Aunties Are 'Just As Important As Mothers' When Raising Women, Say Experts
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There’s no denying that the influence of a strong, supportive role-model when you’re young can make all the difference in the world.
For many girls and young women this role of course falls to their mothers, however a parenting expert has claimed that aunties could have a far more important and profound impact on the development of their nieces than previously thought.
Speaking on ABC's Parental As Everything podcast, Steve Biddulph, a psychologist, activist and author of a number of influential best-selling books, including Raising Girls And 10 Things Girls Need, explained why aunties, or similar figures, are crucial for young women.
During a discussion about the everyday pressures teenage girls are faced with as a result of both their sexualisation and the pressures exerted by social media Biddulph said it was essential that they had people to look up to and turn to for advice as well as their parents.
He said: “One of the things that we know is that, for example, something every 12 year old girl knows for sure is that she doesn't wanna turn out like her mum.
"This is sad, I'm not taking any joy in this, but there are phases when they don't wanna listen to you, but they still need lots of help. Aunties are a pillar of mental health for girls. It doesn't have to be a blood relation, it's just somebody around your mum's age who loves you too.”
Biddulph suggested that anyone who has a niece, or a close friend's daughter who they can take under their wing, should make a concerted effort to build strong bonds.
He said that when the child reaches the age of about eight, ‘aunties’ should invite them around to their house to do stuff without their parents, in order to create an independent relationship.
He also advised that once that bond has been established they should ask deep and meaningful questions, like 'What do you want your life to be about?', and quiz nieces about things like relationships and mental health so they can offer advice that some young women might not want to get from their mums.
"If you don't provide this then girls will default to the peer group, and this is where social media gets out of control, because the peer group is very ill equipped to be supportive," he warned.
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