Category Archives: Ask Me Anything

The List part 2: resources for tween and teenage boys

First up – if you’re looking for my resources list for teenage GIRLS. Click here.

So.

Houston, we have a problem.

Go searching for inspiring, uplifting books, websites and docos for teenage girls and you’ll be drowning in content. DROWNING.  From websites like Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and A Mighty Girl  to gorgeous, inspiring books like Amazing Babes  and The Girl With The Butterfly Tattoo to docos like Miss Representation and Killing Us Softly— there are hundreds and hundreds of choices all designed to inspire our girls, remind them of their worth and help them navigate those tricky high school years.

But boys?  Tumbleweeds, people.

Am I missing something because I’ve just spent close to two weeks trawling the net and it’s disheartening to see how little is out there. And I’m not sure the “boys don’t read” argument really cuts it anymore.

Anyway.

The good news is there are loads of great men to follow on social media — 21st century men who show us what it looks like to be a good man:  a good person, a good colleague, a good boyfriend, a good friend, a good father, a good husband.  What does “good” even mean?  It’s subjective but to me it means a man who has integrity, who knows what they stand for, who contributes to their community (school, uni, work)  in a positive way, who sees women as equals and champions their fight for equality. A good man is a man who moves through this world with kindness, empathy, humour and  integrity.  Added to that there certainly *are* some great books, organisations and websites out there.

But let me repeat what I said at the start of my list for teenage girls … there is no ONE conversation to have with your son about drinking or drugs or sex or consent or respect for women or depression or homophobia.  It’s an on-going discussion. It’s about using every teachable moment that comes your way. It’s a running dialogue in your family so that when stories hit the news you can talk about the Stanford Rape Case and watch the Consent is Like A Cup of Tea video and discuss what consent MEANS. You can talk about the boys from Orange Sky Laundry winning Young Australians of the Year and the genius of their mobile laundry idea and how it will change lives . You can talk about Chris Hemsworth wearing a ‘Livin’ t-shirt and what that represents for male depression.

My opinon (for what it’s worth)  is that we need to start the ‘big’ conversations early with our young kids (boys and girls):

“When someone says STOP – the game stops”

“When someone looks upset and isn’t having fun anymore the game STOPS”

“Do you have your brother’s consent to touch his stuff?”

“Keep your hands to yourself”

These can all become part of your daily conversation. We need to teach our kids (but especially boys) to read people’s facial expressions and body language. “Is this person still having fun?”  And,  of course, do lots of reading (including an equal amount of stories with female protagonists) since reading is one of the key strategies to help build empathy.

So here’s my work-in-progress list.  I’d love to hear your suggestions …

SOCIAL MEDIA

Nearly every teen is  on social media. (Keep in mind kids are meant to be 13 before signing up for accounts … ). So once they have signed up, the key is to CURATE your feed and make it work for you. Protect your headspace and give priority to those people and organisations who motivate and inspire you.

Here are some great men for teenage boys to follow on social media:

Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett /  Orange Sky Laundry

Nic and Lucas from Orange Sky Laundry

Nic and Lucas from Orange Sky Laundry

Nic and Lucas are what good men look like.  These two mates, both aged 20 from Brisbane, created a mobile laundry service in the back of a van so that homeless men and women could access clean clothing.  In 2016, the were awarded Young Australians of the Year.

John Green and Hank Green  Ah, the Brothers Green.  John Green is one of the most successful YA authors on Planet Earth (The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, Looking For Alaska.) He is (according to wikipedia) an American author, vlogger, director, writer, producer, cinematographer, editor, stunt performer and actor. Together with his brother Hank (educator, musician and producer) he set up the VlogBrothers Youtube channel which now has over a million subscribers. Their Crash Course online series  talks through everything from politics to history to astronomy and philosophy. (info source from Wikipedia)

Waleed Aly Waleed is an academic, lawyer, radio host, writer and one of the hosts of The Project. He’s not on social media (DAMMIT!) but his monologues on The Project on topics ranging from terrorism to racism to homelessness routinely go viral. Follow The Project on social media and you’ll be guaranteed to see his latest monologues. Waleed is married to Dr Susan Carland and has two children.

Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister of Canada — Fiercely intelligent, Trudeau identifies himself as a feminist  and in 2016 marched in the Toronto Gay Pride Parade. Canada’s Prime Minister is setting the benchmark on the new manhood.

Adam Hills:  He continues to be best-known as the host of Spicks and Specks and Adam Hills Tonight but this Helpmann award-winning comedian also travels the world appearing at comedy festivals, hosting TV shows, covering the Paralympics and doing stand-up comedy to sell-out crowds. He’s a good egg.

sr3-0445.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox

Josh Thomas:  Comedian, actor, writer and the mastermind behind the award-winning TV series Please Like Me. In 2010, samesame.org.au voted him as one of the 25 most influential gay Australians.

Eddie Woo   If there is such a thing as a celebrity maths teacher then Eddie Woo is it. This 32 year old teaches maths at Sydney’s largest public high school but at night records fabulous Youtube videos designed to get kids excited about maths (as well as understand it). Look for his WooTube channel!

Hugh Jackman  He can play Wolverine one day and then tap dance at the Tony Awards the next.  Jackman is a big advocate for meditation.  He is an invested husband and father.  He also happens to be married to actress and activist Deborra-Lee Furness.

Hamish Blake and Andy Lee  Hilarious? Absolutely. sure.  But Hamish and Andy  have created nothing short of a comedy empire with their national radio show, TV series and podcast. Better than that they’re both excellent examples of a good men. Hamish is utterly devoted to his wife Zoe Foster Blake and their son Hamish. While Andy won Uncle of the Year in 2016 for  surprising his sister by writing (and having published) a children’s book for his nephew George’s first birthday.

