building strong girls
Tricky stuff

Building strong girls

As mothers we all want our daughters to grow up strong – both in mind and body. But how can we help them to become the confident, healthy young woman we wish them to be?

The most important thing we can give to our daughters is unconditional love. Knowledge of that love will see them through toddler stumbles, school issues, teenage heartbreak, friendship breakdowns, and life itself.

But there is so much more that we can do to turn them into healthy, confident, competent women.

Building strong girls

Here are some tips to start you off:

1. Read to them.

There are so many books now that celebrate strong girls and strong women. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls is a gorgeous book that tells the stories of inspiring women down through the ages, from scientists and astronauts, to boxers, writers and painters. This book will show them that they can achieve anything in life that they put their mind to.

Building strong girls

2. Feed their bodies.

You can’t build a strong girl without helping them to build a strong body. Healthy meals and essential nutrients will keep them on track. Iron rich foods are very important during the tween and teen years – these include beans, legumes, cereals, nuts and leafy green vegetables.

3. Exercise

They don’t have to become the next Katie Taylor, or even be the school sports star, but building strong bones and muscles, and helping them fall in love with being active, will set them up for a future of healthy living.

Building strong girls

4. Build confidence

Confidence is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. Unfortunately however, many children suffer from a lack of it, feeling just not good enough in at least one area of their lives – be it school, sports, socialising, or looks. Talk to your daughter about confidence. What does it look like? Who does she know that is confident? When did she last feel good about herself? You’ll find these conversations lead to other places and you’ll be surprised by how much you learn about her along the way.

5. Talk to her openly about periods.

Don’t be afraid to explain the science behind what is happening during menstruation. Go through each stage and chat through a list of ‘What ifs’ so that she is prepared for any unexpected issues along the way.

Tween and teen girls, who have started mentruating need to ensure their bodies are getting enough iron. Find out more about this below.

6. Be her role model (even if that scares you)

Be brave, be confident, be kind. Show your daughter what a strong woman looks like – even if you’re quaking inside! Our daughters look up to us, copy us and often become us – so be the very strongest YOU you can be.

‘Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them’. 

More you might like

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Talking to your child about death
Oversharing online

Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.


Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.