Raising Girls

In our last post, we discussed the differences that male identified children have as compared to female identified children.  We reviewed some of the structural brain changes, as well as some of the societal and cultural norms and expectations that male children cope with, and the need for emotional support and understanding for male children. To fully understand some of the different needs that each gender presents with, this blog is all about the needs and differences that come with raising female identified children.

As with the last post, an understanding of structural brain differences helps to validate the experiences of transgender children.  Transgender children typically have brain structure and gray matter usage that corresponds to their identified gender, and not with the assigned at birth gender.  Girls use more white matter in their brains, which means that they are better able to divide attention and multi-task, as compared to the hyper-focusing talents that their male peers may demonstrate.

There are fewer barriers for female children today, and girls are given the message that they can achieve anything.  As girls continue to take on responsibilities and tasks, they may not be taught, or modeled, balance.  When girls feel like they can do it all, they internalize that to mean that they must do it all, and currently, adult women are two thirds as likely as their male counterparts to experience significant home and work stress.

Depression and anxiety prevalence rates have increased for all children, but female adolescents seem to have been hit particularly hard with this rate increase.  Social media, cyberbullying, and the sheer mass of peer comparison has been blamed, and male children do not appear as impacted by this increase.  Helping girls understand that this is normal, and that anxiety and stress are healthy and human reactions can help minimize the impact that these experiences have.

Socially, girls are just as likely as boys to be victims – and perpetrators – of bullying.  Girls tend to use more social methods of bullying, such as exclusion and social rejection.  For teenagers, whose social worlds feel all encompassing, a social rejection can be just as painful, if not more, than physical assault.

Both girls and boys require ongoing conversations about boundaries and consent.  Girls in particular receive societal messages that their “no” may be less important, and teaching healthy and assertive boundaries and communication is critical for safety.  It is never too early to have these conversations, helping kids feel empowered about their bodies and their choices.

All children have unique and specific needs, and generalizations about gender may not necessarily fit the experience that your child has.  However, with an understanding of the messages that our children are receiving in our culture, as well as an understanding of the biological differences and needs that kids have, parents are better equipped to help young men and women become productive and successful adults.