Why It’s So Important to Help Girls Joyfully Become Exactly Who They’re Meant to Be
Fran Hendrick, P.C.C.
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
I believe in the possibility of a world where each woman, each girl feels not only adequate, but valuable; where the beauty of each flows unblocked through her words and her actions; where self-loathing and depression take a way-back seat to joy, empowerment, competence, resilience, and love.
I’m not one to step up to a microphone without major provocation. But the statistics on depression and self-harm in girls and women today in this country demand it. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a whopping 17.3% of girls ages 12-17 have experienced a major depressive episode1, along with 8.2% of adult women2. It has even been estimated that girls’ self-esteem, their greatest protection against depression, peaks (yes, peaks) before they are ten years old!
What makes this all the more unacceptable is that it is largely preventable! We have the knowledge to raise girls to feel whole, adequate, and joyful so they experience the world confidently and in bright colors. The knowledge exists to protect our girls from depression, from lifelong battles against feeling not good enough, from desperation – in short, to prevent rivers of tears and needless pain.
But for parents to actually be able to implement that knowledge in the small moments that make up everyday life with children requires a clear approach, intentional action — and a strong dose of self-reflection, because it can be scary. With that investment, our girls can be spared the lifetime of depression and anxiety that so many women experience. They can joyfully become exactly who they’re meant to be.
On my desk at Wildflower House, I have a colorful drawing, spontaneously crayoned by a spectacular six-year-old girl. In it, twelve children jubilantly dance two-by-two in all directions across the fluorescent green paper. They kick upwards, their arms reach for the sky, they seem to fairly prance, all with their own dance steps, their own vivid colors, their own lively style.
That is how our girls should feel! I believe our daughters simply must be given that opportunity. Parents need a clear approach to evade those awful statistics and, in their place, to create something wonderful.
I invite you to be part of improving the odds for today’s little girls, especially the ones within your own reach.
Why? Because each little girl has the potential to bloom uniquely. Because it is a sacred responsibility to learn to nurture, to discover that. And because there should be, there must be no lost voices. Each individual human being is entitled to self-expression. Without it, our sparks dim and become buried out of our reach, hopelessness gains ground, despair sets in. Human beings should not be locked away inside themselves. Ever.
So let’s fix it together.
You really can build your daughter’s confidence right there in the midst of simple everyday conversations. I’d like to show you how.
1 SAMSA.gov, 2014. “Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)”.