Monday, September 15, 2014

raising confident girls - a resource list

I am pleased and honored to have again this year been invited to teach at the Southeast Wise Women's Herbal Conference in Black Mountain, NC, which will take place October 10 - 12th.

I am teaching two classes. My class on Cultivating Unconditional Self-Love is returning for the third time to the conference, presumably because each time I have taught it I have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants that it was really helpful to them, which is a great source of joy for me. My greatest passion is facilitating others on their journey of self-fulfillment, health, and love!

And, with a synchronicity that is so significant that I must give thanks for the divine mother protectors who clearly played a hand in it, the conference organizers scheduled me to teach my second class, Raising Confident Girls, on Saturday, October 11th, which just so happens to be the International Day of the Girl Child! Yes!

I have been compiling this resource list as a support for that class, but am happy to put it out here to the world to encourage others to tap into the many resources available for empowering girls, young women, and honestly, every child, regardless of gender. I think it is every bit as important to raise confident, well-adjusted, healthy, loving boys as it is girls. In the global climate of gender oppression and stereotypes, boys face different kinds of pressures and challenges than girls do, however as male gendered people, they also experience some privileges that girls and women do not. It is for that reason that this particular class focuses on girls. But don't think for a moment I am not every bit as invested in boys' and men's well-being. As the mother of two sons, I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to be a young man learning and growing in today's world. These tools are just as effective and useful if used with boys, though I would recommend seeking additional resources to complement this list.

Now that this list has begun, I am sure to be growing it over the years. Feel free to check back from time to time to see what new resources have made the list, and I actively welcome your suggestions for additional resources and your feedback on how these resources have worked for you.

Thank you for your interest in helping young people to thrive. We all have a responsibility to guiding the next generations toward ever greater levels of self-acceptance, self-love, self-esteem, and personal excellence and satisfaction, as defined by the members of those generations. 

First I share with you my suggestions for supporting girls and youth of all genders in becoming their healthiest, strongest, most vibrant selves. Following this list are links to online resources for you to explore in further supporting this work.


1st and foremost, work on yourself. If you are parenting, teaching, or guiding youth, know that the greatest influence you have on them is what you role model. Get support, go to therapy, read books, meditate, and educate yourself in every way possible on how YOU can most effectively LOVE YOURSELF and positively project self-appreciation to the eagerly watching young people in your life.

Assert Assertiveness. It is incredibly important for all young people to learn the differences in passive, assertive, and aggressive behaviors and communication. Girls, in particular, are heavily acculturated not to speak proactively and to avoid aggression, and they need to understand the importance of self-assertion, expressing opinions, needs, concerns, joys, and ideas effectively and actively.

Be present. It is extremely easy, whether you are a parent or a teacher bedraggled with the huge number of responsibilities and distractions that are the reality of life in our culture, to never truly be fully present with our full attention with the children and youth in our lives. It is because of this that it is crucial for family members, caregivers, and support people to actively engage with the young people we are charged with raising. It is impossible to develop an authentic sense of your own worth if the people closest to you never fully engage with you and never demonstrate their active desire to know you and value your unique perspective. Let’s provide that critical component to our youth.

Facilitate physical activity. Conscious movement and exercise are notably important to physical health, but have significant bearing on emotional health and self-esteem, as well. Help young people appreciate the marvelous wonder and beauty of their young bodies, and develop strengths and skills that are of interest to them and will further their positive sense of self.

Foster resilience. Help young people learn that the most important ways to deal with difficult situations are to get reliable, trustworthy support, to remain focused on our own strengths and skills, to identify what is going well in any given situation and how to seek and recreate what is good in our lives, and accept difficulty as an opportunity for growth and development, rather than identify it is an undefeatable foe.

Listen. Try to keep an open mind and truly hear what is going on in the lives of young people. Avoid jumping to conclusions or letting your goals for them or the issues of your own past dictate how you respond to sincere attempts by youth to share their experiences with you.  

Talk. Ask open-ended questions of the young people in your life. Fully explore their interests with them and help them with opportunities to go deeper with that they love. Learn what is challenging in their lives and help them with opportunities to improve, make change in, or learn to cope with life difficulties. Be honest and open with youth, but also do not overburden them with your adult concerns and unmanaged personal emotions.  

