A Woman’s View: little women

Growing up in today’s society, with its pressures, temptations and strains, has made raising young children difficult – especially when it comes to raising young women.  Girls are being forced to grow up faster and mature quicker in order to compete in this fast-paced environment.  Mothers in the NEast are always concerned about their children’s welfare, but ever more so when it comes to peer pressures that young girls encounter at such an early age nowadays.

“My daughter is 10 years old and already there are children in her class engaging in explicit acts,” said Nikki, a concerned mom whose daughter attends elementary school in the Northeast.  “She’s 10, my God!  I didn’t even know all my curse words by 10, much less say, them and now look at kids today.”

A small poll taken of 15 NEast mothers reported that their No. 1 fear for their young daughters was that they would engage in sexual activities before they were mature enough to fully understand the consequences of their life-changing decisions.  True that pregnancy and STDs are a big concern, but in addition, young women’s mental health and self image may be affected, causing potential life long problems that may lead to intimacy issues down the road.

Of course, sheltering a child is not an option, but simple conversations to address such issues can go a long way to affect the outcome of a future situation.  Young women need to be fully aware of the consequences and dangers to help avoid early sexual activity before they come of age and still cannot fully grasp their actions.

Girls today are under a lot of pressure; not just from boys, but also from other competing girls, to keep up with fast-moving popularity that overtakes all schools.  These strains, compiled with a lack of knowledge, can cause great risks to girls’ mental and physical health.

“My daughter came home crying because her boyfriend dumped her for some other girl that he said was easy,” said Jayme, who is raising a 13-year-old daughter. “She asks me if she would have lost him and if she could get him back by doing the same.  It is such a crime.”

Not only are there sexual pressures readily available with each turn of the head, but there are also pressures to perform adequately in sports with an ever-changing and developing body.  Young women experience growth spurts and hormonal changes rapidly, which can at times encumber their physical performance not allowing them to participate in a sport or activity as they used to.  When it comes to a dancer who is always looking in the mirror, body image is very important as it is with any sport.

Girls are subject to developing eating disorders, which are far more common in adolescent girls than boys.  Eating disorders can follow a young woman into maturity and linger for an entire lifetime in some cases.  They can be made to feel ashamed of their bodies for a number a reasons, whether they are to over or under developed.  Suddenly a sleek straight figure that a young girl is used to may develop quickly into the natural curves of womanhood.  Others take a little long depending on body type and genetics.

“My daughter is a swimmer and since she has begun to hit puberty her performance has greatly reduced,” said Melissya.  “Her body has formed into a woman’s body, but now her coach is always on her case ’cause she can’t swim as fast.  It isn’t right.”

It may be hard for some females maturing to fully accept that their bodies may not have the same mobility they once had.  Some girls are able to work through it, whereas others are not.  Provided parents and counselors are well aware of the situation, they can provide a knowledgeable atmosphere, which may help the young women better cope with their maturity and development.  Physical demands are a big no-no in this crucial stage of development, and should be approached cautiously so not to pressure young women or make them feel in anyway inferior.

Pressures and strains are always going to be lurking in every turn of life. Having strong mentors and female companionship is very important.  Even when young girls open a magazine or catalog they see the models looking younger every year and being portrayed as glamorous and sexy.  This type of portrayal will only succeed in encouraging young women to grow up faster and put more strain on their self-image.

“My daughter was looking through my [Victoria’s Secret] catalog and she kept saying how young the new models looked and wondering why she didn’t look the same,” said a concerned Nicoletta. “It’s true. Some of the new girls look like they are still in high school, and my 15-year-old just felt worse about herself.  I really worry; it is hard raising a girl today.”

In a society that is all-consumed with fast-moving maturity and the future, we sometimes forget kids need to be kids and not be subjected to adult pressures before they have to, especially since they have their whole lives ahead of them.  Society from all angles should be helping parents and their children have a present instead of throwing young kids into a grown-up future too fast.

A Woman’s View is a column about women’s issues written by Donna Ward. The column appears every other Thursday on NEastPhilly.com. See others here. Read other NEastPhilly columns here.

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