Expert Lindsay Sealey on What We Can Do to Help Girls
At Hopscotch Girls, we’ve been thinking about what more we can do to make it easy for parents and caregivers to empower girls. We conducted a survey to find out what keeps you up at night when it comes to raising girls. The responses were clear; people want to know how to help girls feel confident and worthy, encourage them to be leaders, and love themselves.
We reached out to Lindsay Sealey for her expert opinion on these topics. Lindsay is the CEO of Bold New Girls, and author of Growing Strong Girls: Practical Tools to Cultivate Connection in the Preteen Years. She’s a passionate girl advocate and coach with experience in education, counseling, curriculum development, and special education, so we were excited to get her take on what parents and caregivers can do for girls. Please note that we added the bold highlighting to Lindsay's key points.
Q: What can we (parents, grandparents and caregivers) do to help girls be more confident?
A: The best way to build up confidence is to focus on developing competence. Girls are so talented in so many ways and often don’t give themselves enough (or any) credit for what they can do. I have girls who are very friendly and social, or empathetic and kind, or tech-savvy and social media superstars, or naturally athletic with acute body awareness. Yet, they will dismiss their talents as “easy for me” or “no big deal”. We can support girls by first, being mirrors for them and reflecting back what they can already offer. Additionally, we can help them embrace the growth mindset and continue to put effort and time into growing their skills in a variety of ways. With practice, girls can do anything ranging from computer coding or graphic design, to arts and crafts, baking and cooking, or developing a more robust social skill set. Brainstorm together, all areas in which she can grow and flourish.
Q: How can we teach girls that they are worthy and that they are enough?
A: We can teach girls they are worthy and more than enough by consistently telling them, but better yet, we can show them. Girls need proof, so let’s prove it. Ask girls who they are now and also who they want to become in the future – this emphasizes character over appearance. Her core qualities and values may include: humor, kindness, generosity, adventure, bravery, and confidence. Then ask her for examples of how she demonstrates these values. She may highlight her humor with friends when she can always come up with a witty quip or lighten the mood with a funny joke. If she can consider how she shows her values, she is much more likely to embrace these values and notice additional values too. Girls start to believe they are enough when they shift from striving to be “perfect” to the more accepting, “personal best”. This means not comparing or competing with anyone else. But rather, focusing on her journey of value and self-worth, as she is, and then as she wants to expand.
Q: What can we do to encourage girls to be leaders?
A: We encourage girls to be leaders with practice, starting with small steps. This could include: speaking up in the home – offering her opinion or making a choice about which restaurant to eat at or which movie to watch on a Friday night. Then, this could naturally and comfortably transfer to the classroom where she can try answering a question or offering an idea or a personal connection with her classmates. Small steps and less risk help her develop her voice and her ability to influence or inspire others which then motivates bigger steps and larger risks. At the same time, we must paint a picture of her leadership possibility and speak to her potential to be the next designer, inventor, writer, teacher, social rights advocate, scientist, luminary, or leader. If we speak truth into her possibilities then she doesn’t question if she could be a leader of any kind, she only will wonder what kind of leader will she be. We have to help girls to see it, so they can believe it.
Q: What is the single most important thing we can do to help girls love themselves? What is the worst thing we could do?
A: We can help a growing girl love herself by loving her unconditionally and cultivating authentic relationship– creating a safe space for her to be herself and to unburden her fears and worries. We can help her love herself by highlighting her strengths, talents, personality traits, skills, smart decisions, right actions, and effort – the very best of her. The worst thing we can do is judge or criticize her because it reinforces any feelings of inadequacy she may hold. Moreover, rejection forces girls to withdraw and hold back. And, it modifies the relationship to one that is conditional to her being “perfect” and polished. This is how girls become insecure, anxious, and filled with self-doubt.