Excerpted with permission from Northfield Publishing, an imprint of Moody Publishers, from chapter nine of Girls Uncovered (Northfield Publishing, 2012) by Joe McIlhaney, Jr., MD, and Freda McKissic Bush, MD with Stan Guthrie. Dr. McIlhaney and Dr. Bush are board-certified obstetrician/gynecologists with daughters of their own.

Relax! What a refreshing word in this mad world! But it is an important word, too – especially in raising a daughter (or a son). Savor these years. Don’t just endure them. Release your stress. Have fun with your daughter. Your role is certainly serious, but don’t take it so seriously that you destroy your enjoyment of this time – or perhaps hurt her. She is your child. Take great pleasure in this!

While it can be unnerving to watch your little girl grow up in America’s sexual culture, take heart and remember that when it comes to influencing children, you have the advantage. Teachers, youth workers, media, peers, church – none of these can rival the influence that is given to parents who are with their children year after year. In one sense, this long-term relationship earns parents the right to communicate values to their children. Further, parents can take into account their adolescent’s particular personality and sensitivities, as well as maturity-socially, emotionally, physically, and morally.

The better your relationship with her, the more confident she will be in her foundation when the inevitable storms of life come. Consider these ideas for building your relationship with your daughter by protecting her and setting her trajectory toward a bright future.

Communicate: It is important to talk to our girls about anything and everything. As they get older, our conversations can and should cover big decisions, including sex. Multiple studies show that good communication correlates with less risk of a girl initiating sex at a young age. One study finds that children who communicate with their parents about sexual issues more than once feel closer to their parents and more able to communicate with them in general and about sex specifically.

Build Her Self-Esteem: Healthy self-esteem in a girl probably reflects her understanding that she, including her body, is valuable and, as with anything of value, worth protecting. This includes using her body the way she wants to use it, not the way someone else might want to use it. Good self-esteem can give your daughter the self-confidence to make good decisions and to stay in control. It can help her smoothly transition through the years when she has acne, when other girls develop sooner or are considered more “popular.” Positive self-esteem can give her the strength to withstand the constant sexualization of teen girls and other unhealthy social pressures.

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