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When Big Issues Happen to Little Girls: How to Prepare, React, and Manage Your Emotions So You Can Best Support Your Daughter

When Big Issues Happen to Little Girls: How to Prepare, React, and Manage Your Emotions So You Can Best Support Your Daughter

by Erin Munroe, Michele Borba

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The average fifth-grade girl knows a cutter, a classmate with Asperger's syndrome, or has a friend with two fathers. Issues like these are big, and they are just drops in the bucket. A generation ago, we worried more about kidnapping and divorce than cyberbullying and prescription-drug abuse. With little personal experience in the new, complex issues that plague


The average fifth-grade girl knows a cutter, a classmate with Asperger's syndrome, or has a friend with two fathers. Issues like these are big, and they are just drops in the bucket. A generation ago, we worried more about kidnapping and divorce than cyberbullying and prescription-drug abuse. With little personal experience in the new, complex issues that plague our daughters on a daily basis, how can parents today help their girls cope better and raise a generation of girls who are resilient and self-confident instead of insecure and confused? This book answers that question with concrete action steps and easy-to-follow talking points that help parents keep the lines of communication open and better support their daughters.

Author Erin A. Munroe, LMHC, who has been counseling adolescents for more than a decade, is in a unique position to help parents understand how girls cope and react to stressors and adult-size problems today, so they can be active and effective participants in their daughters' reality. When Big Issues Happen to Little Girls also helps parents learn about themselves and control their own emotional responses to the big issues their daughters face, including:

·         Sexuality, sexual orientation, STDs, and pregnancy

·         Mental health issues and learning disabilities

·         Bullying, peer pressure, and cyberbullying

·         School anxiety, social anxiety, and other phobias

·         Substance use and abuse and the newest addictions

·         High expectations for young girls that often cost them their childhood

Raising girls is a big responsibility. Let When Big Issues Happen to Little Girls become your twenty-first-century parenting strategy and give your daughter the gift of resiliency and confidence that she is deserving and capable of experiencing.

Editorial Reviews

The Midwest Book Review

No one stays a child forever. "When Big Issues Happen to Little Girls: How to Prepare, React and Manage Your Emotions, So You Can Best Support Your Daughter" is a guide for parents to understanding the challenges of their own child coming into age and how to best manage these issues pertaining to sexuality, adulthood, substance abuse, and how to remember to let one's child be a child in this massive and scary world. "When Big Issues Happen to Little Girls" is a thoughtful and driven read with plenty of wisdom, highly recommended.
--The Midwest Book Review

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Read an Excerpt


Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself (and the Girl in Your Life!)

Adriana fidgeted in her chair as we both watched her mother pace back and forth behind the chairs. 'Is there anyone else in the family who seems to be anxious like Adriana?'

Mom paused for a moment in her pacing, frowned at Adriana, and paced a bit faster. 'No!' she announced, 'I don't know where she gets it. It drives me insane. Why she can't just relax is beyond me.' Mom continued her rambling as Adriana rolled her eyes and made a gesture that indicated that her mother was the cuckoo one.

Please try this exercise: Point at the most emotionally unstable, unpredictable, and dramatic person in the house—most likely, your daughter! Now, look at your hand. Notice how many fingers are point­ing back at you. Hmmm. Interesting.

Take a moment to think. Could you be a little unstable, unpredict­able, or dramatic? Do you handle everything perfectly all the time? If you do, good for you; you will have the healthiest kid around. If you don't, join the club and read on.

Surprisingly, our girls in all their craziness, angst, anger, anxiety, and drama take after us. They tend to act like the adults around them act; whether this is due to nature or nurture has yet to be discovered. How many adults do you know who are as cool as cucumbers these days? Not many, I would imagine.

How can we expect girls to handle everything well when we, the supposedly well-adjusted adults, so often handle things with stress, drama, impulsivity, and anger? What standards do you set for yourself? Are you a parent who is trying to work full time, bake the best brownies, take the right aerobics classes, have a floor clean enough to impress your mother-in-law, and all the while smiling and wearing the right pair of jeans (the pair that says I am cool without trying too hard)?

Whatever your role in your daughter's life, it is important that you recognize your own level of stress, anxiety, anger, and overall care for self. Living your life stressed out and forever trying to impress everyone teaches your daughter that you believe this is the way she should live. Even if you tell your daughter a million times that she shouldn't take on so much or that trying to impress everyone and doing too much at once is silly, what you are saying doesn't really matter if you are not setting a good example for her. The next time you reprimand her for her behavior, look closely at yourself and at the other adults in her life. Does anyone exhibit the kind of behavior for which she was reprimanded? Did she lash out at a friend before thinking about what she was going to say? Have you ever done this? Did she procrastinate before doing her homework? Does any adult in your household tend to procrastinate? Take notice of whether you are setting a not-so-fabulous example. It's not necessary to do everything flawlessly all the time, but be aware that when you behave in a way that you wouldn't want her to behave, it does have an impact on her. We all make mistakes. If you make a mistake, admit to it. This is better for your daughter than making excuses for yourself or denying that you have been engaging in behavior that sets a poor example.