Teach coping skills. Life is hard. Growing up with oppression can be excruciatingly hard. All people will face disappointment, unmet expectations, insult, injury, or loss of some sort in their lives. What allows us to thrive in the face of adversity is a well-honed skill set for maintaining a stable mood, that includes identifying and changing defeating thought patterns and behaviors, developing positive thought patterns and behaviors that increase sense of well-being and physical health, learning how to remain or regain physical calm, understanding the mind-body connection, and asking for help when necessary.

Seek support. It is hard work to take care of ourselves, harder still to role-model to and teach young people to take care of themselves. Being a part of an active support network is critical to well-being, so having good social support and support through spiritual communities, healthcare providers (including alternative practitioners such as acupuncturists, herbalists, energy workers, bodyworkers, etc.), therapists and counselors, and communities with whom you are well aligned is non-negotiable in our work as helpers. Additionally, we must help the young people in our lives develop their own, appropriate support networks. Furthermore, we must demonstrate and help them learn that ASKING FOR HELP IS A VALUABLE, ADMIRABLE SKILL to be strongly relied upon.

Teach and role model positive relationship skills. Human beings are remarkably social creatures. We must have healthy relationships to thrive. Relationships in our culture are plagued with dishonesty, poor communication, lack of depth, and lack of problem solving abilities. Learn the antidotes to this plague by learning to live in positive relationship with your family, friends, and community members, even those you do not consider to be allies. Pass on these strong traits to the youth. 

Teach media literacy. There is a lot of mind poison bombarding all of us every day, through advertisements, TV, movies, magazines, music, websites, and social media falsehoods, misrepresentations, and fighting. The constant messages of forced gender roles, sexist and racist attitudes, cultural violence, and our inherent unworthiness are profoundly damaging to our sense of self, children and adults alike. Supportive adults must help young people learn to navigate this world by identifying falsehoods and unhealthy messages, learning to avoid them, learning to counter them, and developing a sense of self strong enough to resist them. This is never ending work.

Understand otherness. Every individual operates from their own unique perspective and understanding of the world. We will be most effective in working with and supporting youth when we fully embrace that they, their histories and experiences and personal make up are thoroughly different from our own, yet they are inherently worthy and important. This will help them develop that own understanding and acceptance of themselves and help them learn the importance role that perspective taking has on developing good support networks and positive relationships.


13 Ways to Build Your Daughter's Self-Esteem - Great tips for parents and anyone working with youth.

A Mighty Girl - An indisputably amazing resource to find materials to support healthy, confident, successful, happy girls with a huge, comprehensive list of books, movies/TV, music, toys, and more.

Assertive Communication Worksheet - Helping young people learn the importance of assertive communication and how it differs from passivity and aggressiveness is a crucial tool for self-development and self-efficacy. Downloadable/printable worksheet.

Confident Girls' Toolbox - Includes confidence boosting craft ideas and activities for encouraging girls in science, sports, architecture, politics, and more.

Eleven Facts about Teens and Self-Esteem - Intense facts about the crisis of low self-esteem in American teens.

Girl Scouts Research Publications -  Fact sheets on Financial Literacy, Girl and Youth Development, Girl Leadership, Girl Scouting, Girls and Media (great stuff here), Healthy Living, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and the State of Girls.

Self-Esteem Activity Guide for Mothers and Daughters ages 8 to 11 - A comprehensive, 35-page PDF guide by the Dove Self-Esteem Project (I don't love corporate sponsorship, but this organization has done some impressive work in the area of self-esteem and offers many free resources to the community, and this one is quite good). Includes info on improving maternal self-esteem, writing activities and conversation starters for girls, communication builders, guides to discussing difficult topics, and links to several other self-esteem guide pages focused on girls and boys across a wider age spectrum for use by parents, teachers, and youth leaders.

Self-Esteem Boosting Worksheets - Three worksheets for helping kids to identify their strengths, develop focus on activities they enjoy, and transform uncomfortable situations.

Tips to Support Girls' Rights through Talking and Listening - Great ways to communicate with girls with a focus on hearing them and fostering positive interest in their lives.

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