I am so lucky. For 10 months of every year, I get to live with 20 teenage girls.
No, I’m serious. I could not imagine a more fun way to spend the school year.
I serve as birthday cake maker, shoulder to cry on, lights out enforcer, boy drama pro, and of course, eye roll target for the greater part of every year. Sure, it’s exhausting, but I love it.
The more time I spend with the girls in my dorm, the more I ponder the gifts I wish I could give them before they leave me for summer, or for graduation, or for college. Perhaps I should have named this blog post “Five Things I Wish I Could Give To Every High School Girl Out There”.
But here it is- the five things I wish I could give to every one of my girls, and to every one of yours.
1. A GOOD FRIEND
Every girl needs a good friend. Not necessarily a group of buddies, or a pack, but one good friend. One person who she can trust with her secrets, her fears and all of her stories. A friend who will have her back, and who knows the trust goes both ways.
Having the gift of one true friend is one of the greatest treasures any woman could have. Having it in high school is exceptional and rare- and also crucial. I believe that during this time of uncertainty, of overwhelming challenges, of drama, pressure, and stress, one good friend can make all the difference.
I would encourage every girl to find that one good friend over the pack of buddies. How do you find that? You start by being that one good friend.
2. A TRUSTED MENTOR
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every teen girl had an older woman who has walked the road before her, who understands (to a degree- what the heck is social media???) the road she’s traveling, and who can help guide her?
This can be a mother, an older sister, a teacher or a coach.
Let’s be realistic, though. This is not to say that teen girls will fully accept any mentor with open arms. Eye rolls are certain. But the gift is knowing the mentor is there, and has her best interest at heart. This builds a girl's confidence in herself, by seeing that her mentor has confidence in her.
You can be that mentor for your girl.
3. A SAFE SPACE
Oh this one is so crucial, and so hard to find these days.
It used to be that our homes could be a safe haven for our daughters, but smart phones have invaded this space now, making it hard for any girl to find a safe place today.
Yet this is exactly what she needs- a place to disconnect from social media, from the drama of friends and relationships, and the pressures of school and the outside world. A good way to provide this for her is to designate “disconnect time” at home. Of course she will hate it, but knowing this is good for her, we must do it anyway. Provide the safety and relief for her, when she cannot do it herself.
Even better, do it with her. Show her you can walk the road with her. (hmmm…. how very mentor like!)
4. A SEASON OF ADVERSITY
How horrible of me to wish adversity on the girls I live with, work with, and adore- and how dare me wish it on your daughters too. But it’s true. I’d love for every girl to go through a little bit of adversity. After all, it is during these seasons that we can be there for our daughters, and help guide them to learn how to persevere through them.
And when a girl works through adversity, and finds solutions or survives by her own doing, she gains confidence, and discovers more of what she is capable of. Rather than fixing our daughters’ problems, if we remain by their side and allow them to work through adversity themselves, we are raising confident daughters, building strong women.
That’s a gift I’d love to give every girl.
5. A SEASON OF SUCCESS
I add this one purposely after adversity because the success is usually the result of the adversity. Big or small, the more adversity she can face and fight through, the more success she will find, and the more confident she will become.
That is not to say, she must do this completely alone. Remember that mentor? That good friend? And that safe space? They are all necessary for adversity to become success.
But what a gift we can give our girls to stand beside them as they face adversity, and celebrate with them as they find success. It might make it a little easier to let them go, knowing they believe in themselves and that they are strong women.
A little easier? Maybe...
Now, as a photographer, there is of course, one more thing that I’d love to provide for every high school girl I come across- especially if she’s had the privilege of experiencing the 5 gifts above.
That would be high school portraits- because the girl who has that kind of high school experience will want to remember it forever.
So consider helping your girl through the five gifts above. Then find a way to capture it in a tangible way for her. We’ll talk more about high school portraits in the coming weeks, as I truly believe every girl should be given this experience.
Until then, remember these gifts. A friend, a mentor, a safe space, some adversity, and success. With these gifts, our girls will become more confident, which is really the greatest gift we can give them.