The Truth for Girls Understands How A Child’s Mind Works

As a psychologist and an educator I’ve spent many years helping children be better understood and to better understand themselves. One thing I emphasize is that children learn over many years not only how to express themselves but what they are allowed to express.

Recently, I learned all of this anew by finding in my attic my old diaries from the 4th, 5th and sixth grades. Page by page I detailed my life from what I ate for breakfast, to the weather, to playing with a friend, studying for a test, going to visit my relatives, moving to a new town, etc. But what I didn’t include in these diaries were my feelings, secrets worries or questions about life.

I wouldn’t have dared to put into print any of the above. Not because I was afraid someone would read my diary, I really wasn’t afraid and anyway it had a lock on it. I just couldn’t even imagine saying certain things out loud. Merely verbalizing my fear of dying, or my run-in with a neighbor who was inappropriate to me, was beyond the scope of permission I would give myself to speak aloud in any form. Writing the diary was good as it gave me practice in writing, but sharing my feelings would take more than writing practice.

Now as I read the pages of going iceskating and receiving a dollar from my cousin Eleanor, I realize so clearly what was missing. And it is okay that some things are not expressed aloud by kids. But what is not okay, is not giving kids help in expressing themselves.

How do we do this as parents? By talking to them and listening to them. We need to share enough of our memories of growing up, including the feelings and anxieties as to open the door for permission for them to share back. We need to listen for the obvious cues of the crying behind a closed door, but also to the silent cues, when a kid is just not sharing enough.

I’m glad my diaries are with me. The child in me is still able to remind me, and so I remind you. Never forget that children need our permission and help to learn what is okay to talk about and share.

The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) can be a great place to start. As the girl in the diary does share her feelings and fears as well as her hopes and dreams. I wrote the book that way so you can use it as a spring board to talk to your daughter or granddaughter. The girl gets us started on a wonderful road to sharing.

Chinese Version of The Truth Handles Girl’s Anxiety Issues

I think it is interesting to share with you some of The Girl’s entries into her diary that are not in the American version of The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything). Two of her entries are about an anxiety dream she has several weeks before she starts the seventh grade in a new school, in a new town. Read on to find out what the dream was like, how her mother helped her handle the dream and what she learned about her parent.

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Only three more weeks until we go back to school. I had a nightmare last night that I couldn’t find my new classrooms and I ended up back in the hallway that has the first, second and third grade classrooms. My heart was pounding in the dream and I was sweating. I kept running up and down the hallway but I couldn’t find any older kids, only babies, six, seven and eight. I knew I would be the last one to get to my new homeroom and I would look like a fool on the first day of school. No one comes in late on the first day!

Then I finally saw the hallway that goes to the seventh and eighth grade classrooms. But when I tried to reach it, it was like I could hardly move. I just couldn’t get there. I felt myself pulling on my body to move but nothing happened.

Then I woke up. I went in to my mother and father’s room and lay down on the floor with a blanket from my bed. They didn’t even know I was there. I just couldn’t be alone after that dream. I hate dreams like that and that’s the truth.

___________

My mother said I had an anxiety dream and a lot of people do before they have to do something new. I’m glad she told me that. I hope I don’t have anymore anxiety dreams.

She told me a lot of other stuff today. I guess ‘cause I’m getting older. My mother really knows a lot. She should have been a doctor or a teacher. She never went to college but wants me to go.

She told me that she had a choice of being a secretary or working in my Uncle Dan’s clothing store when she finished high school. She chose to become a secretary because my Grandfather said he would pay for her to go to secretarial school.

I asked her if she wanted to go to college. She said that she never thought about it because none of the girls in her family had ever gone to college.

She told me that once her brother said to her, “Edith, you are dumb but beautiful. Don’t worry. That’s ok. It is better than being dumb and not pretty.”

My mother promised herself when I was born that I would get more education than she had. She told me that she has been putting ten dollars a week away since I was born for my college education.

I hope I can really make her proud of me. I know that I’m smart. I hope that I’m pretty. I’m still scared and that really is the truth.

The Summer is a Great Time To Spread Your Wings, Even in the Water!

