These days, growing up as a girl is hard to do. Girls are expected to be nice, kind, smart, pretty, assertive and thin. Meanwhile, they see stories circulating on a regular basis of girl celebrities gone wild. Add to the mix a relentless onslaught of information coming in, thanks to technology’s new role in our lives, and it’s no wonder our girls are feeling stressed out.
If girls are having a hard time growing up, you could also argue that the business of parenting is changing rapidly. We parents are juggling a FOODMO (Fear Of Our Daughters Missing Out) with a growing desire to slow life down. It’s unclear whether parenting is indeed getting harder, or if it’s just different than when we grew up. Either way, many parents I know are doing their best to raise their children in what sometimes seems like an increasingly complicated world.
Thankfully, we are by no means alone. Here in Austin, we have many amazing resources to help us as parents and to enrich our children’s lives. One of these opportunities is just around the corner: GENaustin’s We Are Girls Conference, an all-day, statewide opportunity for girls and the adults in their lives to explore topics including creating healthy relationships; building financial and media literacy; enhancing parent-daughter relationships; fostering creativity; and increasing positive body image, health and wellness. The conference is taking place on Saturday, November 9th from 8:00am until 3:30pm at Austin High School. Online registration is available, and girls can also apply for scholarships to attend.
We Are Girls is now in its sixth year. In 2012, over 1,600 girls and adults attended the conference, and nearly 400 participants traveled to Austin from across Texas to attend this one-of-a-kind event. Ninety-eight percent of attendees said they would recommend the conference to a friend.
This year’s keynote speaker is Olympic Bronze Medalist Marlen Esparza, the first American woman to qualify for Olympic boxing in 2012. Told by her father and coach that she couldn’t box because she was a girl, Marlen started training — and winning — proving them wrong, and achieving her dreams in the process. In addition to the keynote, We Are Girls includes nearly three dozen activities and workshops in three tracks: one designed just for girls in grades 5-12, one just for parents and other courses for girls and adults.
Here are a few breakout sessions which caught our eye:
5 Steps to Finding Your Inner Smart Girl (for girls)
Quincy Bulin is the editor-in-chief of Smart Girl’s Guide, a monthly digital magazine for ambitious young women who are striving to live the Smart Life, and will be coaching girls in how to implement positive self talk into your daily life at We Are Girls. “I’ve never been to We Are Girls before, partially because I’ve had a speech impediment since I was a toddler and am not the best public speaker,” Quincy explained. “I viewed this as not only an opportunity to develop a new skill, but to show to girls that if I can jump over this major hurdle in my life, they can do whatever they want!” Quincy will also be helping girls set long and short-term goals. “I hope that this discussion will help give a direction to girls who are maybe a little bit lost,” Quincy shared.
Quincy encourages parents to give their children the time and space to discover their passions. “It’s easy to feel like you need to put your child on a path to success by making them a well-rounded individual, but I know that when my parents stopped expecting me to be involved in a fine art, instrument, and sport all at the same time, I finally had the freedom to discover my true passions.”
Yoga for a Better Body Image (for girls and adults)
Ellen Vazquez of Yoga RX calls herself a holistic health care advocate and loves to share yoga and how it’s changed her life to all ages and generations of people. In her session, she hopes girls leave knowing and understanding more of their body’s language and what it tells them. “I want to help them learn how to breathe through the journey of life,” she explained, “and teach them ways to stay positive and compassionate towards themselves by first learning how to love their bodies”.
When I asked Ellen to share one piece of advice about parenting girls, she encouraged parents to be a positive role model. “Make a commitment towards a positive and healthy lifestyle together, learn together and make changes together,” she recommended. “I believe there is a need for the younger generations of girls to stay more in tune with their bodies’ natural rhythms and to learn more ways to connect to nature in all aspects of their lives. It is our job as parents to help guide them to healthier living for the mind, body and spirit.”
Social Media University, presented by Dell (for 5th-8th grade girls)
Sarah Luden is leading Dell’s Social Media University session. As part of her role as a Social Media Manager on Dell’s Corporate Communications team, Sarah helps incorporate new media and influencer strategies into the company’s campaigns, events and announcements. Dell has its own Social Media University program, called SMaC University, to train its employees about social media and community best practices. Sarah will share top tips and tricks with the girls to help them learn how to best use social media to connect, learn and have fun, while staying safe.
Sarah urges parents to do anything they can do instill confidence in girls early on. “Growing up, my parents consistently encouraged me to go for what I wanted,” shared Sarah. “They reminded me that I could do anything I put my mind to with hard work and a positive attitude.”
The Best Mother & Daughter Workshop Ever! (for girls and adults)
Candace Avila is an expert in the field of personal development for girls and the founder of the Smart Cookies School for Girls. She is looking forward to her workshop at We Are Girls “because I am passionate about giving girls the tools they need to successfully navigate girl-world and information that they can use right away to make a positive impact on their lives and the lives of others.” Candace added, “We Are Girls is a fantastic opportunity for girls to have fun, make new friends, surround themselves with amazing role models and mentors, and learn about issues that directly impact their lives.” Candace designed her workshop to open the lines of communication, increase understanding and awareness of one another and discovering the keys for a strong, connected mother/daughter relationship through the ‘tween and teen years.
Candace had a hard time coming up with just one suggestion for parents raising girls today. “Be fully present. Listen. Be curious and open. Remember to teach happiness, gratitude and kindness. Be mindful of what you are teaching your girls through your actions”, she shared. “I really like author Sil Reynolds’ definition of mothering too,” Candace said. “‘Raise her to become her self.’”
Have you ever attended We Are Girls? If so, what do you remember about it? If you are planning to attend this year, which sessions are you most looking forward to?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nicole-Basham-Sara-Marzani-Photography-livemom.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 7-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.[/author_info] [/author]