Pre-teen girls experience many rapid changes in their minds and bodies. Sorting those out and knowing what is normal can be difficult while combatting the messages they receive from a media invested in convincing them that they need to buy products to make them better.
The West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital hosted a seminar, Between Us Girls, on Saturday, to provide young girls with information they can use to better understand themselves.
Sara Pesic, MA, LPC, NCC, with Family and Youth Counseling, spoke to the audience of pre-teens and their mothers about healthy body image, self esteem and peer pressure.
Crista O’Neal, a registered nurse with WCCH, spoke about the changes girls experience during puberty with regard to hormones and menstruation and offered advice on feminine hygiene products and skin care.
Pesic said that self esteem plays a big role in the type of friends young girls make and the activities they pursue. “Seven out of 10 girls believe they are not good enough in some way,” she said. “And 75 percent of girls with low self esteem, report involvement in negative activities, like drugs and bullying.”
Pesic said there are several ways for a young woman to build her self esteem, including daily affirmation exercises. “Compliment yourself,” she said. “Studies have shown that expressing gratitude about yourself or what’s around you actually creates positive changes in the brain.”
She also recommended finding a way to make contributions to society through volunteerism. “Humans need to feel they are contributing,” she said. “It helps them feel valued and needed.”
Self care is also important.
Pesic said exercise instills discipline and physical confidence, as well as releasing endorphins.
The attendees watched several short videos about how the images they see on television, in magazines and online are manipulated to create an unrealistic ideal.
She showed one produced by the skincare company Dove, which featured a model being taken from a clean, make-up-less face to one that is so airbrushed and heavily painted, she is almost unrecognizable. The model’s neck is digitally lengthened, her face is slimmed, her nose is narrowed and her eyes are enlarged. These images are humanly unattainable, yet young girls are subconsciously internalizing the standard.
The best way for young girls to combat low self esteem and negative peer pressure is to find something they love, and work to become the best they can be at that. “Remember, you don’t have to be liked by everyone,” she said.
“You will begin experiencing some changes in your brain, and in your feelings; changes you can’t see,” said O’Neal. “These changes will happen when it’s right for your body.” O’Neal told the girls that if they had questions they were uncomfortable asking out loud, they could write them and put them in a cup during a break. She said she learned a trick from a fellow mother for discussing uncomfortable issues with her daughters. She gave them each a special place in the house to leave questions on scraps of paper. She answers them and leaves them in the same spot.
O’Neal warned that young girls often get the wrong information about puberty from their peers. “A lot of your friends may think they have the right information,” she said. “But in this case, it’s your moms who do.”
The girls were given a folder filled with information about skin care, vaccinations, menstruation and other resources.
For more information about the program, visit www.WCCH.com.