Todd Sampson:  Todd is the former CEO of Leo Burnett Australia (one of the world’s largest communication agencies). He became best known to most Australians via his appearances on the marketing tv show, Gruen.  These days Sampson is a documentary film maker and presenter (Body Hack). His insights on current events are always worth listening to.

Johnathan Thurston:  JT is considered to be one of the greats of rugby league. He’s a three time Dally M medal winner. He’s currently the captain of the North Queensland Cowboys and is well-known for the work he does in Australia’s indigenous communities.

Russell Brand:   Actor, musician, comedian, former heroin addict and sex addict — Brand is a strong, unconventional voice for young men talking openly about politics, current events and the damage created by porn and drugs.

Dave Burton:  Dave is an author, playwright, producer, director, podcast host and sometimes creative writing teacher. I feel really tired just writing all that down.  His Facebook page is funny, serious and engaging.

Markuz Zusak best-selling Australian author of New York Times best-selling novel The Book Thief as well as Fighting Ruben Wolfe and The Messenger.

Isaiah Firebrace:  Winner of X Factor 2016, Firebrace is a 17 year old Aboriginal Australian with a massive international following.

Chris Hemsworth Best-known for his roles in Thor, The Avengers and Ghostbusters, Chris Hemsworth is clearly a softie at heart. He cherishes his wife and three small kids and in his spare time Chris supports a range of charities including  Livin –  a charity to support people with mental illness. In 2016 his most famous social media post was a photo of the dinosaur cake he baked for his daughter India’s birthday.

 

Waleed Aly: academic, writer and TV host.

Waleed Aly: academic, writer and TV host.

Troy Cassar Daley  Award-winning indigenous Australian country music star, devoted husband and father and all round great man.

Tom Harkin Tom has been called the Aussie ‘Bloke Whisperer” coming to national attention with his work with male high school students on the documentary series Man Up.

Matthew Reilly  Matthew Reilly has sold more than 7.5 million novels worldwide. He got his big break by self-publishing his first novel. His best-selling novels include the Jack West series, Ice Station and Area 7. Matt currently lives in LA.

Hugh Evans  is best described as an Australian humanitarian. He is the co-founder of both The Oaktree Foundation and the Global Poverty Project. He has received numerous awards for his work in promoting youth advocacy and volunteerism in order to reduce extreme poverty in developing countries.

Samuel Johnson:  An award-winning actor, voice-over artist and philanthropist.  Today Sam is best-known for his role in Love Your Sister the charity he co-founded with his sister Connie when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The Love Your Sister goal is to vanquish cancer by raising money for research and also raising awareness of breast cancer.    To date Sam and Connie (who passed away in September 2017) have raised over $7 million.

Osher Gunsberg  TV host, radio host, vegan, feminist and avid cyclist. Osher has been very open about his mental health challenges and how he stays on top of them.

Peter Fitzsimons   A former Wallaby, FitzSimons is a poetry-loving, newspaper columnist  and best-selling author (take a breath) AND the current head of the Australian Republican Movement. He is married to Today Show host Lisa Wilkinson and the father of three children.

Jamie Oliver Jamie is the perfect example of someone who uses their passion to give back to the community. This world-renowned chef has dedicated much of his career to providing training and employment to young homeless people as well as improving the quality of food served up in school canteens around the developed world.

Tim Minchin  Comedian, writer, actor, musician, director. ‘ He is the composer and lyricist of  Matilda the Musical, based on the Roald Dahl book Matilda.

Bill Gates  Co-founder of Microsoft, Gates is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, investor and programmer. Bill together with his wife Melinda founded the Gates Foundaton.

Robert Hoge   Rob is an author who writes about ugliness, disability, politics, social media and everything in between. His memoir Ugly became a must-read on  high school reading lists across the country.

And these women:   Captain Catherine McGregor (army officer, cricket commentator and author), Mia Freedman (Mia is the co-founder and creative director of the Mamamia Women’s Network, Australia’s largest digital women’s media company.), Tara Moss (author and feminist), Turia Pitt (athlete and motivational speaker), Leigh Sales (Walkley Award winning journo and host of 7.30),  JK Rowling (author and social justice campaigner) and Emma Watson (actor and UN Global Goodwill Ambassador)

 

 

ORGANISATIONS TO FOLLOW

Real Aussie Blokes This is a website to go with the three-part ABC TV series “Man Up” that will air in October 2016. It’s all about what it means to be an Australian bloke in 2016, masculinity  and men’s mental health.

The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want this is the website based on the book of the same name by author Rosalind Wiseman – mother of two sons and author of the best-selling Queen Bees and Wannabes.

Geena Davis Insititute of Gender in Media “If she can see it, she can be it.”  Great feminist site about the representation of women in media.“The Institute is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need to dramatically improve, gender balance, reduce stereotyping and create diverse female characters in entertainment targeting children 11 and under.”

The Gates Foundation:  Created by Bill and Melinda Gates, the GF aims to improve the lives of people everywhere.  Their work (and their social media feed) is inspiring, educational and eye-opening.

Penguin Teen excellent facebook page from Penguin with YA reading recommendations

GIVIT and GIVIT KIDS (a great not-for-profit site that encourages people to donate their unwanted, no longer needed items to specific people in genuine need. Givit Kids allows Australian kids to help other Aussie kids in need.)

