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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Girlhood

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Girlhood

They may surprise you.


It’s hard to ignore the news as of late. Every day new cases of sexual harassment make headlines, social feeds are flooded with #metoo posts, and Time Magazine just named “The Silence Breakers” as its Person of the Year. More and more women are feeling empowered to speak up and stand up and, of course, we want to get that message across to our girls, too.

However, this empowerment may come with consequences, says Katie Hurley, LCSW. In her book NO MORE MEAN GIRLS: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls, out Jan. 30, she cautions against letting our girls grow up too early. “Skipping over the development of crucial social-emotional skills in the name of creating a generation of supergirls doesn’t actually empower our girls,” she writes. “In fact, it does the opposite: It creates a culture of cutthroat competition.” Hurley adds a further warning: “When we fast-track girls through developmental levels without considering the potential consequences, we set girls up for negative behaviors and friendship fails.”

Below, Hurley shares five things everyone needs to know about girls and girlhood.

  1. A girl’s social world plays a crucial role in her day-to-day life. Whether your daughter has two close friends or 10 besties, she’s enmeshed in her social world. Young girls leave the parental orbit once they enter school, and they look to their peers to make sense of the world around them when they are away from Mom and Dad. So while a playground argument might not sound like a big deal to you, this kind of micro-stressor can make or break a day for your daughter.
  2. Risk aversion is on the rise. With all the pressure to be the best at everything and find a passion, young girls feel like they’re under a microscope. This fuels perfectionism, which leads to fear of failure and risk aversion. If you suspect that your daughter plays it safe, she probably does, and she may need your encouragement to branch out and take chances.
  3. Your daughter needs you more than you know. When Hurley asks girls what they want or need most from their parents, the No. 1 answer is uninterrupted 1-on-1 time. They might roll their eyes, slam their doors, or keep quiet at times, but girls crave guidance and input from their parents, and time spent having fun.
  4. Girls’ sensitivity is at an all-time high. Middle childhood is a time of rapid growth, both physically and emotionally, and this makes girls vulnerable to emotional upheaval. Joking about “girl drama” and being sarcastic often makes girls feel ashamed and guilty. Proceed with caution and empathize often to help the girl in your life to thrive.
  5. Girls know more about the world than you think. They piece together information about the modern world from a variety of sources. Hurley has had many girls confess they binge-watched 13 Reasons Why (a controversial series about a teen’s suicide) or set up Snapchat and Instagram accounts on a friend’s phone. Sometimes they keep these activities secret to avoid disappointing their parents, since they crave parental approval. Couple that with intense pressure to fit in and peer pressure to keep up with technology, and the result is a recipe for very young girls dipping their toes into murky water with limited information. Talk openly and honestly with your daughter about modern girlhood to help her navigate these tricky topics and work through big emotions. 

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Author: Katie Hurley, LCSW, is a child and adolescent psychotherapist, parenting expert, and author of The Happy Kid Handbook and No More Mean Girls (TarcherPerigee; on sale Jan. 30). She is also the founder of “Girls Can!” empowerment groups for girls between ages 5-11. See More

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