Thursday, July 11, 2013

Want to 'decode' your teenage daughter? Don't try to be her friend, don't give her too much space, says top headmistress
  • Dr Helen Wright has written a guidebook for parents on how to bring up teenage girls
  • Says the teen years are turbulent for girls - and parents
  • Says be a good role model, help her deal with peer pressure, accept she will have mood swings
  • Advises mothers to avoid fad diets and don't pressure girls to lose weight 
  • Says parents who 'hide' their body tell daughters they should be 'ashamed' of their own
Dr Wright has written a handbook for parents to help them raise teenage daughters

Parents who constantly diet are probably pressuring their teenage daughters to lose weight, a leading headmistress has said.

Dr Helen Wright, former president of the Girls' Schools Association (GSA), said mothers and fathers who worry about being overweight or are ashamed by their bodies are giving girls 'permission to do the same'.

She has written a handbook for bringing up teenage girls in which she tells parents they must tackle their 'own self-image head-on' or risk damaging their daughters. 

In the book she highlights the importance of giving teenage girls the space to grow - but says too much wiggle room is destructive. 

'They need time and space to do nothing - to just think and grow,' she says in an interview with the Times. 
But, she adds, they need boundaries to feel secure, to enable them to take small risks with the knowledge they have some structure in place to protect them. 

Dr Wright, who spent 20 years teaching in the UK before becoming a headteacher at an independent girls' school in Sydney, Australia, has published a book called Decoding Your 21st Century Daughter: The Anxious Parent's Guide to Raising A Teenage Girl.

The mother of two daughters and a son told The Times: 'If you hide your body from [your daughter], you are in effect telling her she should be ashamed of her own.

'Similarly, if you judge people on their appearance in her hearing, you will be showing her that you are judging her critically on her appearance.'

This month a study found children as young as 10 are unhappy with their weight and want to shed pounds.
Nearly two-thirds of 14 and 15-year-old girls (those in Year 10) saying they would like to be slimmer, according to a report by the Schools Health Education Unit (SHEU).

More than a third (37 per cent) of 10 and 11-year-old girls - those in the final year of primary school (Year 6) - say they would like to be slimmer, the survey found.

Dr Wright's book is billed as a collection of 'checklists' for what parents needs to know and do to help daughters through issues surrounding friendships, self-image, sexuality, drink and drugs and external pressures.

The outspoken teacher has previously accused parents who allow young girls to wear make-up or dress provocatively of now knowing right from wrong.

During her time as GSA president she said: 'If parents can't see anything wrong in dressing up their children in "Future WAG" T-shirts and letting them wear make-up, high heels and "mini-me" sexy clothing, then something is intensely wrong with our society.'

She has also previously called for GCSEs to be scrapped and said social networking causes a generation of mean girls.

In her book she says sexualised imagery in the media is 'dangerous' for growing girls.

She said parents should speak to their daughters about negative portrayals of women. 


Give your daughter space - but not too much. Children need time and space to do nothing - to think and grow, she says - but adds that while they should be allowed to takes small risks to foster independence, they need boundaries to feel secure.
Be a good role model. Don't be judgemental about the appearance of others - she will assume you are doing the same about her. Work on your own self-image if necessary.

Encourage a healthy body image. Eating disorders are one of the most common problems to hit teenage girls. Don't fad diet - it will put pressure on your daughter to do the same.
Accept your teenager will have mood swings. Their minds are developing and they don't have as much control over their emotions as an adult might. That comes later. Their brains are wired to react quickly and intensively, making for some highly charged emotions.

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