Mothers can teach their daughters what sexual harassment means and how to protect themselves from them.
What’s the best way for mothers to make sure they foster their children’s love of their bodies and respect for those bodies but also explain to them that threats do exist?
How can they let them know that although someone might approach them differently because of their outfit, any kind of sexual harassment is never because they “were asking for it”?
There are a few strategies that mothers can adopt when working with their daughters on harassment and safety. They can teach their daughters what sexual harassment means and how to protect themselves from them.
First, you have to model the boundaries you want her to have. A personal boundary is like a property boundary and enforcing it involves setting consequences that protect you when a boundary violation happens.
And if you can’t set and enforce consequences in front of your daughter, she has no model to follow. If your daughter is used to seeing you respect their own boundaries, she will absorb the message that respecting boundaries is an important part of love
Listen to your daughter. You may have more life experience than your daughter, but cultivating her own respect for her perspective and opinions is crucial to her being able to judge whether situations are safe or dangerous. Practice listening and deferring to her opinions, she’s a human being too. If you disagree, still listen to the good reasons she has for her perspective.
One of the most serious contributors to people staying in violent relationships or putting themselves in dangerous situations is that they doubt themselves. This can start or stop at any age, so if your daughter doubts herself and falls into confusion often, there are many things you can do to help. It starts with you listening to her and respecting her intuition and opinions.
The more you trust your girls’ opinions and gut instincts, the more she will also trust those parts of herself that is able to keep them safe. In the instance when harassment happens, she will look to herself, not the outside world, for what to do to create safety.
Make it about her. It may be unfair but it is a reality that girls face more scrutiny and danger because of the clothes they wear, where they can go and when they can walk and almost every other behavior than boys. Share that discussion with your daughter, and ask her what she thinks about it. Ask her what we can do to change that for future girls and then listen.
These problems are falling on her generation to solve, and she may have a better answer than you do. Be honest with her, do your work on your story ahead of time, and support her in solving her next challenge. She got this.