How to best communicate with your teenage daughter during COVID-19 challenges
The teenage years are always tough, however the challenges the world is currently facing with Coronavirus has created unique circumstances making this already tricky stage of life even harder to navigate.
This semester will be testing for Australian students everywhere with mental health experts concerned about the possible effects social isolation and the economic downturn will have on teenagers in regards to depression, loneliness, motivation and worries about the future.
Melbourne-based Mandy Dante, creator of Flourish Girl – a preventative mental health program for teenage girls - said right now the main thing parents, and in particular mums, can do is to keep communication open with their daughter. As a former speech pathologist, TEDx speaker and model, Ms Dante set up Flourish Girl in an effort to support girls to live happier and healthier lives.
The program offers mother-daughter programs to improve communications and also works with schools to deliver transformational programs that explore the current limitations for girls and instead encourage them to be powerful in today's world. Ms Dante and her team to date have helped more than 3,000 teenage girls across Australia.
Through the schools' program, Ms Dante has gained invaluable insight into teenage girls through countless conversations with them. "We have a section in our programs where we ask girls what they really need from their mums - and this is where I get my tips for mums," she says.
From shy teen to successful model and CEO
Ms Dante says she wanted to then create a program for teen girls as she could relate to many of the insecurities teenage girls feel. "I grew up very shy and was the only Sri Lankan girl in a predominantly Caucasian school. I felt awkward and out of place at times. I also had a lot of insecurities about my body, however I worked on my self-esteem and went on eventually to become a model, so I know what's possible."
In 2016 after learning that the rate of depression, anxiety and eating disorders amongst teenage girls was on a rise, Ms Dante found herself shifting her passion and focus towards giving teenage girls a voice and left her job to create Flourish Girl. She then decided to try modelling as a creative way to showcase the work of Flourish Girl.
"Nowadays models often become their own 'brand' and I thought it could be an amazing platform to talk to teenage girls about what it actually means to be 'beautiful'. The most beautiful people I know are those who pursue their passion. I've been very blessed to have shot with great brands committed to empowering girls and women such as Supre and Pilates studio Core Plus. Despite my former shyness, modelling has been one of the most empowering things I've ever done."
Top tips for improving communication between mums and daughters
Ms Dante has this advice for mums if current circumstances are proving challenging with their daughters:
1 Spend personal time with your daughter
"When mums spend more quality personal time with their daughters it starts to plant more seeds of trust for teenage girls to start to open up more. Girls start to let go off their protection mechanisms and they start to connect more with their mums as 'humans' so doing things together and spending quality one on one time is important."
2 Create a safe space to open up
"What we hear so often in our programs is that girls 'don't feel safe' to open up to their mums because they feel like they will be judged for their emotions, thoughts and opinions. They end up either becoming more withdrawn or become more explosive by getting angry at 'little things'. Try to create a happy, calm, non-judgmental air when you talk with your teen."
3 Share your feelings with one another
"Be aware of how you are feeling and be courageous to share that with one another. It's hard to keep calm right now, especially with so many current unknowns, and bottling up your personal thoughts and feelings doesn't help, so have the courage to start conversations, with 'How are you feeling about things?' and share."
4 Empathise as much as possible
"Understanding and empathising with the rite of passage that your daughter is going through right now is vitally important. "Teenage girls are in a huge transition where they are discovering their identity and independence. It's a challenging time and girls crave that safe space to talk out what is going on for them, so they can be equipped with the tools they need to get through this transition. Divulge some stories from your own teenage years so they can relate."
5 Reach out to other mums
"It's very easy for mums to put their daughters needs and feelings first. But it's important that mums also have a space to share their thoughts with outhers. I've just launched a Facebook community group for mothers of teen girls so they can share their experiences. A mother is the most influential role model in a girl's life and so when mums have the courage to model and share more stories to relate, and not 'teach' their daughters, it starts to open up a new world where girls feel more relaxed to share whatever is on their mind."
Ms Dante said the Flourish team of young, relatable and highly-trained female facilitators aims to create safe spaces for girls, so they can equip themselves with the social and emotional tools they need to navigate through personal and relationship challenges.
Its Nourish to Flourish school program focuses on creating safe spaces for teenage girls to engage in relatable conversations around judgement, comparison, social pressures, body image and perfectionism. Meanwhile its Flourish – A Girl to Woman Mother Daughter program focuses on empowering daughters transitioning from girl to becoming an unstoppable woman, whilst empowering mothers to be able to let go, trust and transition into the role of 'wisdom giver' and nurturer.
Under the banner on the site 'Mornings with Mandy' Mrs Dante also regularly uploads vlogs on the site under the banner directed at teenage girls with such topic titles as "Don't be defined by a number" "Know when to say no" and "Being Flaw-some".
For more information visit https://www.flourishgirl.org/
MORE ABOUT MANDY DANTE
Mandy is a lead facilitator for The Rites of Passage Institute. She has already paved the way for their school programs for teenage girls across Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, helping to design programs and train their female facilitators. She has also worked alongside leading youth experts such as Hunter Johnson and Arne Rubinstein and within youth-led organisations such as The Man Cave, Game Changers Australia and Little Dreamers Australia. To date, she has worked with over 3700 young people across Australia. Other Flourish Girl team members include Lillian Kane, Head of Client Engagement at Impact Investment Group, Catherine Wyatt, director and a social impact consultant at Y Impact, and Chelsea Bonner, CEO of curve model agency Bella Management.