I have been working with teen girls for over twenty years. I have enjoyed receiving graduation announcements, wedding invitations, and baby pictures as these girls grow into young woman. I have also experienced the heartbreak of watching these girls make harmful choices that impact them forever. Over the years, I have realized the importance of instilling in young women a healthy understanding of purity, body image, and a sense of true beauty. Moreover, as a Christian I find it is essential to instill into these young ladies what the Bible teaches about holiness and how to be physically, spiritually, and emotionally whole.
Because we live in an over-sexualized culture, many young girls experience pressure to grow up way too fast. Magazines, movies, and social media tell them to look and act a certain way. Our culture essentially tells a young girl that:
- Her value comes only from her appearance or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
- She is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy;
- She is made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making.
In addition to these messages, one often finds that sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person – something that is especially relevant when children are saturated with adult sexuality.
Six Ways to Raise Tween Girls in an Over-Sexualized Culture
Today, as a parent of three girls I am passionate about training up my girls and helping other parents to do the same. Many parents ask me: “How can we allow our girls to be in the world, while giving them the confidence to be not of the world?” (Romans 12:2) The Bible promises that if we train them up in the way that they should go, when they are grown women they will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6) In her book Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl, Dannah Gresh offers six helpful ways to navigate the rapids of raising a girl in our over-sexualized culture. In this two-part article, I will summarize each of her suggestions.
Way #1: Give Her the Right Dolls to Play With
Play is such an important part of every child’s life. In a culture of Wii and Xbox, Gresh states that the best thing for your child to play with is nothing at all. She isn’t advocating a toyless home, but a place where kids can use their imagination and creative skills to find the props they need for playtime. Dolls are great for creative play and the kind of doll is even more important. She suggests that your daughter play with a cute, nonsexual doll so they can use their imagination. Dolls like Barbie and Bratz will fast-forward the sexualization of girls. More appropriate dolls for older girls might include Polly Pockets and Groovy Girls. Gresh stresses that it’s the parent’s job to teach values and not solely to stock toys.
Way #2: Celebrate Her Body by Punctuating Her Period
Forty percent of women start their periods having never heard about it from their own parents. Rather than keeping your daughter’s period a secret, why not celebrate it with enthusiasm? Talk to your daughter about God’s creation and how He created living things to bring forth life. Teach your daughter about birth by using examples found in nature. If you have the experience of living on or near a farm, you could take advantage of the springtime as the farm is exploding with new birth. Make it your goal to tell her about her period between her eighth and tenth birthdays. Don’t present it with dread. Instead, make it exciting by giving her a gift basket with all the necessary supplies. Keep communication open and positive and she will thank you in the years to come.
Way #3: Unplug Her from a Plugged-In World
You can’t completely shield your daughter from the media, movies, and music. However, you can set some healthy boundaries and limits. Consider setting limits on screen time and set a good example by your own screen time. Boundaries such as “no screens at mealtime” or “no screen Sundays” will help to curb unhealthy habits. When your daughter is in front of a screen, be present. Watch and listen with her. Consider setting a boundary that all screen time will be done in a shared living space, such as the living room or kitchen. Establish family TV favorites that are age appropriate and teach your daughter to pre-screen media. Be deliberate and use resources like Plugged In and Covenant Eyes to help you to discern healthy media options. Most importantly, make sure to address true beauty as you discuss pop culture.
A Christian Counselor Can Help You Navigate the Tween Years
Raising girls in today’s over-sexualized culture is very difficult and can be discouraging at times. If you need help or support in raising a flourishing, confident tween girl, then you may want to consider Christian counseling. A trained Christian counselor knows the sorts of issues that your daughter is facing and can help you and her to navigate them together. I’d be happy to assist you in your journey.
Gresh, D. (2010). Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl: Guiding Your Daughter from Her Tweens to Her Teens. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers.
“Young Girl Writing in Notebook” courtesy of imagerymajestic, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, ID #10092522
“Mom With Daughter Looking At Camera” courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, ID #10083880