It is wonderful to have a junior journalist to help me write articles for this blog. Who can express what it feels like to be a young girl better than a young girl? I’m so happy to have Linh, my first assistant journalist, from Vietnam, joining me again. You may remember that her mother brought home The Truth in Vietenemese for Linh, when she was 10 and after she read the book she wrote to me. This started a correspondence and friendship. I know feel I know her family and hope someday we will all meet in person.

Linh’s article this time is about swimming. It is her experiences swimming recently, as told to her diary, and I think any girl around the ages of 9-13 can really relate to what she is sharing. She really spreads her wings in the water. Here’s the article:

Dear Diary,
Today is just another regular day. Nothing new. Nothing strange. But I like it more than any other days ! If you wonder why, then read on!
I was taken to the swimming pool on Lach Tray Street by motorbike. My relatives who decided to go out with me that day began jogging as well as taking photos. As for me, Dear Diary, as I am the leading lady of this diary, I came into the bathroom of the swimming pool and changed into my bathing suit. After warming up, I went into the water.
Being underwater during hot days is NOT A BAD IDEA. At first, I felt a little cold, but then I started to feel good enough to go on swimming. But moving in the pool by combining your arms, your legs and breathing is not easy. I was tired after each lap and asked myself how professional swimmers can suffer from swimming so long, without feeling too exhausted to continue.
I stopped to relax by playing with the water. Suddenly, I heard: “Sister Mimi !”. So familiar ! Then I realized the voice came from my little brother. He was standing beside my mother who was using her camera to take photos of mine. I love to take photos and to be in photos, so I was glad to perform my swimming actions for the camera. Then, when I arrived home, all of my family members gathered in the living room to see my pictures and videos at the swimming pool. Yeah, I swam just like a frog and I was proud of being able to struggle with water so successfully. Actually, to swim when a person is trying to record your movements is very interesting !
I’m sleepy now. I’m sure that so are you. Good night and sweet dreams, my beloved Diary.

I hope you enjoyed Linh’s diary entry. Keeping a diary is a very special way to communicate with ourselves at all stages of life. It not only is a means of recording events but it is a special place to share feelings and even to ask questions. It is a kind of sanctuary. Have you kept a diary? Of course the girl in The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) keeps one and it becomes critical for her as she shares all of her secrets there.

Thanks to Linh for this article! Make sure you also spread your wings in many fun ways this summer!

The Truth is starting its journey to becoming a play, The Locket!

The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) is coming a alive in the most amazing way! It is developing into a play. The first staged reading of the play took place on June 2, 2013 at 6:30 PM at the Asbury Park Musical Heritage Foundation. Seven girls played the girl in the book. They actresses were Alysa Finnegan, Julia Hecht, Kaylin Iannone, Carlee Iannone, Tess McDougal, Angie Bianchi and Megan Brown. They ranged in age from 8 to 15. There was also a professional actress, Heather O’Scanlon. The play was directed by Bob Angelini.

Was I excited? Absolutely. Hearing the girls act and bring the girl to life was an amazing thrill. The most amazing thing of all, was how all 7 girls made here so alive. It didn’t matter whether the lines were spoken by a girl or 8 or a girl of 15. The lines and comments and opinions and worries of the girl still all rang so true.

We played to a full house! After the performance, I gave a little talk in which I explained how the girl had come to exist. Good fiction is based on truths and my book certainly is based on truths. As a psychologist I am so aware that children have insight, wisdom and deep feelings. Capturing this in a book for girls was easy for me, as I am so convinced that we need to listen to each other so much more carefully than we usually do. Our kids need to be heard and also the girl or boy still inside of the grown-up has to be better understood and that voice allowed to come through. We don’t want to keep down the real source of all our energy and enthusiasm!

That’s right, it is the kid within us! Treasure her.

I hopw you enjoy this short clip from The Locket.

Why Lockets Are So Important in Books for Ten Year Old Girls And All The Rest of Us!

Did you ever own a locket? If you did you probably remember the magic of first checking to see if it really opened and then trying to figure out what to put in the picture spots. Usually there were two, one on each side. If you received your first locket when you were a girl, as I did, then you probably chose yourself for one of the pictures. At least I did. It made sense to me, as I had no siblings and if I put pictures in of my mom and dad, then where would I go?

