Full Show Notes
As girls grow older, the social and internal pressure they face grows exponentially. The friend problems from middle school seems a far step from the intricate web of high school drama, romantic relationships form and fail, and the expectation to act, dress, and behave certain ways steers girls into uncomfortable, hard-to-navigate situations. All of this can have serious consequences on girls’ outlook on the world and themselves.
Without proper guidance from their parents, teenage girls can let unhealthy mindsets fester and become seriously harmful. Too much screen time, toxic friendships, and unresolved trust issues can all lead girls down the wrong path. They might develop major self-esteem and mental health issues, or they might become over-concerned with that others think of them instead of being true to their own passions. Parents play a huge role in developing positive habits in their teenage and preteen daughters, and with many teen girls feeling like life is at a never-ending standstill, it’s more important than ever for them to feel encouraged, supported, and empowered.
For a look at what parents can do to encourage and empower their teenage girls (and boys!), I welcomed back Lindsey Sealey, recent author of Rooted, Resilient, and Ready: Empowering Teen Girls as they Grow. Lindsey knows so much about how to instill confidence in young women that one podcast episode wasn’t enough! She previously appeared in Episode 74: Growing Strong Girls, but she came back to explain even more ways parents can help girls through especially hard times.
In Lindsey’s work with teenage girls, she often sees them put on “masks” to hide their true emotions and avoid failure. She thinks this kind of behavior is rooted in a fear, whether it be fear of judgment, fear of failure, or fear of not fitting in. These masks become more and more harmful as girls get older and their relationships and conflicts become more complicated. Mental health, romantic relationships, toxic friendships, and academic pressures build and build, making life more complex than ever for teenage girls. When a girl puts on a mask, she isn’t able to truly address these issues in a productive way, which is exactly what Lindsey works to prevent.
By teaching girls to be confident and always act in ways that are best for themselves, Lindsey helps girls become the best versions of themselves as possible. She works to help girls find their “farkle” (fire + sparkle) and pursue their skills and interests, and she has some great advice for how parents can do the same! In our interview, Lindsey unpacks how parents can talk to their teenage girls to grow their confidence and deal with all the drama of their teenage years appropriately, all while growing closer to their daughters. Here are some of the topics we cover:
- Forming healthy relationships and cutting out toxic ones
- What to do when teens lie
- Giving teens their first phones
- Why 15 minutes is the most powerful unit of time
It was a privilege to have Lindsey rejoin me on the podcast, and her advice this time around was just as poignant as before. Whether you’ve heard from Lindsey before or not, this episode is a great listen for all parents, whether raising boys or girls!
Word-for-word examples of what to say to your teen
1. Encourage and support your teen when they have friend problems:
“I know it’s hard, but it is better to be alone than to have this toxicity tolerance, where you feel it’s okay to be treated poorly. The hardest thing for a teen to do is to stand alone if there are no healthy people around. There are seasons where you might be alone. But you stand alone and you work on yourself and you start to see how people will come to you.”-Lindsay Sealey
2. When your teen says they’ve ‘done this before’:(Members Only)
3. If your teen wants to do something, but you know they aren’t ready:(Members Only)
4. Get your teen to think more positively about their day:(Members Only)
5. When your teen complains that an activity is ‘boring’:(Members Only)
6. How to respond to a teen who is assuming the worst about an unreplied-to text:(Members Only)
7. If your teen says they ‘can’t do’ something:(Members Only)
8. When it’s time to update the family tech agreement:(Members Only)
Complete Interview Transcript
Andy: So talk to me about Rooted, Resilient, and Ready. And why you felt this is still needed. We already have a great book on girls from you. So why is this now needed and what inspired you?