Smiling Mind – teaching kids and adults about mindfulness and meditation. Their app is TERRIFIC.
The Women’s Legal Service Queensland Important articles and stats on domestic violence as well as how to spot it and how to get out.

 

FOR PARENTS/EDUCATORS

VIDEO: The trailer for Man Up

VIDEO: Tom Harkin chats to ABC News about the need to challenge the stereotypes of masculinity and address the issues that lead to high rates of suicide.

VIDEO:   What Your Boys Aren’t Telling You  — a video with Rosalind Wiseman and three teenage boys talking about the things you may not know about your teenage son.

VIDEO: Masterminds and Wingmen — another video from Rosalind Wiseman about what she has learnt from researching and talking to teenage boys for two years.

Maggie Dent:  The mother of four sons, there is nothing about boys Maggie doesn’t know. She’s a parenting and resilience expert and her Facebook page is a wealth of information and guidance on raising kids but especially BOYS.

Steve Biddulph’s Raising Boys Community – Steve Biddulph’s books have sold millions of copies for a reason. He is a voice of the new manhood and provides brilliant, helpful guidance to parents of sons.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg — Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is probably Australia’s most well-known child and adolescent psychologist.  His books on parenting offer valuable, sensible advice for parents of teens.

Dr Justin Coulson: I really love Justin Coulson whose mantra is to help make families happy. Justin is a parenting, relationships and happiness expert. He graduated with first class honours in Psychological Science (UQ) and completed his Ph. D. at the University of Wollongong, researching parenting and happiness.  He runs parenting workshops and while often focused on smaller children — he still offers up great advice about raising boys.

Hey Sigmund: where the science of psychology meets the art of being human.  This is a GORGEOUS, USEFUL website for parents and non-parents alike. Psychologist Karen Young offers wisdom + the latest research on everything from relationship break-ups to parenting young kids and teens. GREAT RESOURCE.

 

FICTION FOR TEENAGE BOYS

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This book is a must-read for every child aged 10 and up. It’s about a book about courage, empathy, friendship and acceptance and how all of those qualities play out in the playground.

From the publisher: “‘My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.’
Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things – eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside. But ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren’t stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all? Wonder is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

My current recommendation for teenage girls AND boys  (which was given to me by Megan Daley at Children’s Books Daily) is:
Saving Jazz by Kate McCaffrey – this is a YA novel which is incredibly powerful about online behaviour, consent and the ramifications of sharing naked images without someone’s consent. It’s blunt and realistic – expect f-bombs but it will speak to many teens. Great to see a novel dealing with the issue of sharing naked images from the point of view of one of the three perpetrators (two male and one female). If your sons can get passed the fact there’s a girl on the cover, they’ll like it.

AND (this one comes recommended by a group of teacher-librarians)

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler  – “Critically acclaimed memoirist Aaron Hartzler, author of Rapture Practice, takes an unflinching look at what happens to a small town when some of its residents commit a terrible crime. This honest, authentic debut novel—inspired by the events in the Steubenville rape case—will resonate with readers who’ve ever walked that razor-thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.”

For suggestions for tween and teenage boys go to Children’s Books Daily (parents) and Guys Read (parents and teen boys).  Authors to look for include John Marsden, Marcus Zusak, Nick Earls, John Green, Will Kostakis, Matthew Reilly, Tristan Bancks and Andy Griffiths.

 

 

BOOKS – Non-Fiction (for teens to read)

Standing Tall: on confidence, teamwork and leadership by Tom Harley “Tom Harley considers himself a lucky man, having captained the Geelong Football Club to two premierships in three years. Never the club’s top player, he set personal goals, working hard and pushing himself to achieve them. On his way to becoming the greatest leader he could be, Tom discovered what qualities he values most, and how to bring out the best in others.   Respect, courage, risk, pride, gaining confidence, finding your passion, leading under pressure and coping with failure —  using his own experiences, Tom shares his thoughts on what makes both great leaders and followers. He shows what it takes to stand tall, on and off the field.”

How To Be Happy: a memoir of love, sex and teenage confusion by Dave Burton  I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read this memoir yet but it comes SO HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by so many people.  Dave Burton is a bit of a creative genius — he writes plays, hosts podcasts, directs, produces, teaches … all of it.  Here’s the blurb about his memoir :”How to Be Happy tackles depression, friendship, sexual identity, suicide, academic pressure, love and adolescent confusion. It’s a brave and honest account of one young man’s search for a happy, true and meaningful life that will resonate with readers young and old.”

The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want  by Rosalind Wiseman. This is Rosalind’s book for teenage boys covering everything from friendships to dating to the ‘bro code’.

The Manual To Manhood: how to cook the perfect steak, change a tire, impress a girl & 97 other skills you need to survive by Jonathan Catherman I’m in the process of reading this book but what i have read, I like.  While the book does cover dating (how to ask a girl out, how to meet her parents), there’s zero advice in here about love or sex or sexting or porn. But put that and the traditionally heterosexual nature of this book aside, and I can see that this book would be popular with teen boys.  It’s  easy to read, clear instructions on how to do loads of things all of us are expected to be able to master from changing tires to putting on a tie to writing a resume. The author Jonathan Catherman is a father of two sons and specialises in teaching leadership and building character in adolescents.

Surviving Year 12: a sanity kit for students and their parents by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg  Every year, more and more emphasis is placed on achieving good results in the end-of-school exams. This can lead to students feeling extraordinary pressure and having unrealistic expectations. In this new edition of Surviving Year 12, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Australia’s leading adolescent psychologist, gives advice to students on how they can cope with the pressure, work smarter and actually enjoy their final year of high school.  Dr Carr-Gregg includes advice on:

• how not to get trapped by social media like Facebook and Twitter

• the secrets of studying smarter

• overcoming anxiety and stress

• getting enough sleep (the best study tool of all!)