What if I had a crush? Actually I did, but I never would have dreamed of puttling the boy’s picture in. My crush was even to personal to be hidden in a locket.

I liked to wear my locket as it gave me something lovely to touch when I was bored or thinking abstractly in school. It was engraved with some small hearts in a pattern and I could follow the pattern.

So when I was writing The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) it was natural for me to put a locket in the story. And for the girl it became very important as she, like most of us, came to value her locket. But for her, unlike me, the locket became a perfect vessel for a secret that she was trying to take into adulthood.

I can’t give it away, that would be unfair. But I do want to share with you some remarks from my associate journalist, Linh, the girl in Vietnam who read The Truth in Vietenemese and then wrote to me. She actually gave the girl a name as she read the book. Here are a few remarks she made about the locket:

“I decided to choose her the name “Funny” when I first read her diary two years ago. Today, I’m writing about her, specifically about her locket and her feelings about it.
On Funny’s birthday – March 30th – she was given money and a lot of gifts. However, maybe the present that she took most of her notice to was the necklace with a locket her aunt gave her. The locket was heart-shaped and lovely with spaces to put two photos in. Funny was extremely happy and satisfied with the gift Aunt Belinda gave her. That is to say, she ran around her room eagerly and kept the locket on her chest before putting the necklace around her neck. And in the locket, there was a picture of hers which was put in by Aunt Belinda. What about the other space ? Which photo would Funny put in, along with her own picture ?
After going downstairs, Funny talked again to her grandmother. Her .grandmother asked her whether she would put her little brother’s picture in the cute locket. Funny didn’t answer, but she thought that she would never put any photo of her little brother’s in the locket with her photo. She wanted to put Paul’s picture – the boy that she had fallen in love with before – in the locket instead. She thought couples often put each other’s picture in a locket like that. But she could find no ways to have one photo of Paul’s. At first, she intended to use Paul’s picture in his student card, but the picture couldn’t be neither taken out nor small enough to be in Funny’s locket. Funny wanted to borrow the Brownie camera of her parents; unfortunately, they wouldn’t permit her to bring it to school. It was such a pity !
There are many things else about Funny that we can discuss more. But still her lovable locket with Funny’s insighful emotions are very awesome, to me personally. Do you also think so, girls ?”

Do you have memories of a locket? Please share by writing to me at drbarbara@enchantedself.com or on the facebook page: The Truth for Girls.

Why Did I Write The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know Everything)?

Many know me as a positive psychologist, and a therapist. Others remember me as a school psychologist and there are still many who remember me as a first and second grade teacher. Perhaps theirs!

But we are always more than our outer self and those who know me personally know that I am a keeper of the secret voices and issues that we all face as girls and women.

I learned from my father, Dr. Harry A. Becker, Superintendent of Schools in Norwalk, Connecticut and first president of the Norwalk Community Collge, that opportunity is critical for women. Women who don’t make or have a chance to make wise educational decisions may be at the mercy of their society.

My dad spent his professional life designing programs of education and training that would help both men and women find places of dignity for themselves in the work place. He started the School of Dental Hygeine at the University of Bridgeport, the School of Nursing there and the School of Education. In Norwalk, the Norwalk Community College has had 172,000 students study there since the first courses were offered around l970.

I believe that his passion to helping woman think through how they will educate themselves and still live a full life if they desire of raising children, marriage, etc. has fused within in me into a passion for helping girls and women recognize their own potential and have the courage to hold on to and appreciate the best of themselves.

This is no easy task, as what is so fun and playful when we are 10 or 11 becomes very hard to stay part of ourselves when hormones and media pressures start to flow around 12. And by the time we are grown-ups other pressures such as holding a job, marriage, babies, aging parents, money, etc. keep us from delighting in and encouraging the sparks within ourselves that are our talents, strengths and potential.

But we all know that a sober book about this subject may not do the trick. What can help is the use of drama. Good books and plays leave their mark because we are emotionally aroused and infused afterwards.

Watch my video on what I decided to do:

That’s what I decided to do with The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything). I decided to write a great easy read book for girls, a profound book, like The Little Prince in its simplicity. And like Laura books about The Little House on The Prairie, read enough, with a girl speaking from her heart, so that all girls could relate.

