” You can model that by pointing out your own mistakes. This has become a fun game at our house, as my daughters love to catch me in mine. :)
- Find ways for your daughters to serve others: Adolescence is a time when girls spend a lot of time thinking about themselves. But we know that empathy and thinking about others is a great antidote to too much introspection and the anxiety that can come with it. In my organization, Strong Girls, we emphasize community service because girls need to learn that they are part of something greater and have a responsibility to give back. They gain so much confidence from identifying a community problem and spending time being part of the solution. Girls, in other communities, can find ways to serve through their schools, churches, and neighborhoods, as well as at home. Family chores and responsibilities not only help your girls learn important life skills, but also to understand how much it takes to keep a family and home running.
- Keep things in perspective (that means you too, mom): It’s easy to freak out over not making the cheerleading team or getting left out of a sleepover. But it’s so important that your daughter see you handle these disappointments in stride (even though you may be aching inside), and acknowledge that life is full of ups and downs. Instead of jumping in to try to fix every little issue, spend time listening to her feelings, acknowledge them and then ask some open ended questions to help her come up with a good solution. How to handle life’s little disappointments is probably the most important lesson we can teach our kids before they leave the safety net of home.