How to Empower the Young Girls Around Your Thanksgiving Table
I think most of us can agree that the holiday season seems extra magical through the eyes of a child; the gifts, the decorations, the festivities all seem to shine a little brighter during those years, as least they did for me. As a child, the holidays were simply magical but also a time of year when relatives I rarely saw all year round would visit, which meant comments about my appearance were usually the first to be spoken (and sometimes nothing more). Comments on how tall I’ve grown, how pretty I looked and how lovely my dress was, were the norm and many at times, was where the conversation ended.
In fact, one of my most poignant memories as a young girl was a holiday gathering where my grandmother attempted to wrap her hands around my waist and failed. After she realized my waist was nowhere close to being small enough to do so, she stepped back, shook her head and proudly shared with me that when she was my age, grown men could fit their hands around her waist but my waist was just not small enough. Sadly, that memory is forever seared into my mind.
A few years ago, a campaign started around the Oscars called “Ask her more”; it was a push to have reporters ask the women celebrities on the red carpet more than the standard questions that emphasize appearance and what (or who) they were wearing. With Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow and the possibility of interacting with young girls within your family, I wanted to encourage you to ask her more. Why? Because she probably already has Instagram, Snapchat, ect on her phone and doesn’t need another source reinforcing the idea that her appearance is the most important thing about her (and it can also make her believe it’s the only thing you care about). Not to mention around this time of year diet talk and FOF (fear of fat) are more abundant than black Friday sales commercials. Commenting on her size, your size or anyone else’s size for that matter just gives emphasis to the already overwhelming concerns she most likely has about her body. So here are a few ideas of how to ask her more:
Take the focus off of appearance and onto how you feel.
It’s so easy to fall into the “you look so pretty “or the “I love your outfit” greeting when we first see someone we haven’t seen forever, especially when we want to make that person feel good about themselves. A different suggestion is to instead say, “I’m so happy to see you” or “It’s so great to see you”. These comments keep the judgments and opinions off of appearance and place them on how you feel about them instead. This let’s them know how important they are to you and how much they matter to you as a person, not how important their appearance is to you.
Ask her more than “how’s school going?”
School and grades are important but they do not make her unique. Pressure to do well in school and earn top grades is at an all time high with children and might not be what she’s truly passionate about right now (not to mention it can bring up intense anxiety). Ask her more. What was the last great movie she saw? What was the last great book she read? Why did she like them? What does she love in her life right now? What’s been the best part of her year so far? Taking the emphasis off of achievements and place it on interests and passions. This helps empower the side of her that is unique, special and passionate; a quality that is so easily lost as we grow older. Cultivate a sense of importance on her unique qualities by asking her questions about them because this is what truly makes her beautiful and special.
Say NO More
Cut out the diet talk and body shaming.
Set an example of being at peace in your body (no diet talk, calorie talk, how you didn’t eat anything all day because of this huge meal in front of you, how you will have to work it off tomorrow or how you’re going to gain 10 pounds from this single meal). Like I said before, FOF is more prevalent this time of year than at any other time; you don’t need to fuel the fire. Studies show that 80% of 10 year olds are more afraid of being fat than their parents divorcing and since this holiday is about gratitude and not being scared (that was Halloween BTW) leave the diet talk at home. Avoid making good or bad comments about her body, your body or anyone else’s body (celebrities included); like I mentioned earlier, this kind of talk only reinforces the idea that the size, shape and appearance of a person is the most important thing a person has to offer. And not only is this one of the most disempowering lessons our culture and media push onto girls at an earlier age than ever, it can also cause them to shy away from pursuing certain passions and dreams that they might really be interested in.
Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season is a time of year for family and an opportunity to empower the young minds that will shape our country and our world someday. Ask her more and watch her shine.