But it wasn’t enough just for them to related to the girl. I needed the moms and teachers and grandmoms to also relate. And I think I have achieved that. We all have the laughing, delightful girl inside of us, who is still full of energy and talents. We just need to find her again and again, celebrate her and let her come alive.

The girl in The Truth finds away to hold on to her girl as she is about to become a teen and I know the energy and wisdom she shares is helping the rest of us also hold on to the girl inside of ourselves!

Forward by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein:

I am excited and pleased that my first assistant journalist is now aboard The Truth for Girls website. She is Linh from Vietnam. A school girl herself, who read The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) several years ago in Vietnamese, she will add a depth and richness to articles that only a young girl can. Linh found me after reading The Truth and writing to me on e-mail. She is a talented, insightful, hard-working girl and I am thrilled to add her wisdom and advice to www.thetruthforgirls.com and to the Face book page:  Truth for Girls.

Assistant Journalist, Linh, from Vietnam writes:  Summer Is On Its Way! 

Summer is on its way. Everything around us is changing rapidly : the weather, the temperature, and our life as well.

At this time, what are you doing ? Before looking at your own list of activities to join during summer, let’s see if anything below may interest you.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERATraveling: The arrival of summer means we now can leave our studies behind. After a busy school year with so many lessons, exams and stress, students worldwide are given a permission to begin their relaxing summer vacations.  What is the first thing you think about?

For me, it is traveling.  First of all, we have time; to be more exact, we have spare time. During year, we must concentrate on our work and studies, so we do not have enough time to spend on traveling. Now, with summer, there is not a barrier that prevents us from doing anything that we want.

During summer vacation, I often go traveling with my family, or my class.  Each journey helps me broaden my knowledge and change my attitude to the world outside. For example, it is common knowledge that each region has its own features, such as history, customs, and so on.  We can accumulate a wide range of lore and then become better educated for our dreams ahead.

200304242-001Playing sports: Summer is also good time for us to practice playing sports. If you want to keep fit and shape, playing sports maybe the best to satisfy your demands. In the summer, there are a lot of sports clubs and gyms or swimming pools being opened for people to come and practice. Some popular sports during summer are, for example : badminton, swimming, tennis and more. Last summer, I went swimming and attended a badminton club.

Swimming not only gives me a healthy body, but it is important for safety.  If you can swim, you are able to avoid unexpected dangerous circumstances and protect yourself from most threats related to water. Therefore, personally, of all the sports, I prefer swimming. What about you ?

Attending extra classes : Apart from spending most of your time relaxing by traveling or playing sports, it is a good idea for you to enlist time to participate in extra classes.  During summer vacation, whether I like or not, I try to arrange my timetable to learn in extra classes to enhance my knowledge. Thanks to this, in the next school year, I tend to do better in the subjects that I kept learning during summer. Perhaps you also enjoy studying in the summer?

Doing charity : If you look around you will find unhappy and less privileged people. Homeless people, children with disabilities, orphans,…are people who actually need help. Although we are just little children, I think we still can give them a hand. For example, you can help children who live in an orphanage or in shelters.  Why not start a group of your friends or classmates to help?  Your group doesn’t  have to raise money, but you can hold campaigns that urge people to show more concern.  Maybe you can get people to donate book bags, picture books, new summer clothing or other items.  In some places like where I live, we can even go and visit and play with disabled children who live in an orphanage.  I’ve gone with my mother and I played with the children.  Remember, all the things you do should be from your heart. You are not helping less fortunate kids to build your reputation or draw attention of others to you; you are acting for your community.

These are some activities that you can take part in during summer vacation. Summer is great time for you to color your life with different activities, and I think after summer vacations, you will become more experienced than ever before!  Please write back on this blog or send your thoughts to drbarbara@enchantedself.com or share on the facebook page, The Truth for Girls.

