Monday, 13 February 2017

How my daughter's comment caught me off guard

"I was very sad today."

"Oh dear Jane, what happened?" I asked sincerely whilst being aware that we should already be in the bath. Bathing with our three year old daughter is as much a practical thing as bonding thing in our house.  Save water and all that.  I also find it's a time without TV,  iPads, toys etc and we can actually chat.

"Emma said I couldn't play with her or our friends.  I wasn't allowed in the playhouse."

"Why not honey?"

"I wasn't wearing the right red top.  Can I have a red top mummy?"

Her bottom lip stuck out and her eyes dropped to the floor.

One thought crossed my mind instantly - I'm not ready for this.  You are three years old.

Jane has always liked pretty things. And as I had two boys before Jane I revelled in it.  Before she was out of the buggy she pointed and signed diamond as we past the brightly lit jewellery stores in the American style shopping malls.

She's been pleased with pretty dresses and accessories and I'd thought it was just preference. If I liked jeans and trainers, why couldn't she like knit tunics and hair clips?

And whilst I supported Jane with the idea that not being allowed into a playhouse because of her clothes was very silly of Emma, I couldn't help but think in my head - I'll get you the best red top there is and not give that Emma any excuse not to play with you....

I have two older boys, both have autism and are mostly concerned with their own opinions and interest.  Frankly, I felt unprepared for this conversation with Jane. I blamed our materialistic society and so on and so forth.  But in my mind I clocked this up as something to learn about and be aware of.

I know my boys, I'm used to boys.  But did you know that in recent years while boys’ well-being is staying the same, the happiness of young girls has fallen?

The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Report 2016 recently made a big splash in the media and online with alarming new findings.  The research with thousands of young people discovered that girls’ happiness in Britain is getting worse, in fact, one in seven young girls says they’re unhappy with their lives overall.

Despite girls having a significant increase in happiness with school work and no significant change in happiness with family or school, there has been a huge decrease in happiness with appearance, friends and marginally with life as a whole.  One in three of 10-15 year old girls are not happy with their looks.

Jane looking in the mirror

Although this was one of The Children's Society's headlines from the report I wanted to delve a bit deeper.  Given what Jane had said about her friends, I wanted to see if this was common in older girls in anyway.  In the same report I also found that:
  • 78% of bullying happens at school (as apposed to going out, on the way to /from school / online / texting etc)
  • Children with lower incomes than their friends were nearly twice as likely to be bullied (perhaps those unable to keep up the latest fashions I thought)
Now I know kids will always be kids.  And trust me, as a mother of two out of three children with autism, ADHD and other things too, I know that kids can see differences.  But at the same time I want to make sure I help my daughter as she grows to have every opportunity for good mental health. My eldest son struggles with anxiety and I see how this can affect his life.

The Children's Society are really worried about the situation for girls and will be calling on the Government to make sure emotional and mental health support is available in all schools. I know it felt like a long wait for our eldest son to see CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and it's maybe not a surprise to you that I think as much about my kids mental well-being as well as their physical health.

I also want to let my daughter grow into the woman she wants to be. But this means supporting her and allowing her to discover who this is too.  In some ways it's not so different from being mum to my boys, autistic or not.  I want all my kids to grow up to be what they want and how they want.  I may just have to become more familiar with sparkles and hair clips for Jane.   And that's great, as long as it's all for the right reasons.

If you'd like to find out more you can read the Children's Society report or follow their campaigns.

As on:
You Baby Me Mummy


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I'm really passionate about trying to raise an emotionally healthy kid. I'm not sure I know many emotionally healthy adults (myself included) and I'd love my kid to learn how to care for his mental health whilst he's still young rather than when he becomes an adult. It's so important to be thinking about whilst they're still little.

