How to Raise a Global Teenage Girl

I’ve been busy indoctrinating lately. And I’m a little worried about parent teacher conferences.

Ella has been reading some interesting books for a 7th grader. When asked about Kisses From Katie, a book about a young American woman who moves to Uganda to live and work and ends up adopting a ton of children and staying, Ella mentioned Becoming and her Mom, and you know... When she brought in Fierce Compassion, a biography about a woman in the early 1900s who rescued Chinese sex slaves from the brothels of San Francisco, Ella told her teacher, “My Mom gives me homework.” Now she is reading Chelsea Clinton’s It’s Your World Get Informed, Get Inspired, Get Going and her teacher merely said, “Mom?”

I’m helping Ella become a woman. Not an American woman. A woman. The distinction is as vast as it is difficult to teach.

Raising a Woman

Unlike girls in many parts of the world, American girls have the expectation of education. This leads to hope for a future. They can envision a life of choices and opportunities. When their period starts, they don’t miss a week of school per month or worse, drop out of school altogether because of the shame and inconvenience of not having sanitary pads. If American girls walk to school, it is for a few blocks, often with crossing guards, not for miles with armed rebels or others who would threaten harm.

American girls plan their birthdays months ahead of time because, of course they know when they were born. That and they have experienced being celebrated because they are valued in their family and culture, not wished they were a boy.

With just a tiny view into the reality of girls in much of the world, girl power takes on a new meaning. Inviting Ella to join the company of women, past, present and future, includes these sisters. It also mandates we face our privilege and ask ourselves what we owe our sisters.

I can’t possibly raise my daughter to become a woman without talking about all women. If I believe God has crafted us in his image then I must believe we have innate and universal qualities about us that are not bound by time, culture, or opportunity. Who are we as women? As global women?

If you are also wondering how to help your teen daughter develop a heart and an awareness of her sisters around the world, here are a few suggestions:

1. Stop shielding her from reality. Watch the news together. Have her read articles on the Syrian refugee crisis, the rescued Boko Haram girls, or the ongoing plight of Sudan.

2. Turn school projects into global discussions. If she’s doing a paper or presentation on recycling, have her research the way Honduras handles trash (for instance). Talk about the labor trafficking that occurs around trash fields in developing countries and what that means for girls who grow up “recycling” in trash dumps all day.

3. When her period starts, consider sponsoring a girl in Uganda (for instance) to have sanitary pads for a year. What a way to celebrate with a global sister!

4. Encourage her to read books, watch documentaries and films, or attend community events that open her eyes to the rest of the world. I’ve watched Half the Sky, Frame by Frame, and Of Gods and Men with Ella lately, in addition to the crazy books I’m having her read. She is learning so much!

5. Pay attention to her tears. If something moves her more than something else, note it. Encourage her to pursue more around that issue, place, or people. Tears are windows to her soul. You may be tapping into her future!