There’s a major epidemic taking over the minds of young girls everywhere: the princess syndrome. Jennifer Hartstein, PsyD, wrote “Princess Recovery: A How-To Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters” to help parents understand why today’s daughters are struggling with bouts of both entitlement and insecurity. Today’s girls are groomed to look outward for their self-worth, Hartstein says, and the expectations for their looks and behaviors are flying at them faster — and earlier — than ever before.

“Girls are bombarded consistently by messages — starting at very early ages — of what’s supposed to be girly,”?Hartstein says. “They get pigeonholed into thinking that girly means pink and dolls and playing house. There isn’t a lot of information given at young ages that promotes any encouragement to play with trucks, or go to science and math. They get very mixed messages all the way around. And those messages start at 2, 3 and 4 and then develop into concrete identities as these kids get older.

They may think that the only way to succeed in life is to be pretty, or to have the right clothes, or [that] being a little geeky is bad and no one will like you. They get this message early on that doesn’t promote real exploration of things that might make them feel good or be excited — they get something superficial.”

But there are ways to ensure your daughter grows up with a healthy mind-set. Hartstein recommends the following:

Know what’s out there

“Parents need to know what messages are being given to their kids and they are also giving to their kids. They might watch all these movies about the princess being saved by the prince … little kids think that that’s reality. You want to talk to them about how they might be able to help themselves in situations and really promote a sense of awareness and ways that they can be self-sufficient. And kind of piggybacking on that, what are your own feelings about what those messages are? [Kids] learn from you.”

 

Let her choose her interests

“You want to encourage exploration in all ways. Don’t discourage your daughter from wanting to play with what are typically boy toys. Toys are toys. I think encouraging exploration of all that is really something that parents need to be able to do and feel comfortable with.”

Have conversations

“Talk a lot. Talk about what your kids are seeing, what their interpretation is of it, what it means to them. Start those conversations often and early.”

Get the whole family involved

“Dads have as much of a role here. They’re just as important.”

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