  2. Hi, a really thought-provoking post.
    My daughter is 10, and I am seeing first hand how much peer pressure and society in general affects our girls thought processes and self-esteem. Then I think back to being that age and especially starting secondary school - how you would be mocked if you didn't have the right trainers and your PE kit had to be in some trendy carrier bag �� that rule didn't seem to apply to the boys somehow.
    I think what the Children's Society are campaigning for is brilliant, but I think we also need to do more work with our girls to be more supportive of each other, and to be more of a team. #PostsFromTheHeart ❤

  3. This is very thought-provoking. Peer pressure and hurtful comments start at such a young age, it's scary! #PostsFromTheHeart

  4. Very thought provoking post - my daughter is 5, in year 1 at school, and she's been subjected to a variety of digs already. Ridiculous really #DreamTeam

    1. That's so sad isn't it. Thanks for commenting

  5. It's so sad that these things start at such a young age. How can girls that young be emotionally prepared for that? It's unfair. #brillblogposts

  6. This incredibly sad, and also incredibly sad that I'm not at all surprised... I'm sorry that the other children made your daughter feel that way, I can remember similar things happening to me as a child, and it knocks you for six. I also feel that as a sex, girls are still fighting to be treated with the same respect as boys. The images in the media, the pressure to wear the right thing and look a certain way-it's so much less aimed at boys. I really hope that something can be put in place in order for girls mental health to be made a priority.

  7. Hmm.. I think I lost my comment. Hope you don't find two of them though... As I was saying... This is incredibly sad, and I'm sorry it happened to your little one. I have 3 boys, and it's not happened with clothes, but it has happened.. It's sad, and it shouldn't! And not when they're so young. Be strong! #brilliantblogposts

  8. Fantastic post. I have a 17 year old step daughter that has really struggled with many of these issues over the past 6-7 years. It really makes me redouble my efforts with the five year old to instill in her strength and self worth. #brilliantblogposts

  9. I've never been into labels and the like. May your daughter be happy always. No child or person for that matter should be bullied. #PostsFromTheHeart

  10. Sad statistics and I'm sorry this has happened. Kids can be so mean and the pressures are there for kids, boys and girls as you say. I went to an all girls school which was an awful experience-tween to teen hood was not fun. A really toxic environment x

    1. Vicki, I'm sorry to hear that. I didn't get on that great with other girls in my teens. Of course, getting on well with the boys just made it worse. I guess we all want our kids to have it better than we did - and that's just the same for their mental health too. Thanks for commenting.

  11. This is so hard. Girls I think in so many ways - at a young age - are more complex than boys. Boys have an argument and then mostly move on, girls dwell, hold grudges and take life on the whole more seriously. With my teacher head on, I would always prefer to teach in an all boys' school. Not because I don't enjoy teaching girls, but because their emotions make the world more complex. It's something that with Number One I constantly have in my mind, thank you so much for sharing such valuable statistics with us at #PostsFromTheHeart - it's something that all of us with girls need to be aware of.

  12. It's sad when people make themselves feel big by making others feel small :( Really thought provoking post. I'll give the Tubblet an extra hug tonight

  13. I think girls think things over more than boys do and need support more than boys.We also want to be accepted where as boys are more happy to brush things off. great post and lots of food for thought. Thanks for linking up to #Postsfromtheheart

  14. It is such a worry. I am genuinely dreading the secondary school stage never mind getting them through primary school with mental health in tact. Parenthood... always something to be worrying about or feeling guilty over. Just as well they make it all worth while x

  15. This is a really interesting post.Thank you for sharing The Children's Society Report, I'm looking forward to having a proper read of it. Often I find it harder to help with the psychological difficulties than with the physical ones.



  16. It is scary the stats about happiness and appearance. I know my mum brought us up to be confident in ourselves, not to care what others think, and we had other interests that we were good at like dance, music, sport and school work, so we had confidence that we could do great things. But for children who don't have those, and are more sensitive to what others think, it's hard to know how to prepare them. I'm pleased I have a boy, but even they are becoming more aware about their appearance. #thelistlinky

  17. Oh this is so sad. I can see already how much more complex girls are from seeing my stepson and daughter. Thanks for sharing with #dreamteam x

  18. Oh bless her, how scary that they can be affected by this at such a young age. Argh parenting is so scary and such hard work. Hope you managed to find a suitable red top! I'm sure she's rocking it. #DreamTeam


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