Category Archives: Find Your Feet

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
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.
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.  
Lucy Perry CEO   I love Lucy Perry – she’s the CEO of Sunrise Cambodia and she regularly posts inspiring, smart, cool stuff. She’s brilliant.

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Turia Pitt – Um. it’s TURIA PITT. She’s fierce.

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

Yassmin Abdel-Magied   2015 Queensland Young Australian of the Year, Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a mechanical engineer, social advocate, writer and petrol head. At 16 she founded Youth Without Borders. Born in Sudan, raised in Australia she is a force of nature! 

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.

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.

Meshel Laurie: Meshel is more than just a comedian, a columnist and a radio host, she’s an activist. Following Meshel’s Facebook page and listening to her podcast (The Nitty Gritty Committee) I have learned so much about so many marginalised groups and people in Australia.  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

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

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, Susan Carland, 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, Australia’s first indigenous woman elected into the Lower House Linda Burney MP and former politician and now Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Stott Despoja.

 

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.

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)

 

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 (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 three perpetrators (two male and one female).

 

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

Everything to Live For by Turia Pitt

VIDEO FOR PARENTS:  Rosalind Wiseman (author of Queen Bees and Wannabes). This is 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

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

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

This one phrase will stop gossip immediately

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

There are thousands but a new one to give a whirl is Eliza Starting at 16 by Eliza Rubin ( Eliza is the teenage daughter of Happiness researcher Gretchen Rubin).

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.

The Nitty Gritty Committee hosted by Meshel Laurie is an education in being human.

 

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)

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.

 

Who you are in high school is NOT who you are for the rest of your life.

FeetIt’s this:  Who You Are In High School Is Not Who You Are For The Rest Of Your Life

There are two big things I remember about high school: truly ridiculous amounts of homework. And being labelled. Do any of these sound familiar? You’re the sports star or the geek or the loner or the teacher’s pet or the brain or the gossip or the one who is always gossiped about. Or maybe you’re the bully or the loud mouth or the school captain or one of the “choir kids” or a muso or a science-lover or part of the “cool group” or the guy who spends his lunch hours in the library researching Japanese anime or the girl who seems to spend her entire life organising charity cake stalls and fashion parades. Maybe you did something in year nine that people were still talking about in year 12. Or maybe it’s what you didn’t do that set tongues wagging.

That can be the problem with high school. It’s like being forced to live in Summer Bay for several years. It seems like everyone remembers everything. The place thrives on rumour and gossip. And it feels impossible to shake off a label once it’s been super-glued to your back. Thankfully this doesn’t last forever. It really doesn’t.

 

The good news: once school ends you get to reinvent yourself

Some people – lots of people – feel tortured in high school because of the way they’re perceived or misunderstood, or the reputation (deserving or not) they get stuck with. But here’s the good news;­ whatever label was smacked on your head in high school can be peeled off when you walk out those gates for the last time. Think of it like an Etch-a-Sketch that gets wiped clean. Your reputation gets packed away along with your school uniform and textbooks.

See, the great thing about The Rest Of Your Life is that you get to reinvent yourself. And you get to reinvent yourself as many times as you like. A bit like Lady Gaga (except maybe without the meat dress).

Here’s an example. A girl in my year 12 class who was seen as Mayoress of Dorktown transformed into this incredibly cool political science student after high school. She went to uni and suddenly found her tribe – other students who were into the same stuff that she liked (the student union, rallies, clever jokes about politicians that no-one else understood). Her new friends were people who couldn’t have cared less that she was always chosen last when we played basketball in high school. At university she found people who liked her for who she was.

That’s the thing — many people blossom when they’re given the freedom to be themselves.

The great thing about the real world is that all of a sudden you’ll find yourself exposed to new ideas, philosophies and ways of seeing the world. After years of having to wear a uniform, adhere to ‘regulation sock height’ and live by certain school values — you’ll have the freedom to experiment with different looks and ideals. And nobody is going to be hovering by waiting to give you a detention because your fringe is too long.