How can you become a healthier role model for your daughter? Try to be as balanced as possible. Work on big things like self-care, stress reduction, and being true to oneself. Don't worry about little things like only eating three fruits or veggies a day instead of the recommended number, cleaning only what is visible, or hitting snooze an extra time (or two) on the weekends.


Do you devote enough attention to self-care? Having adult respon­sibilities makes 'me time' very hard to come by, but even more important to find. Unless you take care of yourself, you will be shortchanging everyone who needs you. When you are well rested and well cared for, it is much easier and much more fun for you to take care of others. Instead of feeling put upon by always doing things for others and therefore getting annoyed by such things as the chatter between your daughter and her girlfriends when you are driving them from place to place, you might enjoy their chitchat and reminisce with them about your own teenage years.

In a study ublished in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, researchers Ranae J. Evenson and Robin W. Simon found that 'there is no type of parent that reports less depression than nonparents.' With that in mind, self-care becomes even more important for parents than for nonparents, so get to it. Discussing this bit of research is not meant to scare you or encourage you to lock yourself in your bathroom, but instead to make you aware that parenting (biological, stepparenting, adoptive, or otherwise) puts you at risk for feeling depressed. So you really need to safeguard yourself against that risk as best you can. Self-care will help.

Another benefit of taking time for yourself is that by doing so, you are showing your daughter the importance of taking care of herself and modeling how to do so responsibly. For example, a ninety-minute bubble bath might be your way of relaxing and taking care of yourself. If you choose to take your relaxing bath at 6:00 am on a Tuesday, however, when everyone in the house is trying to prep for work or school, you are likely to disrupt their schedules since they may need to use the bathroom to get ready for the day. Try to schedule your bath at a time that is not only convenient for you but also for everyone else in the household. Perhaps Sunday night might be a good night for a long bath because the kids will probably be working on their homework and your partner or another adult is likely to be available if they need help.

Explaining to your daughter that everyone will benefit from a bit of 'me time' to check in with oneself and check out from everyone else can encourage her to take care of her needs now and in the future. You may find that you need to help her time it correctly or pick healthy ways of spending this time. Although diving into a huge ice cream sundae may sound like the ultimate reward, try to model healthy activities like going for a walk, taking quiet time in your room, drawing or painting, listening to music, working on a hobby, or reading. Make sure that she isn't ducking a family dinner every week or suddenly needing 'me time' when she is supposed to be taking the dog for a walk.

Action 1: Schedule 'me time' for yourself and announce it to those with whom you live. Post it on the fridge, write it on the calendar, or do whatever you need to do to set aside the time.

Make time for yourself. Can't find the time to do it? Then use half of your lunch break at work to listen to calming music or walk around the block. Talk about your 'me time' when you get home so that other family members know that you are taking care of yourself. Encourage them to carve out some 'me time' for themselves. They might all think that you are totally corny, and maybe you are, but if corniness is what you need to take care of yourself and to help those around you take care of themselves, then so be it.

Meet the Author

Erin Munroe, LMHC, is the author of the upcoming From Stressing Out to Chilling Out: The Anxiety Workbook for Girls (Fairview Press, 2010).  She is also the author of the newly published The Everything Guide to Stepparenting: Practical, Reassuring Advice for Creating Healthy, Long-Lasting Relationships (Adams Media, 2009, with credited technical reviewer Irene Levine, Ph.D.). 

Currently, Erin works as a licensed mental health counselor at the South Boston Community Health Center.  She sees children, adolescents, and families experiencing a range of issues—including trauma, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorders, adjustment disorders, and more.  Erin's position at the health center started as a part-time position in their confidential teen clinic, where Erin still provides counseling and support to teenagers struggling with everything from college applications to talking to their parents about pregnancy. 

Erin has worked in the mental health field since 2001.  She has worked with adolescents in schools as a licensed school guidance counselor and adjustment counselor, and outside of school as a licensed mental health counselor. She dedicated herself to the field after working with a program whose goal was to reunite families whose children had been taken away due to abuse and neglect. A major portion of this job was educating parents on how to be the best parents they could be. The rewarding part was watching parents and guardians implement these strategies and gain success as a family unit. 

Following this experience, Erin attended Boston University where she earned her graduate degree in mental health counseling and behavioral medicine. As an undergraduate, Erin attended the College of the Holy Cross, where she majored in English and completed significant coursework in deaf studies. 

Erin also provides trainings in self-care, relaxation, life balance, and identifying and managing mental illness in the classroom.

Author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions

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