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Life lessons for your daughter before she turns 13

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Weekend Plus Desk :
Raising children in a surprisingly unjust society can be a tough task. According to a new study published by a team of researchers from Switzerland, kids learn about gender divide at the mere age of 4. While this social construct is regressive, in many ways, it can also damper your little girl’s self esteem and impose wrong ideals.
While you must lead by example at home, there are also some life lessons to impart to your daughters before 13, as they start to blossom into little women.
‘You are no less than a boy!’
Girls equal boys and this core lesson should be imparted before they get to spend time outside, when they will get to witness gender divide. As their first guiding light, it is vital that you set forth firm examples and mentor right construct. Make sure they have the same number of opportunities, talk to them how gender divide affects traditions and most importantly, make them learn to value and respect each other.
‘Your voice matters’
Teaching your daughter to be firm, resilient and making her feel that her voice will always be heard is one way to empower her. And this has to start from home. Before you advice her to act a certain way or talk in a gentler manner, remember that girls, at this precious age should feel that they are free to say what they think and feel without facing any rejection or ridicule.
‘Don’t hesitate in saying no’
As she grows more aware about her bodily changes, brushing off boundaries and personal space in lieu of being polite is a bad idea, so ‘no means no’ should be implemented from the start.
Allow her to say no and make choices on her own when she feels uncomfortable, which will help her feel she has the power and control over things.
However, remember that the talk around consent and teaching them the humble, but powerful word ‘no’ needs to be dealt with very sensitively before she delves into the teenage years.
‘Bodily changes and puberty are normal’
While bodily changes and the onset of puberty are common, they can have a greater impact on girls than boys. As a parent, your duty should be to make her more informed and aware of the changes, educate her and make her more prepared to deal with them, without feeling any form of guilt. Be it the change in hormones, menstruation, personal hygiene and cleanliness, they all need extra attention and you have to step into that role, without making her feel stifled.
You can try bringing in visual aids-like books, videos or hear her views-anything which makes her feel comfortable about the changes rolling in, rather than hiding away from it.
‘You can talk about things to me’
A big part of the growing up process and teenage issues is when kids start to distance themselves from you, little by little. Girls, especially, may not feel open or shy away from speaking up about what is bothering them. While as a parent this can get daunting, what you really have to do is say the right things to bridge the gap so that you are the first one she comes to in times of trouble.
‘Learn to protect and defend yourself’
As a parent, you want to be there for your child every moment, but for the times you can't be there, you have to teach your daughter to be physically and emotionally strong. Plus, your daughter will also appreciate and feel loved when she realises that she is able to take care of herself in times of need.
Self-defence classes, teaching them age-appropriate safety lessons can keep them protected if someone tries to cross or confront them in an inappropriate, unwelcome way.

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