Raising girls a challenge today

  • August 22, 2013

My eldest child, my daughter, graduated with honours from high school this year and is about to head off to university. By the grace of God, her Catholic faith remains intact. In looking back at her school years, I can honestly say that raising a daughter in this culture is among the most difficult tasks I have ever undertaken.

Our daughters are confronted by incredible, at times shocking, messages that bombard them every day of their lives. Raising a daughter in this climate is a spiritual odyssey, and I know I am not yet done.

She will be attending a secular university. I fully expect that alone will provide both of us with many new challenges. But motherhood is forever so I am determined to confront these challenges with her.

As she gets ready for this next phase of her life, I have been reflecting on motherhood in the modern age. Young mothers and future mothers need to be prepared. Times always change but today they seem to be changing faster than ever. A threat exists.

It’s not just that young women are trying to juggle career and family or, in some cases, placing career ahead of family. Very few of them seem to understand what it means to be a good, true, loyal friend. Just ask any girl if she has been betrayed or hurt by someone she considered to be a “good” friend. The stories will leave your head spinning and your heart broken. If you have seen the movie Mean Girls, you’ll understand the pain that can be inflicted by girls who are competitive, vicious and narcissistic.

Here are just some of the challenges of raising a daughter in this day and age:

o The sexualization of girls: The American Psychological Association has studied the far reaching and damaging effects of the sexualization of girls. It concluded that girls today have been brainwashed by the media and other sources to believe that, in order have any value, they must be sexy. Just look at the TV program Toddlers and Tiaras. Or peek into any high school semi–formal or prom and see the revealing outfits teen girls are wearing. The daily battle over how teenage girls dress in public can be exhausting for parents. It’s tragic that many girls believe it is normal to treat boys as objects for pleasure by hooking up or making out. A girl without a moral conscience is more common than one would think.

o Materialism, marketing and greed: If you live in North America, chances are good that your daughter has more than she needs, usually more than her mother or grandmother had. Chances are she’s also travelled more than girls of previous generations. For some reason, girls and their parents have bought into the notion that shopping at a particular store or wearing a particular brand or carrying a specific purse will make them happier. It’s often more about how girls look than how they behave, which is a shame.

o Social media: More than at any time in history, teenage girls are communicating with friends and others outside the sphere of adult supervision. Teenage girls have always loved to express themselves. The difference today is that they’re using technology tools like Facebook, Twitter and texting to communicate constantly with a broader group of people. Daily, girls are sharing their thoughts at all times of day and night with not only girlfriends, but with boys or “friends” they have never met.

o Secularization of society: My daughter saw her first restricted movie in her religion class at a Catholic high school. I was shocked by the number of Hollywood movies my daughter saw in school. Some of her teachers openly challenged her Catholic beliefs in the middle of the classroom. Survey any Catholic school and you will find that many (or sometimes most) teachers and students no longer go to church on Sunday.

o Celebrities, pop music and the dearth of healthy role models: If you think about the role models girls have today — the likes of Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and others — it’s no wonder many teenage girls are not finding happiness. Pop culture too often breeds young “stars” who, by how they dress, talk and act, encourage girls to behave in ways that are opposite to how their parents are raising them.

Our daughters today face a barrage of cultural pressures and temptations that make navigating our world more challenging then ever, for them and their mothers.

(Pilarski’s book, Motherhood Matters: Inspirational Stories, Letters, Quotes & Prayers for Catholic Moms, is available from Catholic Register Books— 416-934- 3410. To attend her Oct. 26 event in Toronto e-mail dorothypilarski@ yahoo.ca.)

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