Monday, November 16, 2009

A Few More Thoughts- Girls and The Triple Bind

In my previous post, I wrote about girls losing their sense of self and the importance of helping them to see their worth and value by creating circles of protection around them. I came across a book this week that I wanted to share because I think that it complements some of these ideas. It is called The Triple Bind, which Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, the author, says is a term that represents a triple threat to young girls-- societal expectations, cultural trends and conflicting messages. He states that young girls are growing up in a momentous time- they have more opportunities than ever, but also more pressure than ever. He says that they are not only expected to excel at 'girl skills' (friendships, relationships, empathy, etc), but with increased opportunities, there is an expectation for them to achieve the same things that boys have historically succeeded in (sports, demanding careers, etc), AND do both while looking perfect in the process. That is a LOT to live up to.. It is no wonder girls are struggling to cope these days! Hinshaw states that by the age of 19, 1 in 4 girls will have either developed major depression, made a suicide attempt, participated in self-harming behaviors such as cutting, or practiced binge eating or other eating disorders. I would be surprised if this number were not higher.. For more information on his book, access Hinshaw's website here.

The Chicago Tribune published an article back in April about Hinshaw's book and made the point that any parent who has a daughter may want to read this book because regardless of age, all girls face these struggles today. The article, which can be read here, suggests that parents have a large role in helping their daughters develop healthy identities. So, as parents, what are some practical ways that you can help your daughter? I received an email in response to my last blog post asking a similar question as to what action to take to help young people navigate these pressures. An excerpt of the email is below:

Helping teenagers find their voices is also the reason I'm working towards teacherhood. I am aware of the difficulties facing young women, but as a public school educator, and a male one at that, what can I do to help specifically address these issues?

This is a great question. While the roles of parents and teachers are certainly different, I think there are a few suggestions that Hinshaw writes about that apply to both. First, encourage girls (as well as boys) to be discerning and critical of the media and the messages that are portrayed. Second, and this relates more to parents, spend quality time together over dinner; eating dinner together, while tough for many families to practice, has been shown to reduce the risk of eating disorders, as well as depression and drug/alcohol use. Third, encourage girls to volunteer and be involved in the community- whether it be community service, or involvement at church, being involved in something greater than yourself often helps one to gain a sense of purpose through a higher calling in your life. Talking and communicating with your daughters is SO important- talk to them and get feedback about the kind of support that they may need or want. Being able to communicate is so crucial, for both you and your daughter. For a few more pointers and helpful suggestions, follow this link to read some tips for communicating about body image, compliments of the Girl Scouts.

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