Children are growing up quickly today as the world spins faster and faster to the high-tech tune. Marketers and advertisers have their sights set firmly on them before they’re even 10 years old. They’re wearing adult clothes, high heels and lipstick by the age of 11. Swear words pop out of gum-chewing mouths. They surf the internet, sometimes stumbling onto porn sites, where older men lie in wait to trap them.
Kids are body conscious by the age of 4 when out of the mouths of babes come words such as, ‘I’ve got fat thighs, Mommy.’ By 10 some are anorexic as they drown in the wave of advertisements from hundreds of metres high billboards and TV sets urging them to look like Mylie or Vanessa. Their mothers swallow diet shakes instead of eating vegetables, and have breast enhancements, while their fathers dye their hair and eyebrows. Just listen to the message those kids are receiving!
In addition to an over-active entertainment industry, today’s schoolchildren are growing up immersed in a world of computers and other information technologies. They play DVDs on their laptops and listen to music on iPods. They can download almost anything they need for entertainment.
Mary Pipher says in Reviving Ophelia, a compendium of adolescent girls’ stories, that three factors make girls particularly vulnerable to societal pressures at adolescence.
- Their developmental level. Everything is changing quickly: their relationships with themselves, their friends and their bodies. Hormones are flowing. Girls are becoming more self-aware. This transition makes them feel ungrounded and uncertain and turns their focus outward.
- Western culture and its heavy emphasis on perfectionism and the value of appearance, which is particularly damaging due to its basis on an unrealistic ideal.
- The pressure that girls face at this age to distance themselves from their parents, especially mothers, right when they need them most. Instead they turn to their also unsteady and unsure peers for guidance. Who often guide them right into the grips of consumerism, looksism,and sexism.
In addition, the changes that are taking place at such a fast pace cause a teen to look for anchors of guidance and often that may be a celebrity.There are changes in family constellations; changes in technology and communications; exposure to all facets of information in every possible form.They probably know more about the lives, loves and attitudes of the High School Musical stars than of their own parents.
Mothers have been handed an impossible task and asked to be perfect at it. They are held responsible for the happiness and well-being of their daughters. They are expected to protect their daughters, while at the same time helping them fit into a society that is increasingly more dangerous.These pressures and many others can distance mothers and daughters at this vulnerable time.
Girls need to individuate while still being connected. Girls grow while they are in relationship with their mothers. No personal work can be done in the absence of mutual affection and regard. So it is up to mothers to accept their own imperfections, and create a loving environment so daughters can do the same.
How is your relationship with your teen daughter?