My daughter Yvette is becoming a woman, an adult. She'll be on her own pretty soon, and she'll be making more and more of her own decisions. To me, it feels like the future is right around the corner. Time rushes by so quickly. I need to prepare Yvette for what lies ahead. I know that now is the time for her to start thinking more about her future. I try to impress this on her, but most of the time she seems to be focused only on today. Whenever I try to talk with her about college or career choices, she says, "not now" or "I'll talk to you later" or "I know already, my guidance counselor told us everything." She's always telling me how I worry too much.
I want to encourage Yvette so she will head in the right direction. I want her to maximize her potential and her capabilities. I want her to strive to do well academically, to be self-sufficient, and to learn how to spend her money wisely. But I'm not sure about the best way to influence her. Should I tell her about my own experiences as a teenager? Should I insist that she listen to me? What if I'm being too optimistic about the possibilities in front of her? Am I raising her hopes too high? As a woman, will there really be more choices for her than there were for her mother? And how can I help prepare her for the future when everything around us is changing so much and so quickly? I don't know what the future holds for her.
I had it really rough when I was a kid. I want it to be different for my daughter. If I can, I want to smooth the way for her. How can I best help her?
— Leroy, father of Yvette, age 18
What steps can I take to encourage my daughter to choose a math or science career?
- Cory O.
It is fascinating to see how your daughter's curiosity and interests begin to combine with her skills and talents. As this happens, it is normal for you to begin to think about or imagine the kind of career your daughter would enjoy and succeed in. It is natural and normal for parents to have hopes and dreams for their children. The trick is to be careful not to impose your hopes and dreams on her.
So, while you might want your daughter to choose a career in math or science, the choice must be hers … not yours. You cannot and should not push your daughter into any career. However, as her parent, you do play an important role in determining the range of options that your daughter might consider.
If you believe that your daughter has some talent and interest in the sciences or math, encourage her to take more than the required math and science classes and to consider careers in these fields. Encourage your daughter to look for after-school activities that will help her explore these interests. Often, hospitals and research centers have visiting days or special programs for teenagers interested in careers in the sciences. Watch for career exploration days in your community, and encourage your daughter to talk with as many people as she can about how they came to their particular career choice.
With this approach, your daughter will feel your support and encouragement to consider many different career choices and to take classes that will help her to further explore her interests. In the end, your daughter will be happiest with her career choice if she is able to achieve a reasonable degree of success and enjoy what she is doing. Don't try to push your daughter into a field that does not draw from her skills and talents or that does not seem to interest her. Your daughter needs your ongoing encouragement and support in helping her explore her own talents and strengths, not in becoming what you think she should be. You should not try to control her choices.
If your daughter seems to have an interest in math or science, support her by giving her books and articles about women in science and math. It can be an inspiration for her to learn about famous women scientists and mathematicians. It is also important to help your daughter meet and interact with women in her own community who are in the math and science fields.
Unfortunately, many adolescent girls still believe that they are less likely than boys to succeed in the academic work required to prepare for a career in science or math. This is nonsense! Girls are just as capable as boys. In addition, once they reach high school, even teachers and other adults may give girls the indirect and subtle message that they are less likely to succeed in math or science than boys are. While some schools are working hard to rectify this problem, it does still exist.
So, try to be sure that your daughter does not eliminate a possible career choice simply because of assumptions she has made based only on being female. What is most important is not that you convince your daughter to enter any particular career, but that you give your daughter the message that gender does not determine an individual's skills or talents and should not determine her career choice either.
How can we encourage adolescent girls to strive more academically and less socially?
- Shivana N.
Adolescent girls seem to need more social time than adolescent boys. From a very early age, girls are taught to pay more attention to the needs and feelings of others than boys are. Boys are encouraged to "build towers," compete, and show their strength, whereas young girls are rewarded for being caring, sensitive, and helpful to others. So, it really should come as no surprise that adolescent girls are more "socially driven" than adolescent boys. And as a result, it is particularly difficult for a teen girl when she is left out or rejected.
In addition to strong social needs, there are two other reasons why your daughter may not be putting an appropriate amount of effort and attention into her schoolwork.
First, like many adolescents, your daughter may have a problem with time management. She may not be deliberately neglecting her schoolwork; she simply may not know how to manage her time in order to balance academics with her social life. Learning how to balance a social life and schoolwork is not easy.
