Living Consciously

Help Your Teen Daughter See the Dangers She May Face

Many years ago, I picked up a book called “The Psychology of Self-Esteem,” by Nathaniel Branden. If you haven’t read it you’ve certainly experienced its effect — it ignited the self-esteem movement of the 1970s and 80s.

Among many interesting ideas, the book introduces a concept called “Living Consciously” — the idea that we are often, if not always, better off choosing to know than to not know. Living Consciously is the ability and willingness to intentionally seek the truth — good or bad — and face it, with eyes wide open.

Branden argues that by choosing to live consciously, we acquire a heightened level of awareness, autonomy and control over our life and circumstances. This in turn, strengthens self-esteem and builds self-reliance.

All good things!

But, these benefits can come at a cost. Confronting the truth is not always easy, especially when it is harsh or unsettling.

Speak Frankly with Your Daughter

At no time is this concept more present in the minds of parents than when grappling with how and when to begin talking to their daughter about her personal safety.

On one hand, they want their child to be aware of the risks she may face. On the other, they are concerned that addressing these issues too soon and too graphically may trigger unnecessary fears, ultimately causing more harm than good.

I understand, it’s a delicate matter. But, as Branden explains, when it comes to something as important as a child’s safety, the consequences of not exposing her to these realities are far more severe than those of making her aware of the facts.

Here are a few suggestions to help you broach the topic without causing fear:

1. Have many conversations, not just one.

Engaging in a conversation with your daughter about personal safety should not mirror the classically awkward, one-time talk about “the birds and the bees.” Instead, try launching the first of many discussions on this topic. Then, have the goal of turning these little chats into a fairly regular, ongoing thing. The strategy of multiple conversations, over time, is much less daunting — for both you and her! — than the typical approach of one, big, scary sit-down.

2. Use a “small dose” approach.

If our goal is to inform rather than alarm (and it is), attempting to convey everything at once is rarely effective. Tackling just one key point per conversation is plenty. By keeping these talks brief, you’ll provide the information she’ll need without overwhelming her. Another benefit of the “small dose” approach is that you are no longer under pressure to cover everything. If something doesn’t feel right to bring up today, no problem. You can cover it the next time you chat.

3. Build awareness, not worry.

One reason talks of this type often fail is because parents operate under the mistaken belief that a “safety talk” should scare teens into taking their safety seriously. In practice, however, telling horror stories and painting a picture of a dark and dangerous world is not effective. Instead, try striking a balance between reassurance and realism. Yes, predatory danger exists… but it’s not lurking around every corner. This approach will help make her aware and safe, without having her experience the angst that often accompanies the “scare” approach.

The Goal is to Build Confidence, Not Create Fear

At the end of the day, helping your daughter Live Consciously when it comes to these real world issues is mostly about building confidence and self-reliance. Done well, you won’t be instilling fear, you’ll be helping your daughter see what she’s up against and arming her with the knowledge she’ll need to handle it.

Ultimately, you’ll be bolstering her against fear and worry and giving her the confidence she needs to look reality squarely in the eye while standing firmly on her own two feet.