• setting goals

• dealing with procrastination

• ensuring exercise and diet regimes are good

• how to cope with the exams themselves

 

Ugly – a memoir by Robert Hoge  Robert Hoge was born with a giant tumour on his forehead, severely distorted facial features and legs that were twisted and useless. His mother refused to look at her son, let alone bring him home. But home he went, to a life that, against the odds, was filled with joy, optimism and boyhood naughtiness.   Ugly is Robert’s account of that life, from the time of his birth to the arrival of his own daughter. It is a story of how the love and support of his family helped him to overcome incredible hardships. It is also the story of an extraordinary person living an ordinary life, which is perhaps his greatest achievement of all.

 

Ask Me Anything : heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions for teenage girls by Rebecca Sparrow  I wrote this book for teenage girls but I’ve found over the past 12 months is that teenage boys WANT to read this book to better understand how teenage girls see them and the world.  Ask Me Anything covers everything from friendships (How do you know if your friends really like you?) to dating (How do I let a boy know I like him?) to sex (How do you say no?) to family and school issues.

 

Resources For Parents and Educators

Articles to read:

How To Raise A Feminist Son by Claire Cain Miller

Why Building Young Boys’ Mental Resilience Is So Important 

What Teens Need Most From Their Parents – Wall Street Journal Article

Sydney Grammar Students recreate a life-saving drug  

To The Men I Love About The Men Who Scare Me 

Before Hitting On A Woman, There’s One Question Every Guy Needs To Ask by Luca Lavigne

Rising To The Challenge of Raising Boys One Football Match At A Time by Jacinta Tynan

A Letter To My Son About Porn by Harriet Pawson

It’s No Coincidence A Vile Instagram Account Was Set Up By Boys From An Elite Private School by Catherine Lumby

 

Non-Fiction Books for parents to read:

Raising Boys: Why boys are different and how to help them become happy well-adjusted men by Steve Biddulph

The New Manhood by Steve Biddulph

The Making of Men by Arne Rubinstein

Masterminds and Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman

Strong Mothers, Strong Sons by Meg Meeker

Some Things About Boys by Maggie Dent

He’ll Be Okay – Growing Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men by Celia Lashlie 

 

WORKSHOPS RUN IN SCHOOLS

Goodfellas  Brilliant Australian organisation headed up by Enlighten Education’s Dannielle Miller offering  in-school workshops for teenage boys covering a wide range of issues.

Tom Harkin

 

DOCOS

Man Up – Gus Worland’s documentary on what it is to be an Aussie male.  Has resources for middle and high school students.

Killing Us Softly 4 – Advertisings image of women:  this doco is based on Jean Killbourne’s lecture on gender stereotypes and the image of women in advertising.

Miss Representation – this 2010 doco explores how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of women.
Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt (pre-order on iTunes now) ** this is a must-watch for all teen boys (and tween and teen girls)
He Named Me Malala (the story of Malala Yousafzai)
Bully

 

VIDEOS TO WATCH

Man Up Doco Trailer

Sportsmanship Jack Sock and Leyton Hewitt  Tennis player Jack Sock shows great sportsmanship when he encourages his opponent (Hewitt) to challenge a wrong-call that would go in Hewitt’s favour.

Consent is like a cup of tea — a video designed to help young men  and women understand the concept of consent. IMPORTANT!

DUSTIN HOFFAN talking about what he learned playing a woman in the movie Tootsie. This is a really powerful video about the expectations society places on women to be beautiful.

Texting While Driving — some young drivers talk about their texting and driving habits and then are faced with a woman who lost her family to texting driver.

Waleed Alley – here is his Gold Logie speech on racism and social justice. Here is his ‘ISIL is weak editorial. Here’s his editorial about Sonia Kruger’s comments about Muslim immigration.

Tim Minchin’s University of Western Australia address 2013 (Tim offered 9 life lessons to university graduates).

Comedian/actor Russell Brand talks about ‘the harmful effects of porn and how it alters ideas and perceptions about sex, drawing from science, research, and examples from his own life.’

 

 

POSTS TO TALK THROUGH

“You’re Going To Die, Poofter! – why we need Safe Schools” by Shannon Mollloy

Former Stanford University student Brock Turner raped a 22 year old woman behind a bin after a college party. This is his victim’s devestating impact statement about the impact of his crime.

 

POETRY (!!)

The Storms Will Come by Tyler Knott

The Journey by Mary Oliver

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

 

RESOURCES FOR YOUR TEEN WHEN THEY NEED HELP (I’m only listing a few — I have a full long list at the back of each of my books)

Headspace: National youth mental health foundation 

Youth Beyond Blue

Kids Helpline

 

 

 

 

The List: My go-to resources for tween and teen girls …

Here it is. My go-to list. (If you’re looking for my list of resources for teenage BOYS click here)

I feel like so many parents are feeling anxious and panicked about the world our daughters currently live in. Every day we’re faced with screaming headlines about teenage sex. Binge drinking. Eating disorders. Depression. Risky online choices. ARGH! But let’s not panic. As someone who is regularly in high schools talking to teenage girls — the girls I get to meet are smart and funny and strong BUT that’s not to say they don’t need help navigating this new world we’re in. (I cannot tell you how glad I am that smart phones didn’t exist when I was 14). So what I’ve listed below are just some of the terrific websites, books and docos I would recommend to anyone who has a tween or teen girl in their life. The most important thing I can say to you is that there is no ONE conversation to have with your daughter about online choices (or friendships or sex or whatever for that matter). All of these topics are BIG and it’s about having lots of conversations all the time. Start a running dialogue which includes items in the news, storylines in books or movies or TV shows and other issues that come up day to day. Keep talking. Everything is a “teachable moment”. Think back to what it was like being in high school. And practice listening to your daughter.