Lindsay: I think the inspiration just came from the girls. Every single day I’m having conversations with girls. And we can talk a lot to teen girls about body image and social media and friends, but I think then in the teen years it gets more complicated, more intense. It was just more moving parts. So now we’re talking about relationships becoming romantic relationships. We’re talking about mental health, not just feeling good and feeling confident, but dealing with anxiety, stress, depression, self harm. And I think we’re also looking at big picture stuff, like the future. What do you want to be? What are you going to be when you grow up? So I think I just felt like in those conversations, “Ooh, yeah, I have another book in me.” Definitely more to say. I think I also felt a responsibility, not pressure, but these girls are going to grow up and become teenagers and what’s there for them? There’s not a ton of literature. There’s not a ton of options. And so I just thought, why not me? And it came really easily.
Andy: Interesting question. As a parent is, what to do if you kind of don’t like the direction that you see your teenager going in? Because you want to be supportive and you want to love your teen no matter what, but then at the same time you want them to be moving in the right direction. So how do you as a parent try to kind of balance those two competing forces?
Lindsay: It’s a tricky one. I’m not going to say it’s not challenging, but I think that our job as parents changes during the teen years. I do talk a lot about this idea of free parenting. You’re no longer right in the circle with her, guiding her, leading for places. She is starting to be more her own person, make more choices, she’s definitely wanting a sense of independence. And I think a part of our job is to watch. And I’m not saying, watch like check out, like, “Ooh, that’s who she’s becoming. That’s it.” I think watching in that really active way, watching and asking questions and being curious about her whys. Why are you hanging out with these people? Why are you making those choices? I am so fascinated by girls’ thought process. And a lot of times they definitely benefit from some guidance in terms of how they come to certain decisions and life choices.
Lindsay: But I think also we have to observe and be there and ask those questions and assure her that we’re there for her. And also not interrupt the process. So we have to let them make those bad choices, make the mistakes, fall and fail because that’s how they learn. And so when they come to their own decisions about, “You know what? I was friends with that person for a while. I realized they’re not reciprocating. This relationship is all about them asking me for things and me being there for them. I think I’m going to choose someone else. I think this person feels better.”
Lindsay: Well, that’s going to be so much more beneficial and mean so much more to her than for a parent to say, “Don’t hang out with that person. They’re bad for you. They’re using you.” Right? I think that’s hard because we’re older and wiser often. And so we can see it so easily. “Yeah, no, they’re bad for you.” But when we say it, I swear to God, the rebellious part of girls kicks in and they say, “I’m going to be friends with that person for life.” And they just [inaudible 00:03:58] because we’ve really interrupted. So I think it’s about this balance. You’re watching, you’re asking questions or wondering without criticism, if possible, and also letting her try, letting her have that room and the space to go through those growing pains because her realizing things on her own is so much more valuable than us telling and speaking into her life when she’s not ready to hear it.
Andy: So, okay. You write about some different masks that girls wear. And one of them I really like you write about is called the cool girl mask. This is when your daughter always says things like, “Fine, whatever,” dismissive, know it all phrase. I’ve done this before. It’s difficult to convince her to try anything because she is set on her intentional indifference. So where does this mask come from? Why do some girls wear this cool girl mask? And what do you need to know about how to respond to it as a parent?
Lindsay: Yeah, all of the masks can be traced back to this sense of fear. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid of people judging me. I’m afraid of what people will think. And so I think the cool girl mask I’ve experienced a few times in my workshops where they’ll say something like, “Oh yeah, I’ve done that before,” or “No, I”m just going to do something different.” And in a workshop that’s really tricky because that influences everyone else. And it kind of kills the excitement and enthusiasm of the activity. I was really thinking about this one girl in particular, I think if I were to guess why she was the cool girl, it’s more like, I’m afraid that if I try this and I fail, then people are going to judge me. I’m afraid of maybe not knowing the answer. I’m afraid of not doing it well the first time.
Andy: If you care too much about it, then it’s like you’re investing too much of yourself in it or something that then if it doesn’t go well, then it feels bad.