Second, your daughter may not see or be able to focus on the long-term implications of not putting more effort into her schoolwork. If her social life feels far more important and satisfying to her at the moment, she may neglect or actively resist doing her schoolwork. It is normal for teens to focus primarily on the here and now. The idea that their high school grades could affect them far into the future is sometimes hard for them to take seriously.
Here are some tips for helping your daughter to achieve a reasonable balance between schoolwork and her social life:
Start with the expectation that she will try her best. Your belief in her abilities lays the foundation for her belief in herself. As her parent, it is very important that you do have high expectations for your daughter, so she will feel loved, cared about, and encouraged to achieve.
Maintain an ongoing dialogue with your daughter about how she is doing in school. Don't just pay attention to your daughter's schoolwork when she gets a poor grade on her report card or fails an exam. Showing your interest all of the time is a reflection of your belief that her academics are important to her future.
Ask your daughter to share papers or essays she has written, not for your criticism but as a way of learning more about the things she is studying in school.
Actively communicate to your daughter that her schoolwork is very important and be prepared, if necessary, to set limits on and curtail her time for socializing.
Consider making certain privileges, like getting her driver's license or extending her curfew, dependent on the effort she puts into her schoolwork. Look for teacher comments on her report card about how hard she has been trying. Remember that not all kids are "A" students. It is OK to get a "C" if that is truly her best effort.
Girls who have a history of having to struggle to get by in school often stop striving academically and put all of their time and energy into their social life once they reach their teen years. In middle school or high school, when the academic demands increase, they become so frustrated that they simply "give up." If your daughter has had too much damage to her self- esteem as a learner, no matter what you do at this point, or how many limits you set, there's probably not much more that you alone can do. Things have likely reached a point where you need outside assistance in determining what the problem is and how you can get your daughter the help she needs.
Don't fall into the trap of blaming your daughter. It won't help and it will only alienate her from you more. Instead find out what the problem is, what help your daughter needs, and how you are going to make sure she gets it. This means that she needs you to become her advocate, not her enemy.
Start by contacting your daughter's doctor and school counselor. Tell them that you want a referral to the school psychologist or other expert so that your daughter can be tested to see what, if any, learning disabilities or special learning needs she may have.
Meet with her teachers to see what they are doing to help her succeed in the classroom. Find out if they are available for extra help or if the school provides any kind of tutoring service.
Find out about special programs that might be available to help your daughter. Some schools run "alternative education" programs, or there might be opportunities for more hands-on learning through occupational education programs or community internships.
If your daughter's school does not have the resources to help, contact your State Education Department to learn about your daughter's rights as a student and the school district's responsibilities to provide her with an appropriate educational program.
No matter what, if you don't want your daughter to give up on herself, don't give up on her!
If your daughter sees that you are on her side, and that you are doing everything you can to help her, then she will more likely do everything she can. Don't expect a sudden turnaround—it's a slow process that will require your ongoing attention. Your goal is to build your daughter's self-esteem as a learner and to teach her to appropriately advocate for her own needs.
As a parent, should I speak openly about my own adolescent experiences, good and bad, as examples of where I have been and how my choices and experiences have impacted where I am today?
- Ann M.
Yes, yes, yes! You have 30, 40, maybe even 50 years of experiences under your belt at this point. Why hide what you have learned from your daughter? And more importantly, if you made mistakes (and we all have), sharing them with your daughter makes you much more believable and human. Nobody likes living with, or listening to, someone who presents themselves as perfect and acts as if they "walk on water."
But there is a tricky part to being open about your adolescent experiences—and this has to do with timing. You need to carefully consider what you tell your daughter and when you tell her.
Deciding when to tell her something about your past mistakes (or errors in judgment) should have less to do with your daughter's chronological age and more to do with her emotional maturity. If you give her personal information that she is not ready to hear, she may ignore it (if you're lucky), she may misinterpret it to mean that you are encouraging her or giving her permission to do what you did, or she may gossip with friends about it, and you could find your personal history being repeated on the phone, or on-line!
In deciding what to tell your daughter, think about what important "lesson" you learned from a particular experience, and whether or not this is a lesson that would be valuable to her at this point in her life. Being open and honest with your daughter will foster a closer connection and encourage her to be open and honest with you.
