When I began reading the compilation of research in Dr. Leonard Sax’s book Girls On The Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls, I was surprised at the areas of influence on a girl’s thinking that I did not have to navigate when I bridged adolescence. These are the four areas outlined by Dr. Sax and the research: Sexual Identity, The Cyberbubble, Obsessions, Environmental Toxins.
Sexual Identity – Like most young people, girls want to feel special, but romance has changed. “Fifty years ago, girls were the gatekeepers for sexual activity. The boys had at least to pretend they liked the girl in order to get physical.” (pg 25) Today’s culture encourages physical activity without romance due to popular music, movies, and product marketing. Pediatrician Meg Meeker asserts that ‘depression in teenage girls may often be a ‘sexually transmitted disease.’” (pg 25) Girls often confuse their desire for attention with their desire for sex moving ‘from a culture of dating to the culture of the hook-up.’ Girls have multiple voices talking at them all day long, but they’re confused of what voice to follow.
Song of Songs 8:4 reads, “I charge you, daughter of Jerusalem: do not awaken love before it’s time.” The struggle is real that our girl’s bodies are beginning to develop at 8-10 years old. Their bodies are jumping from childhood into teen world over the course of a summer without the in-between years. I mean, who in the world wants to be a teenager for 10 years (ages 10-20) when just last Christmas she got an Easy Bake Oven and still wants to wear sparkle shoes? It’s where we are.
One of the ways we can encourage a smoother transition for parents and daughters is to surround her and them with a community of faith offering an alternative voice to popular culture. As boys crave competition, girls crave community and will be shaped into the person she becomes by that community. The challenge: “a girl’s community is more likely to consist primarily of girls her own age.” (pg 204) When girls of the same age talk, the most popular topics tend to be about their own personal problems, obsessively rehashing negative emotions. This excessive talking can make them feel worse resulting in making girls more anxious. The right kind of community bridges the generations.
We offer a regular gathering of 3rd-5th graders we call, “Princesses of the King.” In the course of an hour and a half, we play a game that offers a way to gracefully speak to one another (ice breakers), read and study a woman of the Bible, then respond with a life skill such as note writing or this week’s Cupcake Wars when the girls will decorate 125 cupcakes which will be delivered to a homeless shelter. After Bible study, we break up into small groups led by what I call, Titus 2 women of faith who will speak into the girl’s lives to offer a place for building community. The local church provides the only avenue in our popular culture to intentionally gather women of many generations. We can draw on that pool of generations of women.
Though our girls may have the knowledge to navigate technology, they don’t have the wisdom to know what to filter. That’s where we come in. Are we offering opportunities for sharing such wisdom? Are we offering a community of women to teach our girls to ‘go with what you know and not with how you feel’? It doesn’t have to be anything formal or structured. Who have you invited to join your ministry with girls to help those girls navigate adolescence with grace, with wisdom, and in the knowledge and favor of God and man? (Luke 2:52)
In next week’s blog we’ll address the Cyberbubble factor.
“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord…An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit…I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:32-35