This list is just a starting point. There are loads of other great books and sites out there. List your suggestions in the comments! And I’ll keep adding to this list too.BiMsRN3CIAAS2fg

Here’s to raising strong, smart, fierce girls who refuse to play small ….

Bec Sparrow xxx

SOCIAL MEDIA pages for you and your daughter to follow

Here’s the thing with social media (whatever platform you use Instagram, Facebook etc) is that you need it to work FOR you not against you.  If the only people you’re following are friends (or friends of  friends of friends!) then you’re mostly just looking from side to side.  Make sure your  feed is full of people who make you look OUTWARDS.  Fill it with people who inspire you, who call forth your best, who remind you of your values or what you stand for or who simply make you laugh.  This is about protecting your headspace —  so think about curating your feed so that what is given priority are those people and organisations who make you smile rather those who leave you feeling less than.

The Atlas of Beauty:  ‘Female photographer Mihaela Noroc travels and captures the natural beauty around the world showing the diversity of our planet through portraits of women.’
Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls – Who doesn’t love Amy Poehler? Right? This is a great resource for female role models and women doing cool things around the world. Official blurb: “Founded by actor and writer Amy Poehler and producer Meredith Walker, the Smart Girls organisation is dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.”
A Mighty Girl – A Mighty Girl is the world’s largest collection of books, toys, and movies for parents, teachers, and others dedicated to raising smart, confident, and courageous girls

TeamGirls – In 2017 ReachOut, Netball Australia and Suncorp joined forces to start a movement to help tween and teen girls feel more confident in their abilities, their bodies and their ideas. The Team Girls movement is all about girls supporting girls and their website (go to the ‘content hub’) has lots of great advice for parents and girls on social media, setting goals and navigating friendships.
Beauty Redefined — A not-for-profit site dedicated to redefining the meaning and value of beauty in our lives.
The Body Image Movement  Celebrating body diversity and body positivity – a site created by Australia’s Taryn Brumfitt. (AWESOME! And Australian!)  While you’re there also show them the Dove Evolution video. Yes, I know it’s Dove. And it’s been around for a while but this video is still a great reminder to tween girls about AIR BRUSHING OF IMAGES!
Enlighten Education  Enlighten Education runs programs in schools to help girls decode the mixed messages they receive. Enlighten is all about girls developing their self-worth. AMAZING Australian organisation run by Dannielle Miller.

ReachOut  ReachOut is Australia’s largest online mental health website for young people and it’s AMAZING.  It’s full of tips, strategies, resources and advice. All free. All confidential.  This is a great one to follow on social media since they post so many practical, useful articles.
Geena Davis Institute On Gender In Media  “If she can see it, she can be it.”  Great feminist site about the representation of women in media.This site will arm you with facts and stats. “The Institute is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need to dramatically improve, gender balance, reduce stereotyping and create diverse female characters in entertainment targeting children 11 and under.”

Hey Sigmund: where the science of psychology meets the art of being human.  This is a GORGEOUS, USEFUL website for parents and non-parents alike. Psychologist Karen Young offers wisdom + the latest research on everything from relationship break-ups to parenting young kids and teens. GREAT RESOURCE.

Orange Sky Laundry: This is what good men look like.  Two Brisbane men (uni students and mates) created the first mobile laundry service providing homeless people with access to free washing/drying facilities. LOVE.

UN Women Australia “Empower a woman, empower a nation. The Australian National Committee for UN Women is one of 18 National Committees worldwide. We are committed to gender equality and the empowerment of women. Join us in supporting women and girls worldwide by ending poverty, ending violence against women and creating a better future for all.”
Children’s Books Daily — this site run by award-winning Brisbane teacher-librarian Megan Daley is my go-to source for kids and YA recommendations. Megan KNOWS books like nobody else. If you or your tween/teen are looking for reading recommendations, Megan has them.

Words With Heart – an Australian company who produce eco-friendly notebooks and journals for girls and women. Fantastic covers! And part of the profits go towards educating girls around the world.  The WWH Facebook page is always full of interesting posts about women and feminism.
Penguin Teen (they do a great FB page on what’s hot in YA books)
Smiling Mind – teaching kids and adults about mindfulness and meditation. Their app is TERRIFIC.

GIVIT and GIVIT KIDS (a great not-for-profit site that encourages people to donate their unwanted, no longer needed items to specific people in genuine need. Givit Kids allows Australian kids to help other Aussie kids in need.)
The Women’s Legal Service Queensland Interesting articles and stats on domestic violence as well as how to spot it and how to get out.

RIZE UP:  Providing practical assistance to Australian families affected by domestic violence.

Charity Spam: An Australian hub for all things socially kind. Get involved in your community.

 

A FEW OF THE INTERESTING WOMEN I FOLLOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA 

Here are just a few you may not already be following …

Celeste Barber:  This Australian comedian’s hilarious Instagram account pokes fun at the ridiculousness of many celebrity social media posts.  LOVE.  
Turia Pitt – Um, it’s TURIA PITT. She’s fierce. (Turia is pictured below.)

