Helping girls to feel empowered
Low self-esteem can set young girls up for a multitude of problems: depression, anxiety, binge-drinking and disordered eating.
Catherine Sousa is offering help before it gets to that point.
Her ten-week programme will identify individual strengths and show how they can be put to work so girls feel empowered.
“Self-esteem is basically how you feel about yourself,” said Ms Sousa, a counsellor at Benedict Associates.
“Setting and achieving goals depends on how competent you feel. If you don't feel good about yourself, it's hard to set goals; you're defeated before you start.
“Low self-esteem is an overall thing. It's not just, ‘I don't feel I'm good at playing soccer', it's more like, ‘I'm just not measuring up here'. It can affect academic performance and can lead to clinical problems; to depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.
“When a child is saying things like, ‘Girls are teasing me, they won't let me play with them, I'm not as good at things as they are', it's a sign your child could use a boost. If we get in earlier, we can give them the skills to prevent the onset of anything more serious.”
She started the classes, for girls between the ages of 8 and 11 and 12 to 14, because she saw the need.
“If anybody else is [offering a similar course] it's not made public and, having worked at schools and social service agencies, I recognise a lot of children could benefit from this,” she said.
“Things really change at that age group, at middle school. Peer pressure comes into play a lot in that age bracket.
“Having worked with many children over the years, I know, particularly with girls, that we see a decline in their self-esteem as they get older.
“If they're saying, ‘I don't feel good about myself, no one likes me, it's hard to make friends', those are real concerns.
“First of all, we'll talk about their problems. I'll [help to] identify their strengths and will support them in using these strengths to address barriers to meaningful achievement and communication both at home and at school.”
Ms Sousa accepts a maximum of six girls per class. She believes the group setting will prove particularly helpful to children who sign up.
“If they're getting rejected at school it may be that they're actually misinterpreting social cues, for example. So if we have a group to provide that assistance about what other kids are expecting and if have a group where kids can give feedback to one another, we're dealing within the moment.
“One-on-one assistance is helpful but the benefit to having a group is to get feedback from peers; they're likely to have shared experiences, thoughts and feelings and it's often [one's] peer group that affects self-esteem. Also, it's very cost-effective for parents. Individual work is very expensive.”
Girls will leave the programme with “higher self-esteem, increased life satisfaction, and heightened desire to set goals and achieve successful outcomes in areas of significance to them”, Ms Sousa said.
• The hour-long sessions begin next month in the Emporium Building on Front Street. The cost is $499. Contact Ms Sousa at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 295-2070 ext 323 to apply