Sharing your adolescent experiences with your daughter can be lots of fun, in addition to helping her understand how you got to be who you are and where you are today. Teens love to hear juicy stories about things their parents did when they were teenagers—particularly when parents are not using their experiences to teach their kids a lesson! So try to let your daughter in on some of where you've been, just in the course of conversation, like when you're driving to an appointment or having breakfast together. It can also be a wonderful bonding experience to get together with some of your daughter's friends and their parents to talk about "the good old days"— which may not have always been so good. In this way, you can share with your daughter the wealth of experiences of many parents, not just your own. Remember, not all of these conversations have to be serious and heavy. You can be humorous and lighthearted and have a great time together.
Making good decisions
How can I impress on my daughter the importance of decisions made now and how these decisions will influence her life in the future?
- Melissa K.
As a parent, your natural instinct is to try to steer your daughter in the "right" direction. You want to keep her from experiencing failures, hurts, and mistakes. However, it is important not to get involved in all of your daughter's decisions. Some decisions she must make now will affect her far into the future, and therefore your input is probably very important. There are many other decisions that are not critically important. For those, your role is clear: Stay out of them!
The earlier your daughter starts to learn how to make her own decisions, even small ones, the better she will be at making more important decisions later on. For example, if a 10-year-old wants to go outside without her jacket, and her mother argues with her and tells her that she will be too cold and must put one on, the daughter will have been prevented from discovering for herself that she would prefer to wear a jacket when it is cold out. If you constantly anticipate and interfere with your daughter's making her own choices, you rob her of the opportunity to discover the consequences or outcomes of her own decisions.
If you have been intervening too much and have not given your daughter the opportunity to learn from making at least some of her own decisions, all is not lost. You can start now by making a conscious decision to back off. In doing so, you must remember that initially, your daughter will not be very good at decision making. In fact, some of her early choices are likely to be poor ones. Let this happen (unless, of course, the decision has important lifelong consequences). Learning to make good decisions comes with experience, so be patient.
Let's consider a typical decision-making opportunity in which you might be tempted to get involved. Your daughter is at the shoe store and sees a pair of shoes she is "dying" to have. When she tries them on and walks in them, you can see that they will be uncomfortable and impractical. But, even when you ask her if they fit well, she insists that they are perfect—clearly because she has her heart set on them. What do you do? Do you tell her she can't buy them? Do you tell her it's obvious that they don't fit quite right? Do you have a screaming match in the store? Or do you just wonder aloud how uncomfortable they seem—but then allow her to make the final decision by herself (silently acknowledging that she's is going to try to get you to buy another pair of shoes once she finally realizes that she made a poor decision)? The last option is by far the best! Let her make her own decision; let her live with the consequences. Be supportive, and don't be punitive or communicate an unspoken "I told you so!" (And, of course, don't give in to buying another pair of shoes when her decision backfires!) Experiences like these are the only way your daughter can begin to learn how decisions made today will influence her life in the future.
The backdrop for learning how to make good decisions is learning how your behavior affects your life. So, if you want your daughter to build the right foundation, start paying attention to the numerous opportunities you have now to help her learn how each of her choices and decisions has consequences. For example, if you constantly remind your daughter to remember her lunch money, or if you drop it off at school when she forgets it, she certainly isn't going to focus on the connection between remembering to take her lunch money in the morning and being able to buy food when she is starving at lunchtime. So, if she leaves her lunch money home, let her figure out how to handle it. She may borrow money from a friend, get someone to split their lunch with her, or even go hungry. None of these consequences are life threatening or lifelong. In the same way, while it's OK to occasionally wake your daughter up if she has slept through her alarm, it's not your job to stand by her bed each and every morning to get her up. And, if she does not make it to school or gets there late, don't give her a note excusing her. Let her deal with the consequences. While you must intervene in anything that is or could become a life-threatening situation (like physical safety), most other situations in which you are tempted to intervene probably reflect your own discomfort in allowing your daughter to "suffer."
The earlier in your daughter's life that you allow her to learn about the connections between certain behaviors and their outcomes, the better prepared she will be to make more important decisions later on, such as to keep or drop a class; to continue with or drop out of a sport or other activity; to stay with one group of friends or move on to another; to put off her homework until it's too late to get it done or to start it early; to drink or not drink alcohol at a party; or even whether or not to experiment with drugs. The process of figuring out how decisions that she makes now will influence her in the future begins early on. Your job is to slowly but surely hand over more and more of the decision making to your daughter, so that by the time she leaves home, both you and she are confident in her ability to make good decisions that will positively influence her life.