3540EE3900000578-3640343-image-a-15_1465891653296

Emma Watson  Actress (beloved for her portrayal of Hermione in the Harry Potter films) she is a feminist, UN Global Goodwill Ambassador and actor.

Dawn Tan Brilliant Singaporean-Australian artist from Melbourne who specialises in quirky food  and nature paintings!

Karni Liddell:  Former paralympian  Karni is  a journalist, diversity educator and disability specialist.

Brene Brown:  Brene is a research professor at The University of Houston studying vulnerability, courage, shame, and authenticity. www.brenebrown.com

Cate Campbell and Bronte Campbell:  Olympians, World Record Holders, Australian swmming legends

Laura Geitz: Former Captain of the Queensland Firebirds and the Australian Diamonds. Netball, baby!

Casey Donovan:  Girl can SING!  Cassie’s enthusiasm for life and music is infectious.

Mindy Karling: Mindy is an American actress, comedian and writer best known for her TV series The Mindy Project (which she created and starred in) and her role on the US version of The Office. She’s a strong, smart role model for girls. Love her.

Gal Gadot: the Israeli actress starred in Wonder Woman in 2017 and her social media account is authentic, uplifting and feel good.

Natalie Cunningham: Indigenous Australian swimwear designer and creator of Emu Designs.

Ashley Graham Model, designer, author and body image activist.  Ashley is one of the most successful super models. She also happens to be plus-size (what does that even mean in 2017? Nearly all of us are plus size!)

Dr Susan Carland: Muslim sociologist Dr Susan Carland is the author of Fighting Hislam: Women, Faith and Sexism.

Mia Freedman:  Creative genius, feminist, entrepreneur, empire-builder, tea-lover and the co-founder of the Mamamia Women’s Network. BOOM.  Mia’s podcast No Filter is where she has extraordinary conversations with some of the most fascinating women (and men) in the country.

Beverley Wang:  Beverley is the host of the must-listen ABC podcast It’s Not A Race and an executive producer of Radio National Drive.

Taryn Brumfitt:  Taryn is a writer, speaker and founder of the Body Image Movement.  She’s a force of nature and most famous for her globally successful documentary EMBRACE which investigates why so many women loathe their own bodies.  Tarryn is an internationally recognised positive body image activist!

Chrissie Swan:  hilarious, brilliant TV and radio host. Mum to three small people. I love her.

Caroline Overington: Caroline is a two-timeWalkley-award winning journalist and best-selling author.  You want your daughter to be following smart, strong women? Caroline Overington is one of them.

Dannielle Miller: Danni  is the CEO of Enlighten Education which is Australia’s leading provider of workshops for girls on self-esteem. body image and empowerment.  Danni’s social media feed is always full of interesting and insightful ideas and commentary about women, girls and feminism.

Meshel Laurie: Meshel is more than just a comedian, a columnist and a radio host, she’s an activist.  Meshel is using her time in the sun to spotlight important social justice issues.

Tara Moss author, speaker, feminist and ambassador for the Full Stop Foundation  (an organisation dedicated to putting an end to sexual assault and domestic violence).

Natasha Stott Despoja Natasha is Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls. She is a  former politician and former leader of the Australian Democrats. Natasha’s Twitter feed is always informative and inspiring.

Gloria Steinem:  Feminist icon, writer, activist.

Jean Kilbourne:  Jean Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising. She is must famous for her documentary KILLING US SOFTLY

Malala Fund Inspired by teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, this page is focused on allowing girls to go to school and raising their voices for their right to an education.

Melinda Gates  Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, businesswoman, and mother. Dedicated to helping all people lead healthy, productive lives.

Michelle Obama: Because, you know, it’s MICHELLE OBAMA

J.K Rowling:  No explanation needed, really.

Jamila Rizvi – writer, presenter, political junkie.  I fully suspect Jam is going to end up as our next female Prime Minister. Just watch …

Maya Angelou: Facebook page of the late, great author, poet and  feminist

Elizabeth Gilbert  the official FB page of author Elizabeth Gilbert is hilarious, fiesty and kind. She does swear a lot so keep that in mind if your daughter is younger and/or you are easily offended.

Carly Findlay – award-winning blogger, writer and appearance activist

Gretchen Rubin   The New York Times best-selling author is a happiness expert. Gretchen posts lots of links and interesting research on habits and happiness.

Other great names for teenage girls to have on their radar:  journalists Sarah Ferguson, Julia Baird, Annabel Crabb, Leigh Sales, Kate McClymont, Dr Fiona Wood, indigenous author Dr Anita Heiss,  Captain Catherine McGregor, indigenous author Tara June Winch, the late disability activist Stella Young, Olympian Anna Meares, cook Poh Ling Yeow, entrepreneur Therese Rein and Australia’s first indigenous woman elected into the Lower House Linda Burney MP.

 

BOOKS – NON-FICTION for you and your daughter to read

 

Fantastic book for tween and teen girls

Fantastic book for tween and teen girls

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls  – 100 tales of extraordinary women. This book is FANTASTIC.  Makes a terrific birthday present for a tween or teen girl.  VOLUME TWO will be published in November 2017.

Amazing Babes by Eliza Sarlos (this book is BRILLIANT — gorgeous hardcover brimming with female role models. Makes a great present!)

Girls Think Of Everything: stories of ingenious inventions by women by Catherine Thimmesh and Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran My favourite book on feminism by comedy writer Caitlin Moran she covers everything from brazilians to strip clubs to abortion to workplace sexism.
Girl Stuff by Kaz Cooke (this is the bible on everything relating to teenage girls — great resource to have. Note: there is a new edition coming out for girls aged 8-12)

 

Good Selfie by Turia Pitt.  I cannot recommend this ebook highly enough. Turia answers the questions she is most often asked by teens — most of which have to do with her resilience.  The book is practical and full of clever strategies and ideas of how teens can get through tough times in their lives. LOVE IT.  It’s an easy to read format – perfect for kids aged 10 and up.

