Ep 74: Growing Strong Girls

Episode Summary

Lindsay Sealey, author of Growing Strong Girls and “girl advocate” speaks with me this week about how to help your daughter find, understand, and value her own voice. With girls receiving so many conflicting external messages, it is vital we help them strengthen their internal self!

Show NotesParenting ScriptsWorkbook ExercisesInterview TranscriptGuest Bio

Full Show Notes

Mixed Messages

“Be yourself,” “know that you are strong because you are a girl,” “stand up for yourself,” “don’t let the man get you down.” These platitudes are constantly thrown at girls to assure them that they’ve got everything it takes to rule the world and make all their dreams come true. Though well meaning, these sentiments are made redundant by unrealistic expectations to look pretty at all times, know how to attract and please men, and be accommodating and polite to everybody. In order to encompass all of these values, you would literally have to be perfect. And that’s, like, really hard to do.

Girls are constantly presented with conflicting messages on social media, at school, on TV—even at home. It’s confusing enough for full-grown women to know how to act in the face of all these contradictory pressures, so for girls who are just entering into teendom it feels almost impossible. In order to give tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence, parents have to effectively combat the pressures placed on her by society. They must also help her confront the drama and growing pains of adolescence in a logical manner. Needless to say, being a teenage girl, or a parent to one, is no walk in the park.

Teenage and preteen girls are in an incredibly vulnerable stage of their lives. They’re extremely susceptible to the influence of their peers and the outside world. So how do you give tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence if you feel that the influence of others is greater than that of their own parents? Author, CEO, and Professional “Girl Advocate” Lindsay Sealey can tell you how. Sealey wrote the book Growing Strong Girls: Practical Tools to Cultivate Connection in the Preteen Years and has been running workshops with young girls to help develop their own sense confidence and self-worth for fifteen years. In this interview she offers tons of practical tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence by showing parents how they can successfully connect with, support, and influence their teen girls to believe in themselves despite societal pressures. 

What a Girl Wants

It’s not always about what a girl wants but what a girl needs. Let’s face it, some teenage girls want a lot—popularity, money, lots of followers on Instagram, an expensive new car (the last of which they’re definitely not getting). This vapid list of necessities comes from the constant stream of messages society and pop culture throw at them. As parents, some tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence might be “these things don’t matter” and “one day you might be happy that you didn’t get everything you wanted.” Lindsay Sealey says when parents respond this way, they aren’t actually recognizing their daughter’s feelings. 

Among other tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence, Sealey states that active listening is a pivotal part of connecting with your teenage daughter. If she’s talking to you about a fight with a friend, or about a boy she likes who doesn’t like her back, don’t cut her story short. You need to let her tell you the whole story and run the gamut of all the emotions she’s feeling. Sealy says that parents must be willing to validate their daughter’s feelings and help them process emotions in a healthy way. This means urging your daughter to fully experience, not deflect, their emotions and be open with how, and why, she is feeling them. Letting emotions sink in, even when it’s uncomfortable, will help your daughter fully process the situation and eventually come to terms with it. 

Another of the major tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence is to avoid giving advice when your daughter comes to you with her problems. When parents jump in with their own stories and advice, girls often feel belittled, like their opinions and experiences don’t really matter. Sealy says that parents need to respond with empathetic phrases like, “You must feel really saddened that your friend doesn’t want to eat lunch with you,” or “I would be hurt too if a boy didn’t like me back.” This lets your daughter know that she is valid to feel the way she does, that having feelings doesn’t make her weak. Sealey says it’s okay to ask to share how you’ve overcome a similar situation, however, you should avoid overpowering her story with yours. Tune into the episode to hear more tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence by identifying opportunities you have to foster revelations through quality time with your daughter.

Miss Independent

According to Sealey, a major part of empowering young girls is to provide them with a safe space to focus on their own interests. In an age defined by comparison, it’s crucial for girls to understand—first and foremost—they need to make themselves happy. One of Sealey’s tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence is to encourage her to pursue individualistic interests, like horseback riding, hiking, painting, or volunteering at animal shelters, rather than focusing entirely on her social life.

Teenage girls have a tendency to overextend themselves with social events in order to avoid missing out or disappointing others. According to Sealey’s tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence, parents need to steer their daughters away from relying too much on friendships for fulfillment. Developing individualistic interests not only expands your daughters mind, it also gives her a greater sense of self-reliance and independence that’ll come in handy when she’s confronted with friendship drama. If she knows that she has other things to do with her time than spend it with a problematic friend, she won’t be so torn up about parting ways with them.

