Here are three things your daughter needs from you to build a foundation that will help her feel good about herself now, as a teen and as a grown woman.
1. She needs information on her body.
She can’t develop real confidence without self-knowledge; and she can’t have self-knowledge if you don’t teach her about the female body you share.
Don’t tell her she has a “down there.” If she’s old enough to know what her earlobe is, then she’s old enough to know what her vulva is. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry endorse starting the sexual education of children at 18 months. If you want your daughter to be secure enough in her sense of self to hold her own when sexual matters present themselves, this is where it all begins.
If you start by simply naming her body parts, you can gradually move on from there and help her deepen her understanding of sexuality as she grows. This way, by the time she’s a teen and really needs this information and openness with you, it will already be in place. If you start when she’s already a teen, chances are it will be much more difficult to have these conversations, and she may even freeze you out entirely.
2. She needs to be taught to respect her body and its capacities.
Remember, you’re her role model. If you aren’t respectful of your own body, it will be harder for her to respect her own, and that will make it harder for her to chose partners who will honor it.
Don’t critique her body, your body or the bodies of other women in front of her. Don’t tease her about her looks or her form. Don’t make food all about dieting. Don’t talk trash about other women, and as she gets older don’t let her talk trash about other girls.
Teach her about menstruation long before she gets her period, and let her know you have the confidence to discuss anything sexual with the honesty she deserves to have in her relationship with you.
3. She needs to know she can talk to you about anything.
Women in my research shared stories of keeping major sexual secrets from their mothers because they thought their mothers wouldn’t be able to “handle it” if they told them. They reasoned, if my mom couldn’t even talk to me about normal, healthy sexuality, of course she wouldn’t be able to handle more complicated issues.
Things girls and women kept from their mothers? Sexual orientation, abortion, sexual abuse, rape, affairs and trouble in their marriages. Instead of having their mothers by their sides, they went through these things alone.
If you want your daughter to come to you with what’s going on in her life, you have to earn that privilege. She won’t feel comfortable or safe talking to you unless you raise her by example.
If you want a close relationship with your daughter throughout your lives together, nurture it starting now. You and your daughter share the same gender. Don’t leave her ignorant and all on her own. Teach her to connect to herself and invite her to connect with you.
~ Joyce McFadden, author of “Your Daughter’s Bedroom: Insights for Raising Confident Women”
Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joyce-mcfadden/female-sexuality_b_2611596.html
Three of the thirteen teaching sessions in our Mentoring Girls training are about sexual well-being. This course is transformative for parents and mentors. Learn more here.