Several years ago, I was teaching a class to junior high students, and the topic was gender roles. I remember thinking, this will be so fun, because things will be so different for them than they were for me.
Unfortunately, gender roles and stereotypes are alive and well in teen culture. Girls are still often harassed by guys about their looks, dress, body parts, and more. Guys feel pressure to be muscular and cool. Girls feel pressure to be thin and sexy. Guys still feel the pressure to initiate a relationship. Girls fear that if they are too forward, guys will not like them.
As parents, we need to make sure we are addressing these issues head on. Talk about them directly with your teen. Talk about the stereotypes, what’s underneath them, and how to counter them.
Give your girls messages that they are strong, and your boys messages that they are sensitive. Help them both learn how to communicate with each other. Engage in stereotype-busting behavior yourself, and encourage them to do the same. Require the boys to do dishes, and the girls to mow the lawn. Have the boys clean the bathroom sometimes, and teach the girls how to change the oil in the car.
In middle and high school, stereotypes are strong, and peer pressure is great. There is often less in college, but it can still be present. Make sure your children have exposure to activities and attitudes that counter destructive stereotypes and help them become well-rounded young people in our world.