How can I get my daughter to understand money? In these times, we need to raise our daughters to be self-sufficient.
- Blair Y.
Your daughter can best learn how to handle money through a combination of the example that you set for her and her own personal experiences.
First, in terms of the example that you set, as with so many other things, your daughter will learn more from what you do than what you say. Be a good role model for financial responsibility. And, if you share your financial responsibilities with a spouse or other partner, remember that how you model shared money management will have a very significant impact on your daughter. Here are some of the questions you can ask yourself about what you do (or don't do) to set an example for your daughter:
Do you live from paycheck to paycheck, or do you at least save something every week or every month?
Are you an impulse buyer or are your purchases well planned and thoughtful?
Do you argue with your spouse or partner about money, or do you have ongoing conversations about how the finances are handled?
When you make a financial mistake, do you admit your error and discuss it openly so she can learn from your experience?
Do you use credit cards in a responsible way?
Do you have a budget? And do you live by it?
Second, in terms of your daughter's own personal experiences, she needs to learn by doing. Some of the lessons may be difficult, but it is better for her to make small mistakes now than big ones later on. Since your daughter is not likely to learn money management skills in school, it is really up to you to be her teacher and mentor. Start early, and build her financial understanding and self-esteem as a good money-manager.
Ironically, parents are as unlikely to talk with their daughters about money as they are about sex! It is, however, critical that you teach your daughter how to deal with money and finances. To help you, here are few tips that focus on preparing your daughter to eventually become financially self-sufficient. The tips begin with those that are appropriate for younger teens and take you through steps of increasing financial responsibility.
Give your daughter a weekly allowance. Decide in advance what expenses she will be responsible for, like her own entertainment and special purchases, and help her work out a budget. Let her learn first- hand that when she spends too much and runs out of money, she'll have to wait until the following week for her next "paycheck."
As soon as she is old enough to help out at home, provide your daughter with opportunities to earn money. Pay her a "salary" for doing special chores or particular jobs around the house.
Insist that your daughter save a certain fixed amount or percentage of her "income" each week. This will help her learn the benefits of saving her money for the more expensive things she wants. It will also help her to build a cash reserve in case she suddenly wants to make an unplanned purchase, like a great sweater that just went on sale.
Set up a savings account and be sure your daughter understands the monthly bank statements. Explain to her how the interest she earns, and the regular deposits she makes, help her savings to grow.
As she gets older, help your daughter to pick a special financial goal, like saving money for concert tickets or a new outfit, and work with her to monitor her progress in that direction.
When she is old enough, encourage your daughter to find a part-time job. Jobs don't only mean working at a store or movie theater but include work like babysitting, mowing lawns, shoveling snow, or delivering newspapers.
Once she is earning a reasonable amount of money, it is time for your daughter to have a checking account with ATM access. You might even put a small amount of money in her account for starters, but let her manage the account. Be sure to show her how to write and record checks and how to balance a bank statement each month.
Explain to your daughter how you budget your money to pay bills, use credit cards responsibly, and save for retirement. Show her the downfalls of paying interest on debts. Once she understands the basics, talk with her about mortgages, buying things over time, and how to "shop" for the best credit. Talk with her about the choices you make concerning how you budget and spend money.
Teach your daughter about investing her money, including how the stock market works, and how to find out about other investment opportunities. If this is not your area of expertise, or if you never learned about investing, there are more and more free seminars where she can go (and why don't you join her?) to learn about stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and so on.
Finally, if your daughter has to file a tax return, don't do it for her. Instead, sit down with her and go through the process together. If you use an accountant, bring your daughter along. While initially much of the information may go over her head, she will at least begin to absorb the knowledge she will need for when she has to do this all on her own.
People's values are partially reflected in how they spend their money. If your daughter has learned that possessions are most important, and that she must have the "right" clothing, shoes, car, and so on, this is how she will measure her worth as a person. Clearly, her priorities will wind up in the wrong place. Your daughter needs to learn the value of using her money not only for her own material needs and wants but also as a way to reach out and help others. Have you talked with your daughter about donating at least some of her money to charity? You might tell her about the different charities and causes that you give money to, and how you made those decisions. Emphasize how good this kind of giving makes you feel!