Further, Sealey provides tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence and self-respect when confronted with friendship drama. Drama is an unavoidable part of girlhood and can be an opportunity to learn valuable lessons. Often, our daughters will fall out of friendships because someone moved, or someone became popular and the other didn’t, or someone joined the soccer team while the other played tennis. It’s important, Sealey states, to teach your daughter that drifting apart is part of life and it’s important to have a large pool of friends to lean on when one friendship ends. Sealey urges parents to encourage their daughters to become friends with many different types of people. That could mean someone a few years older than them, someone who goes to another school, or someone who comes from a different ethnic background then them. Rather than having one BFF, it’s more beneficial for teenage girls to seek out multiple friendships with people who bring out and strengthen different parts of their personality. 

Finding Her Voice

Without proper guidance, it’s easy for daughters to feel overwhelmed in the sea of information they’re fed everyday. They may be afraid to ask questions and are confused about who to listen to in times of trouble. This is why it’s vital to provide tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence and teach girls to be proud of their own voice, value their needs, and pursue their interests. 

In the interview, we discuss tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence by implementing concrete exercises you can practice with your daughters. We also talk about:

  • Valuing inner-beauty over outer-beauty
  • Helping girls navigate social media and technology
  • How to model healthy phone usage 
  • Teaching girls (and parents!) to set appropriate boundaries

In such a fast-paced and content-heavy society, it’s paramount to find tips on helping your teenage daughter build confidence and develop their own distinct voices—and in my conversation with Lindsay Sealey we discuss just that! So grateful to have her as a guest!

Parenting Scripts

Word-for-word examples of what to say to your teen

1. Stop a gossipy teen with:

“You sounds really angry.” “Your frustration makes sense to me.” “That IS really sad–I would feel sad about that too.”

-Lindsay Sealey

2.  When your daughter tells you about friendship drama:

(Members Only)

3.  Before jumping in with your own story ask:

(Members Only)

4.  If your teen asks for help to get a thing done at the last minute:

(Members Only)

Workbook Exercises

Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview

1. Model Setting Boundaries on Your Time

As you teach your daughter the importance of setting boundaries, it’s also important to model that behavior. A big one Lindsay Sealey mentioned in our interview is not being available 24/7 to your daughter. Everyone needs to have personal space and time where they know they will not be interrupted. For the next two weeks, notice when your daughter asks for help or wants you to listen to a story. In a journal, on piece of paper, or in your notes app on your phone, jot down each time your daughter interrupts you as you are doing important work or when you are in a state of focus or when you just want to be alone. Set a few new boundaries around times or activities to prevent unwanted interruptions. Doing this doesn’t mean you don’t want to hear what your daughter has to say, it’s just protecting your own time the way she will need to learn to protect hers. Have a conversation where you introduce the new boundaries and ask if there are any she would like to set for herself.

2.  What are They Selling Our Girls?

(Members Only)

Complete Interview Transcript

Andy: The book is called Growing Strong Girls: Practical Tools to Cultivate Connection in the Preteen Years. So I really enjoyed this book and I specifically was really excited about the exercises that you have at the end of every single chapter. This book is full of really, really specific things that you can do with your daughters or with the teenage girls in your life. So where did you come up with all of these incredible exercises and what finally inspired you to collect them all in this book?

Lindsay: Oh wow, what a great question. Well, essentially this is my job, So I work with girls one-on-one and I’ve done so for over 15 years. And I think that I realized you can only talk so much. Their focus is only so … it’s limited in lots of ways. And so, it became a conversation and now what do we do? So let’s draw this idea out. Let’s mind map this idea. Let’s create a bravery jar.

Lindsay: And I think that then I saw the girls get the concept. They really understood it. And it was very tangible and it’s something they could take home with them and remember. Because so often we have conversations and they just get forgotten. So I wanted to make it really practical and useful and also encourage parents and daughters to engage and interact. It’s something essentially that they can do together, that was the purpose.

Andy: Okay. So tell me, you say this is your job and your bio it says you’re an advocate. What the heck is a girl advocate and how did you become that, and what do you actually do?

Lindsay: Right. Well, a lot of the girls that they work with are on the shy side and I know they have a voice, but they really weren’t using it. And so I think this idea of girl advocate really came from my observation with them. And in speaking with their parents, that they’re not speaking up. They’re not expressing their feelings. They’re not giving their opinions. And I understand that it’s hard and it’s scary. And they essentially were out of practice. But I think that I see myself as the encourager to get the girls to speak out, to have a voice, to even disagree with something that I’m saying or someone else’s saying.

Lindsay: Because now in these young years, we’re talking about in a very safe space, giving me her favorite color or telling me what she would like to do for the hour. But I think in the world, she’s going to have to be talking to her teachers and working through difficulty with peers. And I just really wanted to prepare them and equip them for that. They have the ideas in them. They have an opinion, they know what they want. They just have difficulty getting to the place, finding those words and also believing that their voice matters. So it’s my job to really bring that out of girls, because I believe that they have what they need inside of them.

