Coming of Age
Encouragement to empower
As the teens faded away and the 20’s came forth… I ended up doing more reminiscing than my daughter I think. The coming of age milestone is an important one, but can also be a difficult transition for some children who are hesitant to leave childhood behind.
For parents, more so mothers, it is a challenge of a different nature. You watch your child coping with heartbreak and disappointments, dealing with issues in regard to gender equality and various discriminations, finding their own identities and their way of handling the challenges of increased responsibility.
For children, coming of age can be exciting as they separate from their parents and form new social circles. However, it can also be a sad time for children who fear the future and miss the safety of childhood. Hence, this term, ‘Coming of Age’ came into being to describe the transition between childhood and adulthood.
Bringing up daughters in today’s world is complicated enough: Empowerment messages and impressive achievements are everywhere, yet ‘real-life’ threats lurk at every corner. Parents need to prepare their kids for the good, the bad and the ugly. Raising responsible and confident children, especially daughters, in this environment can be difficult. Every day, our girls face peer pressure and unrealistic standards of beauty and popularity, creating significant challenges for any parent looking to shape the next generation. Depression and anxiety are another worrisome factor.
This training for responsible adulthood begins with the parents leading by example. I always tell people: you are being watched…your children will follow by example. How you treat people around you is by far the greatest learning for the young ones. By a parent’s example, children learn to respect themselves and others.
A child also needs encouragement so that they have the tools and confidence to be successful in their careers and relationships. This is my advice to young girls: Never compromise or settle for second best. In spite of the pressures of the world, be yourself and uphold the standards of honest women. The support of your family, a positive network of friends, and your inner strength will carry you through life’s challenges.
Raising kids is both one of life’s greatest joys and greatest challenges. As the world shifts and changes, each generation has its own unique set of challenges and obstacles. There are foundational elements of raising kids that will never change - while the canvas against which parents labour to help their kids navigate seems to change every day.
Today, our girls face an unending battle dealing with sexuality, cyber-bullying, the dark, evil world of cyber-space and social media, gender bias and sexual harassment. For parents this is only just scratching the surface of the culture battle our girls are fighting every single day. It’s time to pay attention to the world they are living in. We must empower our girls to be strong, to live with integrity and to value their hearts and bodies. No doubt about it, it is a daily battle but it is worth the fight!
Having been blessed with an amazing mom myself, I can think of three things my mom offered me from an early age that I think set the foundation for our beautiful relationship: giving love, spending time, and showing support and respect for what mattered to me. And many of the girls I’ve talked to about what they need from their mothers have mirrored those same ideas as being important to them.
Often, it’s just the simple and real moments spent with their moms that girls need the most. The moments that are just about being together - nothing fancy, just good old-fashioned time spent together - end up being the times that build that precious trust, support, and open communication. After all, we see our mothers as superheroes who have all the answers.
Let's be honest. Many parents are not ecstatic about bringing their children up in India, and for various reasons. For example, parents with daughters are afraid of the quality of life their daughter can lead in India as a woman. The safety aspect has been and will always be a cause for concern here. One of the big differences in raising girls and boys is the issue of modesty. Unfortunately today, women are still judged on appearance so there is a constant pressure to look and dress a certain way. This may be even more compounded for our daughters as they live in a world of more intense peer pressure and scrutiny. There have been so many articles written on modesty, especially of late. While we are setting up boundaries in our home for what is and isn’t acceptable, we need to remember that modesty is also a heart issue.
For the times that our girls live in… This is a tough one, even for myself. It’s something that is a constant work in progress. It’s hard to have confidence as a woman when everyone is telling you how much you should weigh, how tall you should be, what make-up you should be wearing, or what clothes you should own. Everyone is beautiful in their own way and owning that is what is important. It doesn’t matter what the neighbour down the street thinks or even what your friends think.
This is what I always say to every young girl: You need to be comfortable in your own body and then own it. You are beautiful just the way you are. One needs to always remember that!