I've become doubtful about steady continuing progress toward women's freedom and equality. Am I raising my daughter's hopes, only for her to come up against the same old glass ceiling?
- Madeline V.
As you know, the glass ceiling is the phrase that has come to represent the almost invisible limitations that many women encounter in the workplace when they try to rise to high-level positions. False assumptions, such as the idea that men should lead and women should follow, or that a woman's place is in the home, or that once a woman gets pregnant she should or will quit her job, or that men are smarter than women, have all become barriers that have prevented women from being promoted to top-level supervisory and management positions. It is because these false assumptions arise from centuries of living in a dominant male culture that it has been very difficult for women to not only convince men that they are equal, but often to convince themselves. These underlying assumptions have made the barriers "invisible"; therefore they are extremely hard to identify, confront, and overcome.
While the glass ceiling has not disappeared, it is certainly higher than ever before. Sadly, it is still true that, on average, women are paid less than men for the same work, and continue to be discriminated against being promoted to top positions, such as company president or CEO. However, more women than ever now hold high-level managerial and executive positions, and an even greater percentage are in middle management. So, depending on her career choice, your daughter might well come up against a glass ceiling. The good news is that it is not the "same old glass ceiling"—it is a higher one! The bad news is that there still is a glass ceiling at all.
The fact that a glass ceiling still exists does not mean you are giving your daughter false hopes by encouraging her to believe that she can achieve equality with men in the workplace. But in order to do this, she must believe that she is entitled to equality and she must learn to stand up and give voice to injustices. Let your daughter know that you believe that she can meet the challenge. But, be careful that in your desire to support her goals, you do not give her the idea that working to raise a glass ceiling is the path that she is "supposed" to take.
Support your daughter in finding her own way and in discovering what she wants in her life. Tell your daughter about the challenges she may face in regard to gender inequalities in the workplace. Unless you raise your daughter's consciousness about these issues, she might easily come to assume, as many women have, that there is just no place for her "at the top."
While the term glass ceiling has come to define gender inequalities in the workplace, an equally important and far more prevalent gender inequality remains in the "homeplace." There is greater gender inequality in who runs the household than there is in almost any American business. The vast majority of women who work full time outside of the home continue to work full time inside the home. They maintain the major responsibility for both raising the children and running the household. The vast majority of working American women, with or without children, hold the equivalent of two full-time jobs.
If your own family reflects this kind of traditional gender inequality, your daughter is more likely to grow up believing that it is simply "her job" to take care of the children and run the household, along with trying to manage her career. However, even if your family does tend to run on traditional tracks, you can help your daughter to see that she has other choices.
Talk with your daughter about how you might have done things very differently if you had been more conscious of these issues earlier on. Emphasize to her that while it may be very difficult to not repeat the patterns she saw in her own family, she can do it differently. Help your daughter to recognize how important it is to choose a life partner who is also committed to gender equality in the homeplace. It is particularly important for your daughter to hear from men who support and respect gender equality in the home. Then, she will more likely have the strength and resiliency to fight the "homeplace glass ceiling."
Be sure to communicate that equality in the homeplace is not a privilege only for women who work outside the home. Often, running a household takes more time and energy than any paying full-time job. Let your daughter know that choosing to remain at home to raise children is not an easier or "lesser" choice than working outside of the home. The greatest gift you can give your daughter is the confidence and competence that will allow her to choose her own path, and to change her mind if she wants to.
Impact of the feminist movement
What have been girls'/women's gains and losses since the onset of the feminist movement?
- Jessica B.
You are right: There have been both gains and losses as a result of the feminist movement. In addition, what one person might consider a gain or a loss may be quite different from another person. In general, those people with a feminist perspective often identify the following as the major gains and losses.
More career opportunities and choices.
More sports and athletic opportunities and choices.
More lifestyle choices—"settling down" to marriage with children isn't the only acceptable goal.
More freedom to express one's gender orientation, whether it be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.
More sexual freedom in general.
More birth control options.
More choices about a woman's own body, including the option of abortion if she has an unwanted pregnancy.
More focus and research on the health issues that are specific to women, such as breast cancer.
Femininity is often seen as sexist and not OK.
Gallantry is often seen as sexist and not OK.