Andy: So why is it hard for girls to have these conversations with their own parents? What do you provide that is hard for parents to do?

Lindsay: I think that we have a societal problem that we’re just all too busy, too distracted, too disengaged. And so, I think with me in this golden hour is that I said I think that it’s one hour of undivided attention where I try to engage her. And we try to focus on something together and really build a relationship of trust and safety. And I think that’s hard. I think we are all over-scheduled and busy, and we’re trying to do everything all at once. And I think as I talk to parents, it’s hard, but it’s not impossible. I think it’s just we make time for Facebook and for Instagram, and we make time to shop on Amazon.

Lindsay: I think we need to also invest in our daughters and make time intentional. I tell parents, “Just schedule an hour, write it on the calendar and you’ve covered it.” It’s a dentist appointment or a hair appointment. And that is your time with her. So I don’t think what I do is anything that a parent couldn’t do, but I think that we have sometimes gotten too busy, too over-scheduled and our daughters don’t get the time that they absolutely need.

Andy: Also, one of the issues is conflicting messages that we kind of receive so many conflicting messages from the media. And you talk on page 44, about how there’s headlines coming at girls like take the perfect selfie, followed by love yourself just as you are, or be your best healthy self, and right beside how to lose five pounds in a day. So it’s on the one hand, we’re telling girls that, “Oh, just be happy with the way you are and just be your best self, live your best life and be confident.”

Andy: And then on the other hand, we’re telling them that, “Oh, but you’re not good enough. And you need to be really, really critical. And wow, you really need to look different.” So how do you help a girl start to, I guess, the first part is just kind of noticing that they’re getting hit with those messages and how do you kind of help them start to see through that and not be affected by it?

Lindsay: Yeah. I think these are great conversations that parents can have all of the time. I mean, there is no lack of images, whether you’re watching a movie on Netflix together, or you see a billboard or you’re flipping through a magazine or scrolling through her Instagram with her, which I encourage parents to do. I think that these are great opportunities to educate girls, first of all, and the fact that these pictures and messages aren’t real.

Lindsay: And I like to educate girls on the fact that people, big businesses and companies are trying to sell to them. And so, I think just giving them the facts is always a good starting place. And really just going back to her about how she feels when she sees certain images. So if a girl is, for example, really obsessed with a celebrity and you ask why and said, “Oh, because she’s so skinny.” It’s like we’ll have a conversation about that.

Lindsay: I mean, she may be skinny, but is she healthy? Is she happy? And helping a girl understand that we all are supposed to look different. We all have different shapes and sizes, and getting her to own her uniqueness. And then beyond that, getting her to go beyond her body. So it’s important to take care of ourselves and to look good, but not be obsessed with the look and the images that they’re seeing. So I often just say to girls, “What else is going on? What can you do? What are your dreams? What are your goals? Can you give back to others? Can you help?” And I think the conversation then gets extended beyond these images and trying to be this ideal image of beauty and success and achievement, because girls are essentially then chasing the wrong thing.

Lindsay: That is not at the end of the day what will make her happy. So it’s a lot, I think in that answer. So it’s educating her and having these conversations and bringing it back to her, and then shifting that focus, right? And it’s really interesting with this conflicting message, I think of be your best self, but accept yourself as you are. And I try to explain to girls if it’s in the right order.

Lindsay: So if you feel good on the inside, the inside-out approach to feeling good and you want to excel and achieve and push yourself to best, that’s in the right order. But I think what just happened is we’ve flipped that order. So be perfect, achieve and accomplish, but the foundation of feeling good isn’t there. So I think that if we work on the right order, feel good first, and then all of those accomplishments and achievements are in the right order with the right priority.

Lindsay: But they feel better than chasing these ideas to prove your worth, but all the while not feeling good enough. So it’s really, I like that inside-out approach, feel good first and then you’ll naturally do good things, right? I think a little bit of push is great, but we have a generation of girls trying to be Supergirl and perfect, and it’s causing them a lot of stress and anxiety and mental health concerns.

Andy: That’s so interesting and I really noticed this firsthand because I went to college in Los Angeles and got involved in modeling when I was there. It was tons of fun. Just seemed like a cool thing to get into, but it was so interesting to me getting into the industry and meeting all of these models whose job is just to get their picture taken. And I guess you see these people in magazines and you see these people on billboards and you just think they have it all. And they must just be like so confident.

Andy: But then when you start meeting these people, you realize they’re just normal people and they’re just as insecure as everybody else. And in fact, because it’s an industry where you’re constantly being told that you need to lose a little weight or you really should change this about your appearance. It’s actually really easy to be even less confident or to feel even not as good about yourself as you would if you weren’t doing that.