Speaking Out by Tara Moss (I haven’t read this yet but it comes highly recommended)
Half the Sky: turning oppression into opportunity by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt
The Girl With The Butterfly Tattoo by Danielle Miller
Lovability: an empowered girl’s guide to dating and relationships by Dannielle Miller and Nina Funnell (Great book!)
The Gift of Fear (and other survival signals that protect us from violence) by Gavin De Becker
For Foxes’ Sake: everything a fox needs to know about sex by Row Murray – this is a really great book by an Australian author that dishes up terrific advice about sex and your body. Highly recommend.
Ugly by Robert Hoge

How To Be Happy (a memoir of love, sex and teenage confusion)  by David Burton

Everything to live for by Turia Pitt
If you are Christian and want something reflecting those values then go for books by Sharon Witt.

My non-fiction books for teenage girls …AMA
* Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school) by Rebecca Sparrow
* Find Your Feet (the 8 things I wish I’d known before I left high school) by Rebecca Sparrow
* Ask Me Anything (heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions from teenage girls) by Rebecca Sparrow

BOOKS – FICTION for you and your daughter
My current recommendation are:

Take Three Girls by Fiona Wood, Cath Crowley and Simmone Howell. This is a page-turner of the book which deftly handles themes of friendship, identity, bullying and feminism.  Girls in grade 9 and over will relate to the storyline of an anonymous rumour-based website targeting (and shaming) local high school girls.
Saving Jazz by Kate McCaffrey – this is a YA novel which is incredibly powerful about online behaviour, consent and the ramifications of sharing naked images without someone’s consent. It’s blunt and realistic – expect f-bombs but it will speak to many teens. Great to see a novel dealing with the issue of sharing naked images from the point of view of three perpetrators (two male and one female).

I also love Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and Wonder by R J Palacio.

 

BOOKS – NON-FICTION FOR PARENTS
Girls and Sex: navigating the complicated new landscape by Peggy Orenstein (this is BRILLIANT)
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
Sexts, Texts And Selfies by Susan McLean (also known as the Cyber Cop)
Queen Bees and Wannabes (helping your daughter survive cliques, gossip, boyfriends and other realities of adolesence) by Rosalind Wiseman
Keep an eye out for articles online written by Mia Freedman who writes terrific stories on feminism for Mamamia.com.au
The Butterfly Effect: raising happy, confident teen girls by Dannielle Miller
Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Option B: Facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant   This is a must-have book for every household, in my opinion. 

Everything to Live For by Turia Pitt

VIDEO FOR PARENTS:  Rosalind Wiseman (author of Queen Bees and Wannabes). This is a talk she gives on parenting teenagers.

DOCOS

Big Bad Love: With young women 18-24 being most at risk of abuse, Australian comedian Becky Lucas sets out to understand what an abusive relationship looks like, how it begins and why it’s so hard to intervene.

Killing Us Softly 4 – Advertisings image of women:  this doco is based on Jean Killbourne’s lecture on gender stereotypes and the image of women in advertising.

Miss Representation – this 2010 doco explores how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of women.
Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt (pre-order on iTunes now) ** this is a must-watch for all tweens and teens
He Named Me Malala (the story of Malala Yousafzai)
Bully

VIDEOS

PINK’S VMA SPEECH on body image: “We will not change.”

We Should All Be Feminists TEDX Talk by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  This Ted Talk is brilliant and discusses the importance of feminism. It’s so powerful that Beyonce sampled part of this speech in the opening of her song Flawless.

Consent is like a cup of tea — a video designed to help young women understand the concept of consent. IMPORTANT!

Texting While Driving — some young drivers talk about their texting and driving habits and then are faced with a woman who lost her family to texting driver.

INTERESTING ARTICLES/COLUMNS

The X-Plan: give your kids a way out 

Emma Watson will no longer take selfies with fans for this important reason

Anxiety in Kids: How to turn it around and protect them for life

This one phrase will stop gossip immediately

Have smartphones destroyed a generation?

Children need close pals not popularity

Charm Offensive: A surprising red flag for domestic violence (Sydney Morning Herald, 2016)

Four Things To Remember During Schoolies Week by Rebecca Sparrow

To The Men I Love About The Men Who Scare Me

The Day Iceland’s Women Went On Strike

PODCASTS

#TeamGirls in 10:  This is a podcast I host which is perfect for teen girls to listen to in the car!  Each episode is only 10 minutes long and joined by a different expert each week we cover Body Image, Sleep, Friendships, Sport Participation, Social Media and the role dads, uncles and other men can play in the life of teenage girls.  #TeamGirls in 10 is powered by Suncorp.

Also No Filter by Mia Freedman will introduce you to some of Australia’s most fascinating people. Past interviewees include Lisa Wilkinson, Captain Catherine McGregor, Ita Buttrose, Sarah Ferguson and Gloria Steinem.

 

STATIONERY

Words With Heart is an Australian company who produce eco-friendly notebooks and journals with fantastic covers for girls. Covers that say things like “She believed she could so she did” and “Small acts can change the world” and “Be Bold Be Brave Be Kind”. Best of all the company donate a percentage of their profits to educating girls around the world.

POETRY (!!)