Lindsay: And it’s that idea of keeping up the appearance. What people think of me matters so much more than what I think of me. Or it matters so much more to do it right the first time than to go through that process of, “You know what? I’m not so good at it. I’m going to keep trying, and then I’m going to get better at it.” So I think it was really code for I’m afraid to try. I’m afraid of that outcome. And the flip of that is empowering girls to make mistakes, to take the chances, to not worry so much about what people think and really have that idea of the step by step journey. And I mean, that speaks to perfectionism too. But it’s just getting them to make mistakes, get dirty, fall down, get back up. It’s all good. It’s all way better than trying to be, this is the first time I’m doing it and I’m going to get a hundred percent. What’s with that? That’s crazy pressure, not fun. And they’re putting so much into this idea of I have to look like I know what I’m doing.
Andy: Yeah. So what you have to do then is kind of boost their confidence a little bit or what would be a good thing to say that would maybe get them past fear?
Lindsay: Right. So there’s a little bit of the rebelliousness in them. So I think first of all, we have to not take it personally, like, “Whoa, what’s with the attitude?” So you have to just separate yourself from that response. But I think it’s about meeting girls where they’re at. So if a girl says to me, “Oh, I’ve done that before.” I’ll just flip it and say, “Oh my gosh, that’s great. Show me what you know. Let’s see.” Not in a challenge way, but if they can do something or if it’s not that interesting, I empower them with, “Oh, you know what? You’re right. How do we make this more interesting?” So you can take the cool girl and try to invite her in and say, “This seems like you could teach the other girls then. You know it better than I do. I’ve prepared for this, but you seem to know what you’re doing. So please can you share with us?” So you just flip it and you empower them to become the teacher, the leader and let them shine.
Lindsay: I have no problems with putting my ego aside. Because they often do have these talents. They’re good at these activities. So why not let them? It makes no difference to me. Now I’ve included her, now the other girls are following her. And sometimes that invites some of the other girls to share too. And they’ll add, they’ll sort of piggyback on each other in those ideas and that’s fun. So you meet them where they’re at, you let them show you who they are and what they can do, and suddenly that mask, it comes down a bit. It lowers a little.
Andy: You write that girls need to find their sparkle. Where do you find that? And why do you need it?
Lindsay: Well, isn’t that the best thing to talk about right now? Because I feel like a lot of girls are feeling bored and that life is kind of blah. Just same old, same old. I don’t see a lot of sparkle right now or fire in girls. And I’m not blaming social media and screens, but I think we definitely have a huge challenge. And while they’re on their screens or sorry, why we all are on our screens, the question really is what are we missing out on? So I started to just do some personal work. So when I’m on my screen, which to be honest, I love, I get a lot of joy, a lot of sparkle from my screen. But I think too, [inaudible 00:10:18] my screen, well I’m not outside, I’m not having real conversations, I’m not creating, I’m not doing any hands on activities, I’m not daydreaming, I’m not drawing, baking, any of the arts and crafts that I love to do. I am not dreaming up, creating or planning or future thinking. And I’m not reflecting. I’m not even able to process, how was my day? How am I feeling? Because I’m so distracted.
Lindsay: And so pre-phones, I think we were doing all of those things and that helped us restore our energy, that gave us positive outlooks, we had positive mental health. And I think what I’m talking to girls about now is bringing that back. Now I’m not saying get rid of your phone and social media is bad because I think that’s too extreme, but I think we need some balance. So put down your phone and let’s do something creative because from creativity you start to generate that sparkle. The smiles come back, the sense of humor is there, the next best idea. One idea leads to another. They’re making bracelets and it’s like, “Do you want to sell your bracelets? Should we set up an Etsy account? Should you become more entrepreneurial?” Or just what is it?
Lindsay: But we can’t do that with this competition really, which is screen time. So I think that when I’m talking to girls now, especially it’s like, “Yeah, use your phone. I get that it’s lifeline now. And it’s how you’re connecting. And it does bring a sense of happiness.” And I think calm for a lot of them. It calms them down. They’re connecting with people who are sharing their experience, but I think it’s the what else. What else can you do? And so even just getting them to write a list of a few things they could do, whether that’s a makeup tutorial or a new book or a conversation with someone new or time outside or a new sport or singing a song or writing a song or coding on their computers, I don’t care. But all of those exploratory activities off their screen might just bring them that joie de vivre or the happiness or the sparkle.