Andy: It just was really eyeopening to me, I guess, that it’s so easy to think that, “Oh, if I just look different or if I just had fill in any body part here, then I would be happier, then I would be more popular, then I would be cooler, then I would be able to feel good about myself.” But of course, that’s just not the case.

Andy: And like you say, that that needs to come first and then you can go focus on how you look a little bit, but that needs to come from a place of that you don’t need that. So how do you help girls to build that really strong internal foundation so that no matter what happens externally, they just have that strong base to fall back on?

Lindsay: Well, I bring it all back to this idea of sparkle. I love this idea of inner joy and happiness. And I like to just play around with girls in terms of what do you like to do and follow that interest or what do you want to develop? Because when we have an idea of something that we want to work on, whether that’s horseback riding or dance or baking or cooking or whatever it is. When we actually work on it and notice improvement, that’s the sparkle.

Lindsay: It’s like this moment where girls realize, “Wow, I made a decision. I worked really hard and I’m getting better.” No different than when they were two and three-years-old. And so, I think it’s bringing them back to some of those foundational ideas of just do what you’re interested in and what makes you happy and even do things that you think are maybe not your thing it might be like we don’t know.

Lindsay: So I think as a parent, I encourage them to really expose their daughters to the best that they can to all different kinds of activities and interactions, because you just never know. But all of these ideas are taking her, number one, off her screen and away from this idea of “I have to change to be happy” or “I have to look a certain way to be happy,” but it’s on the inside.

Lindsay: So really bringing her back to her heart essentially and the things that make her smile, the things that she can do where she forgets time. She’s just in complete flow and immersion into whatever it is that she’s excited about, but it’s there. It’s just I think girls have lost their way.

Andy: What is up with BFFs and what do you do if your daughter is struggling to find a BFF? Because everyone should have a BFF, right?

Lindsay: Right. So I always draw this one out. I’ll have a circle and I’ll put her in the center and we try to talk about all different kinds of people that she can be friends with. Some of them will be like her. Some of them not like her. Some of them may be a year or two older. Some maybe a year or two younger. Some are school friends, neighbor friends, church friends, soccer friends. And to try to get girls to see that it is the diversity that is going to make her the most happy.

Lindsay: And I’ll explain if a friend at school and you have a fight and you have all these other girls or relationships in your circle, then you can just shift your focus, right? It’s not as damaging and detrimental. But if you just have one friend, that BFF and she says, “I don’t want to be friends anymore.” You are alone. And that puts girls in an extremely vulnerable position.

Lindsay: So it’s really about casting your net wide, right? And having lots of different races and cultures and interests and personalities in your circle so that you can shift. Because friendships really ebb and flow. Sometimes you’re closer with some people and less close with others. But I think getting them to see that they want the eclectic group gives them lots of choice and lots of comfort, right? When a friendship isn’t going well, she has other things going on.

Andy: It’s so true. The whole idea of having a BFF is essentially putting all your eggs in one basket is just completely doubling down on this one friendship at the expense of a lot of other potential relationships. And so, it really seems like a positive thing to have this really, really close friend. And it is to some extent, but also at the same time, yeah, it can be limiting.

Lindsay: That’s really interesting too, because I do have one girl in mind that I’m working with and she does have a BFF and she does really love her. They are so close and she will not listen to this idea of putting other friends in her circle and that’s okay. So the positive and that is, “Wow, you’re such a good friend. I’m so glad you found somebody. It’s great that you have so much love and you’re so content with this person.”

Lindsay: And so, really making that a positive too. And when the time comes and they dress apart, then she’ll really have to find these other friends. So as much as we tell them, “This is not good to have just one person.” It’s also an opportunity to give her credit for the fact that she is being a good friend.

Lindsay: And then eventually when they dress, you can help her find better balance and maybe that’s the lesson that, “Well, next time let’s just have a few people, not just one.” And girls also need to learn that lesson on their own sometimes and that’s okay, because they don’t always listen.

Andy: Because it strikes me that it’s a similar phenomenon to romantic relationships also where you put so much into this one person and then it can be really hard when it doesn’t go the right way or when it ends. That if you kind of leave yourself a little bit of a safety net and have a handful of positive relationships in your life, then you protect yourself. But it’s not always easy to tell a teenager that.

Lindsay: Yeah. I mean, sometimes we have to look at these things as preventative. You’re having the conversation and hopefully that helps, right? But I think that it’s about talking to her and planting the seeds really, getting her ready and then that’s the very best that we can do.

About Lindsay Sealey

In addition to being the author of 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. Her next book, Rooted, Resilient, and Ready: Empowering Teen Girls As They Grow, is due out Spring 2020.

Want More Lindsay Sealey?

You can find Lindsay on her website as well as Instagram and Twitter!