Many women can remember the dreams they entertained for their future. Some wanted to be lawyers, doctors or teachers, but many will tell you that they abandoned their dreams. Why?
The world seen through the eyes of a child is beautiful. Anything can be possible. Dreams are born when we are children, and passions begin to form deep within our souls in those tender years. Children are our future, yes, but they are also right here with us today, and it is crucial that we take this amazing opportunity to empower our future leaders.
If you ask any successful woman today to reflect on the secret of her success, she probably will share about an adult in her life who believed in her and encouraged her to dream. We have more influence than we could possibly realize. It is important to remind ourselves that the little ones around us are watching and learning and assigning value (or denying value) based on how we respond or fail to respond to them.
It can be daunting to consider the world that your little girl will encounter as she grows into a teenager and, eventually, into a young woman. We
might fail to see the beautiful potential as we empower girls and young women to see the true impact they could have on the world around them.
Girls face a myriad of challenges, but if we prepare them and help them to engage those hurdles in creative and empowering ways, the possibilities could transform this generation of future women. Teenage girls face adult decisions that have critical impact on their lives. Even as small children, they begin to sharpen the tools they will need to face those challenges with strength.
We must remind our girls that they are strong, capable, beautiful, important, heard and valuable from the moment they enter our world, because unfortunately, they will hear, see and feel much to contradict those messages of hope and empowerment. As they grow up, we owe it to them to ensure that our voices are louder than the crowd around them is.
How can we empower tomorrow’s women? Here are five ways to rethink and look creatively at how we can instill passion, compassion and confidence in the women of tomorrow.
1. See them. Children long for adults truly to see or acknowledge them. How often have you heard a child say, “Look” or “Watch me”? It is a key stage in development to desire not only for the primary adults in your life to see you, but also the world at large. Yet, we teach many of our young girls through our actions that a screen or a phone holds more interest or importance than they do. We miss key moments to show through our attention that they are important and they matter deeply to us.
2. Listen to them. Young girls and teenagers want to say so many important things. Will an adult hear them? Affirm their ideas, hopes and dreams? Think of a successful woman today. What was she thinking as a young girl? How did she share her ideas and thoughts with those around her? Who listened to her? You could be the person with whom a future president or scientist might share her initial thoughts, and she deserves to be heard. We all desperately need to hear her.
3. Treasure them. Reflecting on your childhood, do you remember a moment when you desired nothing more than for an adult – or anyone – truly to know and to treasure you? Many fairytale stories and movies center on this single theme: you are treasured. Girls – especially teenagers – seek this attention. They will either find it in healthy sources or move to unhealthy attention, which can send their young and innocent lives down a spiral of hopelessness. Give young girls a strong reminder every single time you see them that they are of great worth.
4. Encourage their passions. Young girls experience the world with fresh eyes and hopes. They see things many adults are simply too busy or too jaded truly to see. The things about which they are passionate could influence not only their future, but also our future, as they grow, learn and experiment. The world is meant to be explored, and young girls need someone to help them in that journey. We can educate, train and cultivate them in their passions. We can encourage them to dream, think and ask questions. Ultimately, we will miss the most if we squash their creativity, innovation and passion.
5. Learn with and from them. It is easy as an adult in our fast-paced adult world to dismiss the young ones around us, but we do this at great peril to ourselves. Today’s young girls are the leaders of tomorrow and, even more so, the hope of today. They have beautiful, brilliant, creative and inspiring things to teach if we only take the time to listen. We miss so much if we do not take the time to read, laugh and explore the world with them. They need us, but more importantly, we need them. We need the young girls in our lives to remind us why we do what we do or to challenge us to rethink what we currently do.
We are the ones, honestly, who will miss out if we fail to empower the young women around us. Age should never be the criteria by which we determine who deserves our time and attention. That little girl beside you could very well be the one who will change the world. Cherish the opportunity to influence her life richly.
Tiffany Hollums is an author and clergy in the United Methodist Church. She has over 20 years of youth and/or children ministry experience, as well as, working as a treatment foster care coordinator. When she is not crocheting blankets for loved ones as a ministry to those who are hurting or newborns, she can be found writing youth lessons and sipping expresso drinks in the corner of a local cafe. She lives in Nashville with her husband and young daughter who she loves to empower to be a future women leader.