In a fast paced, tech savvy world, our young girls are inundated with information overload. Between social media, pop culture and peer pressure, sexuality and romantic relationships are becoming prevalent younger and younger.
So how do we educate our girls to ensure they are not only being respected by their partners, but respecting themselves? How can we support our girls to ensure they will find genuine romantic connection?
These are our suggestions on how to best nurture girls into confident, happy young women, and suggest these three tips to educate young girls around the best ways to navigate healthy romantic relationships.
1. Find happiness in yourself first
The first and perhaps most crucial point to share with your daughter is that happiness is an inside job. No romantic partner, friend, career, dollar figure or fancy car is going to fill your heart, unless you know how to make your own soul smile first.
To start teaching inner happiness, encourage hobbies or interests that bring your girls joy, and a sense of achievement. Encourage her to take time out of each day to fill her own cup, explore her identity, and begin learning her own likes and dislikes.
Encouraging this kind of self-love routine will build her self-confidence, and enable her to form a strong sense of identity.
Encouraging hobbies and interests also means that your girl is becoming interesting, has passions that excite her, and the ability to talk about various things. She is building her social circle, having opportunities to shine outside of school and academia, and she is learning resilience as she fails and persists.
These are all important qualities to have in a romantic partner – and by projecting these herself, this is in turn what she may one day begin to attract in, and expect from a partner.
2. Relationships are 100/100
People often say relationships are 50/50. The Big Sister Experience believes they are 100/100!
To step into a relationship 100% complete, happy and whole means that you are coming to the table with no expectations, and no desperate needs for your partner to complete or fix you.
The work The Big Sister Experience does with young girls teaches them that they alone are responsible for their happiness, and cannot place expectations on others to deliver happiness for us. We suggest the road to happiness is filled with self-acceptance and self-love, amazing friends and support networks, hobbies and interests and time to fill your own cup frequently.
When we encourage girls to be whole and happy on their own, we teach them that a partner is there to add value, not to make up value that you are lacking. This in turn suggests that unless someone is adding value each day, making you a little happier, bringing a little more fun, inspiring more love and gratitude, then this relationship might not be worth pursuing.
Teaching girls that they must turn up to a relationship with the mindset of adding value to someone else, and accepting value from someone else, removes the neediness that often leads to being treated poorly, or settling for relationships that are unfulfilling and uninspiring.
3. Lead by example
Perhaps the simplest, yet most effective way to educate our young girls about what a healthy relationship looks like, and how she should be treated, is to lead by example.
This includes having open and honest conversations about what a healthy relationship looks like, and what an unhealthy relationship can look like. Use opportunities in the media, or in pop culture to start these discussions, and be vulnerable about the learnings in your own life.
There is no age too young to discuss the topic of consent. Whether it is talking about your personal space bubble, receiving a hug, or being intimate, allow your daughter to understand her right to say yes or no, to change her mind, and to be in charge of her own body.
Ensure our young girls understand that the boundaries they set early on will often set the tone for how she is treated, so to be firm about what she will tolerate, and what she won’t compromise on.
Encourage them to trust their intuition, and to understand that home is always a safe space where they can go for support and guidance and where they will not be judged for making mistakes.
If you are in a relationship, try and set a good example of what it looks like to be in a healthy partnership. Whether this means practising self-love frequently, setting boundaries and establishing open lines of communication between yourself and your partner; our young people’s minds are so impressionable, even on a subconscious level.
It’s not always smooth sailing in relationships, but setting expectations of how you should be treated, will allow your daughter to set her own expectations of how she should be treated. If you wouldn’t want that kind of relationship for your daughter, it might be time to question why you’re tolerating it for yourself.
You are not solely responsible for the happiness of your child. You can, however, set some stable foundations for her to increase her chance of overall well-being and fulfilment.
The most crucial element of this foundation is establishing honest and authentic connection by fostering open conversation. It is leading by example in loving yourself, and opening yourself up to these conversations, that our young girls will have the best chance of a fulfilled, happy and loving future – potentially with an amazing partner who treats her like the Queen she is.