In exactly the same way, whoever you were in high school can also end on that last day of year 12. Maybe you’re not that proud of how you behaved in high school (or the friends you were hanging around) but you felt trapped by a label and continued to play the role of the bully or the socialite or the brainiac. Well the world outside of high school is full of people who don’t know anything about you, so you get to start over. Sort of like being in a witness protection program (okay, not really). But my point is you get to start afresh with a clean slate. Learn from your mistakes. Decide what you want to do differently. Make a decision to be the best version of yourself that you can be and then go for it. It’s never too late to change.

Lastly, the great thing about leaving high school is that those people you really, really didn’t gel with — you never have to see them again. Huzzah! Once you’ve graduated you can choose who you’d like to see each day. You can kiss the bullies or the mean girls goodbye (not literally… that could be awkward.). High school ending is really just the beginning of a whole new chapter in your life.

The bad news: small fish in a big pond syndrome

While some people cannot wait to finish high school, move on and shrug off the labels assigned to them, other students may not be quite so keen to leave their glory days behind. I mean, what if you were school captain? Or voted The Girl Most People Want To Be Stranded on A Deserted Island With? What if you topped Maths or Biology and loved the fact you were the smartest person in your class? Now what?

You can really struggle when your environment changes and you no longer have the ‘status’ you had in high school. What I mean is, you become a small fish in a big pond (having spent maybe five years being a big fish in a small pond at high school). Maybe you were the smartest person at your school and now everyone in your first year Science degree is like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. Suddenly, nobody thinks you’re special (well, except your Nanna). But try to look at the bright side — the pressure is off you a bit. You can actually relax instead of having to maintain the reputation of always topping Chemistry or English. Or maybe what you were missing in high school was the challenge to push yourself. Suddenly you’re with a whole heap of other smart kids you can learn from. Maybe instead of being made to feel like a freaky genius, you can choose to revel in being around other students who love talking about politics and current affairs and who actually understand nuclear fusion. Accept the difference as a good thing.

Or perhaps you were extremely popular in high school and all of a sudden you don’t have an entire school community in awe of you. Maybe at your job, people don’t really notice you or give you any attention the way they did in grade 12. Again, look at the positive. You no longer have the pressure of having to behave in a certain way. Let me get all Dr Phil for a second and remind you that you don’t need to be the most popular person in the room to be happy. If you behave in a way that is kind and friendly, if you demonstrate integrity and compassion and can laugh at yourself — you’ll find your feet. And anyway, the more popular you are, the more people want a piece of you. Enjoy being part of the crowd for a change — sometimes it’s a relief to have no expectations on you.

 

You are not defined by your Year 12 score

Finally, let me repeat something I wrote an entire chapter on in Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I FIND YOUR TRIBE COVERwish I’d known in high school) — your future success does not rely on your year 12 score.

For the first few months after high school is finished your friends will probably be obsessed with knowing what score you (and everyone else) received but then they’ll moves on. A great score is fantastic (go you!) but is no guarantee that your life is going to be all ponies, kittens and rainbows. Long-term success is about being resilient.

In a similar way, a terrible score doesn’t mean you’re destined to be a failure either. So you bombed out? Okay, that sucks. But if you really want to chase a goal, you’ll find another way to get there.

It’s worth remembering that some people are late bloomers. A fabulous example is my friend (and fellow author) Kim Wilkins. Kim writes:

“I was a late bloomer in every sense of the word. I still played with my dollhouse in the first year of high school, until one of the other girls told me that it was lame. I was puzzled and sometimes horrified by the things my teenage peers talked about and did. I gained a reputation for being the biggest “dag” in my grade. I flunked almost everything at high school and spent a very long time working in fast food jobs and typing jobs. In fact, I’d say that I didn’t really blossom until my mid-twenties. I went back to school and finished my senior, got into uni, started writing books, and haven’t looked back.”

 

Let me tell you, Kim’s being modest. Today she’s an internationally acclaimed author of twenty books. She’s a university lecturer. She’s won a University Medal for pete’s sake. She’s living the life of her dreams. And she flunked out at high school. So if you too bombed out in high school… don’t despair. Tomorrow is another day. Just look at Kim.

*This is an extract from FIND YOUR FEET (the 8 things I wish I’d known before I left high school). You can by that book here or here.