Health risks for women are becoming more similar to those of men (like heart disease and high blood pressure) as their role distinctions diminish.
Career pressures have been added to the traditional responsibilities of maintaining the household, motherhood, and caring for the older generation, so many women work full time and then have a second full-time job at home.
Stress and the pressure to be a "superwoman" are rampant.
Eating disorders are rampant.
Depression and anxiety disorders are on the rise.
The fact that there have been both gains and losses certainly does not suggest that the feminist movement has not been a good thing for both men and women. Whenever new opportunities are created, there are inevitably some losses.
Preparing for the future
How can I encourage my daughter to look at the future, when she is only looking at today?
- Denise F.
Before you get too distressed or discouraged about your daughter's perspective of "only looking at today," try to remember your own teen years. Can you remember the days when your "future" was summer vacation, or who your teacher was going to be next year, or when you would start high school, have permission to date, or be old enough to drive? Try to reflect back on your adolescence and remember what you were focused on. Is your daughter really any different? It is normal for your daughter to be focused on the here and now, or on the "immediate future," rather than on long-range plans. It's a typical adolescent perspective.
Of course, in spite of this truth, it is important to encourage your daughter to keep her future in mind. You can do this by asking her questions, like "What do you think will happen if you…?" or "Have you considered the possibility of…?" Questions that encourage your daughter to make connections between today and tomorrow are a great way to get her to look at the future and not be totally absorbed in the present.
But don't expect too much. Adolescents are notoriously stuck in the here and now. Actually, they often know how to relish the here and now—something that many adults should learn how to do!
One of the best ways to motivate your daughter to think ahead and prepare for her future is to get her excited about the possibilities of different careers, and the lifestyles associated with them. Here are some specific things you can do
Let your daughter know that you believe that she can be almost anything she wants to be.
Give her the opportunity to meet people from diverse careers and walks of life. One of the best ways to do this is to ask friends and family to tell her about what they do, how they like it, and how they got there.
Give her information about different opportunities and career paths. There are plenty of books and new magazines that focus on women and work. As she gets older, talk with her more about the realities of different jobs and careers: those that are on the upswing, those that look like they provide the greatest security, typical starting salaries, and so on.
Encourage and support her in exploring and developing her skills and talents. Remember that this is a time to try many new things, not to feel like she's got to stick with the same thing for years.
Help your daughter think about the costs and expenses of certain lifestyles and how she needs to consider how much money she wants to earn, as well as what she would like to do.
But remember—it's your daughter's life, not yours. So be careful not to impose your choices and desires on her. Your job is to help her explore the options and see many different careers "in action."
What are the anticipated needs of this generation of adolescent girls as they make the transition to young adulthood?
- Sarah M.
There are three major "needs" that are likely to be important for your daughter's positive transition to adulthood.
First, it is important to teach your daughter about her own health and encourage her to actively seek answers and opinions about health-related issues.
She needs to "take charge" of her health through good prevention and health maintenance strategies, including a healthy diet and regular exercise, monthly breast self-examinations, yearly Pap smears, and regular checkups with her physician.
She needs to know and understand the dangers of eating disorders—and how they can actually do long-term damage or even be deadly.
She needs to be well informed about STDs, pregnancy, and effective contraception.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to make sure that your daughter has access to the most accurate and up-to-date health information possible. Be aware, too, that some of the information that she might obtain on the Internet, or from friends or other sources, could be inaccurate, misleading, or even wrong and harmful. If you are not sure where to get the most recent and accurate information, talk to your daughter's doctor, school nurse, or even the local librarian.
Second, familiarity with the new technologies is no longer an option. It is a necessity. Your daughter's adulthood is likely to be vastly different from yours in terms of the prevalence of technology in all aspects of her life. And, while men still dominate the technological fields, women must understand the importance of becoming equal contributors, partners, and consumers of technology—or they will be left behind. Therefore, you need to ensure that your daughter has ongoing access to the new technologies through her school, your local library, and if possible, at home.
Third, your daughter must be prepared to take care of herself. She needs to be self-reliant and self- sufficient and not assume that she will have a partner to take care of her. In fact, the present trend suggests that more and more women are deciding to put off marriage until they have finished their education and begun their careers. In addition, many women today feel comfortable deciding not to marry at all. Even if they do marry, the high divorce rate makes it increasingly important that they have the skills and strategies necessary for self-reliance. Your daughter needs to be confident enough to take charge of her own life and not be dependent on anyone else to run her life for her. Teach her that being self-sufficient does not mean that she limits her relationship choices but rather that she is far less likely to feel trapped and stay in a relationship just because she can't take care of herself.