Andy: When parents are focused on mental health, they’re a lot of times focused on what’s wrong and what’s not good. So you advocate focusing a little more on wellness. I guess, trying to take more of a positive approach. How do you do that?
Lindsay: The golden question. A lot of our mental health concerns really trace back to the quality of our thought. So if I have a thought “[inaudible] a little tricky, but I can do it,” I’m going to feel a sense of energy. I’m going to feel hopeful. I’m going to ask for the help I need. I’m going to try. And that’s going to create most likely a positive result in whatever I’m trying. But the flip side, if I wake up and think, “Oh my gosh. I am not ready. I don’t have the skillset. I’m not smart enough. I’m just not good enough for this.” We don’t feel so good. There’s less energy. There is a sense of hopelessness I think. We’re not going to ask for help. We’re not going to try. And that’s going to prove, “See, you’re not good enough.”
Lindsay: So I feel like a lot of times, again, when we’re on our screens, we don’t have time to think. What are we thinking? As parents we don’t know what they’re thinking, but we can have conversations about what’s on your mind. What are you thinking? I’m afraid I can’t do it. I’m not smart enough. These phrases, this self-doubt comes out in conversation. And I think that’s when we can help with some of the reframing. So we can ask them to embrace that growth mindset. Of course you can do it. We can do anything. It just takes baby steps. It’s hard work. It takes some support. It takes time for sure, and patience and practice. It could be focusing on what they can do, really strength building. Well, you can’t do that yet, but what can you do now? And being able to reflect back the skills and the talents that they have inside of them. It could be a reframe. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focusing on gratitude.
Lindsay: So I know it’s so easy in a given day to focus on all those mistakes, everything that went wrong, but you can look back too and you have to say, “Hey, but what did I do, right?” Or, “What’s going well for me?” Or, “What am I grateful for?” Because it’s always a balance. And I think so often when it comes to mental health, we’re all negative. It’s all bad. It’s such black and white thinking. And then we feel bad about ourselves. We can easily, all of us, sink really quickly into that hopelessness and desperation and depression. So I feel like it’s a lot of, again, checking in and asking questions and helping girls reframe.
Lindsay: I know a really common one, especially with teens … such a lot of relational conflict, but they will make sense assumptions about people. So for example, if someone doesn’t text back, they’ll say they’re mad at me. They’re mad me. What did I do? Then there’s this self-blame and then there’s the worry and the stress skyrockets. But if you can catch that or even just asking, “What’s on your mind? Or, “You seem troubled. I see the expression in your face.” And you get her to say, “So and so didn’t text me back. I think she hates me. I think I did something. I probably offended her.”
Lindsay: But the question really is, what’s another possibility? Because there’s so many possibilities. She might be busy. She might have not seen the texts. She might have just needed some time to respond. She might have her own concerns on her plate. We don’t know. So instead of making that assumption, it’s basically the fact is you don’t know. So you can text again or you can just wait it out, which I know is really uncomfortable. But I think that so often they’ll make such assumptions and they’re just not true. So playing around with their thoughts in that way, I think is not going to guarantee a strong mental health, but I think it’s one of the best strategies I’ve learned to help do the preventative work.
Andy: And it’s like you need to get them thinking out loud and get them talking through their thought process with you in order to make that happen, which is so healthy and cool, I think. And so probably helpful to share your own thought processes with them sometimes and talk about what you’re thinking and what you’re struggling with and stuff like that. So that’s cool.
About Lindsay Sealey
In addition to being the author of Rooted, Resilient, and Ready and Growing Strong Girls, Lindsay Sealey is the Founder and CEO of Bold New Girls where she is the main “girl advocate.” Lindsay is a speaker and coach, working with girls of all ages and educating parents on what they can do to help their girls grow strong. Lindsay has made several appearances on Global News and contributed writing to The Globe & Mail as well as the Toronto Star.
Lindsay hails from Vancouver, Canada.