Top six ways to empower your daughter

In recent years, women have been feeling more empowered and demanding to be treated with equality and respect. It's an amazing feeling, but much of this movement stems from years of pain and oppression. Wouldn't it be better if our daughters were prepared to deal with all of the BS the world has to offer in a strong, confident way? I work with teen girls in my practice and so much of what I do is helping them find their voice as well as a sense of entitlement to take up space in this world. Parents often ask me how they can best support their daughters to help them feel less anxious and depressed. Here are my top ten ways to empower your daughter:

  1. Understand that your daughter is not an extension of yourself. She is her own, fully functioning human being with her own belief system and interests that might have nothing to do with yours. It can be difficult to transition from seeing your daughter as a youngster to seeing her as the maturing young woman she is today. Respecting your differences teaches her that it's okay to be an individual.

  2. Teach your daughter that she is in charge of her body. Some parents force their kids to hug and kiss relatives and friends in order to avoid hurting them. In doing so, you are taking away your child's autonomy and teaching them that sometimes adults can touch their body without their consent. You can teach your daughter to be polite and wave and say hello, but you are sending her the message that only she gets to decide who touches her. (This goes for boys as well!)

  3. Take a self defense course together. Learning how to defend oneself is empowering on so many different levels. It not only teaches girls that they have the right to say NO under ANY circumstance, it also gives them the skills to physically stop an attack.

  4. Allow your daughter to use her voice. Girls are often socialized to keep quiet and not make waves. Let's change this! When your daughter expresses a difference of opinion from you, her friends, her school or the government, give her the time and space to do this. Even if you don't agree with her, listen to what she has to say and ask questions to understand where she is coming from. Teach her how to use her voice in a way that is clear and strong. Support her in any rallies or demonstrations that are meaningful to her. When you support your daughter's voice, she will know that she has the right to use it.

  5. Model a healthy relationship with food, exercise and weight. It's hard to find other women who do not engage in conversations about dieting and "feeling fat", but you don't have to contribute to it. Teach your daughter to listen to her body's natural hunger and fullness cues and to find movement that brings her joy. Avoid talking about dieting and weight loss as well as talking about others' bodies. Encourage her to love and accept her body for all of the good that it does for her everyday. Sending this accepting message will reduce her chances of developing an eating disorder and will set her up with a foundation of confidence in her body.

  6. Teach your daughter that her worth comes from within. There is so much pressure on girls to look a certain way. From weight, body shape, clothing and makeup, girls are objectified from a young age. It's hard to avoid the influence of friends and media on your daughter's self esteem, but you will make the greatest impact of all. Point out your daughter's strength, her abilities, her compassion. Highlight all of the qualities that you admire about her and teach her not to compare herself to others. Self love and self acceptance are much easier to learn at a young age.