Although women's specific needs certainly change from generation to generation, and we can't always predict exactly what the next generation will need, what we do know is that the more we teach our daughters to believe in themselves, the better prepared they will be for the challenges ahead. Today's young women have opportunities open to them as never before. As they pursue these opportunities, it is important that they do so as women of integrity and not compromise their integrity for money or convenience.
Young women today need role models who have demonstrated their integrity through the courage to hold true to their convictions, even though they may be unpopular. They need role models who follow through with their commitments and keep their promises. They need role models who listen to their own voices and are not swayed by the need for approval. They need role models who encourage and build women up, rather than to tear them down with slanderous talk, criticism, and gossip.
As you pass this world to your daughter and her generation, you need to equip her with these tools of integrity, morality, courage, and love. Certainly one of the best ways to do this is through the example you set for her.
It's a fact that most adolescent girls need more time for socialization than adolescent boys do. If your daughter's socializing is significantly interfering with her schoolwork or responsibilities, she may have a problem with time management. If this is the problem, you need to step in and set appropriate limits on her socialization. At the same time, your daughter needs help learning how to manage her time. Give her specific and manageable goals that she must reach to get you off her back. And when she does, you should relax the limits and give her another chance to manage more independently.
If your daughter seems to be struggling with schoolwork, or if she begins to get consistently poor grades in spite of what appear to be reasonable efforts on her part, she may have a learning problem. Before you come down hard on her, get an educational evaluation through her school. You want to be sure that your daughter does not have a learning disability or other problem that is causing her poor performance. Do not assume that your daughter is simply not spending enough time on her schoolwork. After all, most of us will stop trying to do something if we keep failing.
There is no question that sharing your own adolescent experiences with your daughter can be extremely helpful for her and can bring you closer together. The part you have to watch out for is your timing. What you tell your daughter and when you tell her depend on her level of maturity. Ask yourself if what you are thinking about sharing with your daughter will be helpful to her at this time in her life. If your answer is yes, then go ahead. Otherwise wait. There is plenty of time.
While you may want to be sure that your daughter makes all the right choices now, if you make all of her decisions for her, it will hurt her rather than help her. Of course, there are some decisions that have such important consequences that you shouldn't allow your daughter to have control over them. But, whenever possible, give your daughter the opportunity to make her own decisions. She needs to see what happens as a result of her choices so she can learn from her own experience.
Your daughter will learn how to manage money in two ways: first, by seeing how you do, or don't, manage your money; and, second, by having increasing responsibility for managing her own money and expenses. Start with a weekly allowance, from which your daughter must pay for certain things, and gradually move toward her having total control over her own bank accounts, including a checking account, savings account, and ATM card.
While you might have your own ideas about what career your daughter should choose, remember, it is her life. Encourage her to consider the vast number of choices she has, including possibilities in more traditionally "male" careers, like the fields of math or science. As she gets older, help your daughter to investigate the realities of different career choices, like educational requirements, pay, mobility, and so on.
While women have yet to achieve full equality in the workplace, things have improved. The glass ceiling is rising and your daughter can be part of it rising even higher. While your daughter needs to be conscious of workplace discrimination, don't encourage her to stay away from a career or the pursuit of a promotion just because she is a woman. Encourage her to fight for her equal rights!
While some see the feminist movement as benefiting only women, particularly in the workplace, it can be helpful to point out to your daughter how it has also benefited men. Men have gained increased "permission" to express their feelings, greater recognition of the importance of their role as fathers to their children, and partnership with women in earning money to support the family.
As your daughter moves into adulthood, she needs to be prepared to take on the responsibilities for her physical, emotional, and financial health. This means that she needs you, as her parent, to help her learn how to take care of herself and find resources in each of these arenas. Your daughter needs to know how to use the "new technologies," which will increasingly be the source of the information she will need to continue to take care of herself.
It is part of the nature of adolescence for your daughter to be focused primarily on the here and now. While your daughter needs to become increasingly attentive to planning for her future, she is not yet an adult. Don't forget to give her room to enjoy her teen years.