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

The Storms Will Come by Tyler Knott

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

The Journey by Mary Oliver

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

 

RESOURCES FOR YOUR TEEN WHEN THEY NEED HELP (I’m only listing a few — I have a full long list at the back of each of my books)

ReachOut

Headspace: National youth mental health foundation 

Youth Beyond Blue

Kids Helpline

 

“What advice do you have for us for Schoolies Week?”

Isn’t that a great question? A SMART QUESTION.  Yesterday I was speaking to the Class of 2015 at Somerville House. So it was me and a room of 200 teenage girls and we were talking about life – the importance of resilience, how perfection is over-rated, why it’s a good idea to come up with your own definition of what “success” looks like and the value of giving back to the community.

When I opened it up to questions, one student asked me for advice about Schoolies Week.

I get the appeal of Schoolies Week. I mean, I WENT to Schoolies Week back in 1989 (of course, I left after 3 days because I hated it but that’s not the point …).

AMAThe point is, it’s perfectly understandable that students want to celebrate the formal end of their schooling life. Remember what it felt like to walk out of those gates for the last time?   And the vast majority of students go to Schoolies Week, have a great time and return home  safe and sound.

But … I was asked for some advice, so here is what I said to the students yesterday. Keep in mind, this advice is for both males and females …

Don’t behave like a predator.  Whether you’re male or female – it’s never okay to behave like a predator. Taking advantage of someone in a vulnerable state (whether that’s taking advantage of someone who’s drunk or under the influence or taking photos of someone when they are hammered or passed out) is NEVER OKAY. Consent is key. If someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, if they are asleep (or passed out), if they are in a situation where they feel threatened or there is a power imbalance – then they are unable to give their consent. If you take advantage of someone who is vulnerable you’ll either be breaking the law or behaving like someone who is, you know, MORALLY BANKRUPT.

Trust your instincts.  The world is busy and loud and it can be hard to tune into your gut instinct sometimes. But we’ve all had those moments when we’ve been introduced to someone new and every fibre of our being has been creeped out.  Whether you’re at a crowded party or walking somewhere alone – if your mind starts waving big red flags at you then trust those instincts. If something doesn’t feel right – it probably isn’t. If you get a bad vibe from a person or a situation – get the hell out of there. What if you’re wrong? WHO CARES? It’s always, always better to be safe than sorry.

Understand the impact drugs and alcohol have on your judgement.  Whether you’re male or female, when you’re drunk or under the influence of drugs, your gut instinct is at an all time low. When you’re drunk or high, you trust people you wouldn’t usually trust, you agree to things you wouldn’t usually agree to, you go places you wouldn’t usually go. So stick with your friends, keep an eye on each other and agree that NOBODY gets left behind.

 

Ask for help.  If at any time you’re feeling overwhelmed, worried or anxious about anything – ask for help. Ring an adult you trust, call the local police station or (depending on where you are) contact a Red Frog or Schoolies Week volunteer.

 

“I’m ugly. So how will I ever get a boyfriend?” [extract from Ask Me Anything (heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions from teenage girls)]

Define ‘ugly’ for me.

Ugly in what way? Because let me tell you what ugly means to me. ‘Ugly’ is someone who is racist or homophobic or sexist. ‘Ugly’ is the person who belittles others to make themselves feel better. ‘Ugly’ is someone who is disloyal and unkind. ‘Ugly’ is the person who is verbally or physically abusive to others.

But I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about.

You’re calling yourself ugly because you have too many moles or sticking-out ears or chubby thighs. You think you’re ugly because you hate your stupid flat hair or your boobs which are too small (or too big).

Darling heart, that’s not ugly. We all have things we dislike about ourselves – even supermodels like Megan Gale and actors like Jennifer Lawrence. ‘Beauty’ is subjective. So often it is our physical flaws which make us unique.

Life is about learning to love what you’ve got. And it’s about putting your best self forward. If you’re feeling like one big hot mess (and everybody does at least once a week!), there’s nothing wrong with reading up on how to dress to suit your body shape or talking to a hairdresser to get a haircut that beautifully frames your face.

AMABut it’s not your face or your cute skirt or your haircut or a thigh-gap that someone falls in love with. It’s your spirit, your personality, your talent. It’s the way you really listen when people talk. It’s your ability to see the good in others. It’s your glass half-full attitude. It’s the way you always nail the art and culture questions when you play Trivial Pursuit. It’s your kindness, your patience, your famous lip-smacking chocolate cake. It’s your joy, your compassion, your empathy. It’s the way other people FEEL when they’re around you. It’s the delight you take in laughing at yourself. It’s your passion for human rights or saving the orangutans or student politics or all of the above. It’s your magnetic confidence when you walk into a room with a smile that says you know who you are.

You’re ugly? No, you are not.

And the boyfriend will come. Give it time. Wait for the person who notices the quirky things about you that make you special. Wait for the person whose eyes light up when they see you. That person who truly loves you will arrive. There is a lid for every jam jar, as my friend’s grandma used to say.

PS You don’t ‘get’ a boyfriend. YOU get to CHOOSE that certain someone. If you wanted a boyfriend (or girlfriend) that badly you could have one by now – you and I both know that. You could just nod your head at the next desperate teenage boy who walks by. But I think you’re talking about someone special.

PPS Maybe you’re not quite ready for a boyfriend yet, anyway? Because if you can’t appreciate how awesome and magical and beautiful YOU are – then how can someone else see it? Fall in love with yourself first, and that will give permission for others to follow your lead and fall in love with you, too.


Extract from Ask Me Anything (heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions from teenage girls)” by Rebecca Sparrow, University of Queensland Press.