 

A little about me Lihn:

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Hello girls ! My name is Dang Thi Hoai Linh, and you can just call me Linh if you want. I’m 13 years old and I’m Vietnamese. I live in a beautiful two-story house in Haiphong City, Vietnam with my family members, including my paternal grandmother, my parents and my little brother. My hobby is writing and I actually love imagining my own stories. Beside that, I also like taking photos when traveling, especially landscapes. This is the first time I’ve ever become an assistant journalist and written articles about aspects that I’d like to show more concerns about. Truthfully, my biggest dream is to study in the United States in the future, so I’m very grateful to Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein who always tries to give me golden chances to learn and experience. I hope that all of you will be interested in my articles and help me get more experiences in writing. Thank you and see you soon in my articles !

Best regards,

Linh ♥

The Truth for Girls is Today’s Girl Doesn’t Want to Be Just a Sleeping Beauty!

This girl looks like she is having a lovely night’s sleep and that is wonderful. We want our kids to sleep deeply and walk refreshed. But don’t think they want to be in a fairy tale like Sleeping Beauty! No way. Today’s girl is full of energy and life and she isn’t going to sit around or nap and wait for prince charming to come along on a white horse.

child sleeping

We, now adult women, may have believed, and some of us still believe that we will be saved by the right man finding us. Thankfully, more and more girls in todays world assume they will make their own way as well as find a suitable mate. They don’t always wait for a fellow to call or text them. The chase is more mutual as it should be.

What does that mean in terms of raising a daughter? It means we really have to work hard to make sure our girls grow up strong with good self-esteem and lots of resiliency. And how do we do this?
By building on their strengths, talents and potential.
By not ignoring their feelings and ideas.
By spending direct time with them, without the distraction of technology.
By laughing and sharing parts of yourselves with them.
By going places and doing acitivities together and remembering good times.

And of course by encouraging their sense of self through the written word. There are many books that are great books for girls. Little House on the Prairie never goes out of style! Little Women helps to build character. There are 100’s of these classics. And in today’s world there are great books for girls. The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) is a wonderful place to start building self-esteem with your daughter or granddaughter. It is an easy read and you can have a great discussion after every page. If she is 8, read it together. If she is 9, 10 or older, after she reads the books sit and discuss the questions in the back and discuss page by page.

Have fun making sure your daughter or granddaughter is no Sleeping Beauty!

Author Dr Barbara Becker Holstein talks about children’s anxieties and how to help

Secret Diary Entry not in The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything).

I just finished reading A Summer Camp Miracle Story. Angela said she loved the book so I borrowed it from her. In the story Jackie goes away to camp and has all sorts of adventures, both bad and good. She wins an award for paddling a canoe the fastest and she makes lots of friends. But something bad happens. She almost drowns in the deep end of the lake. It’s a long story. She gets saved by the senior life guard and has fun at the hospital having her lungs checked out cause she swallowed so much water.

I don’t think I should have read the book. It made me so afraid. I’ve always been a little afraid of swimming in deep water and now I’m really scared. I don’t want to go to the beach this summer. What am I going to do? Kids are supposed to love to go to the beach. Who can I tell that I am pertrified? I don’t want to die that way.

I can’t tell Angela. She’ll think I’m a baby! I can’t tell me mother she will tell me I’m being ridiculous and that I’m a good swimmer.
I can’t tell my dad cause he was so proud of me when I passed the intermedite swimming test.

It’s times like this I don’t know what to do with myself. Can you help me Dear Diary?

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We often forget that kids have lots of fears and concerns. Even something they have appeared to have mastered can worry them again. They get triggered by upsetting information just as we do. The girl was triggered by reading a story where a child almost drowned. Even though the girl in the story was fine, the girl was left with increased anxiety and concern. And to top it off, she didn’t know where to turn.

We have to make sure as parents, teachers, grandparents, etc. that we are there for kids to turn to. We need to be alert to mood changes and/or remarks. Hopefully, the girl will get up her courage and ask the right person, or one of her parents will notice that she looks upset. Our job in real life is not to leave a child to just roam freely with anxiety and concerns. Our job is to pick up on nuances and spend enough time with our kids that we help to quiet the fear.

Great books for girls contain universal truths, as does The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything)

Do you remember as a child knowing the truth about a lot of things? I remember clearly. It may have been something small, like the litter in a public restroom. I knew at six that people should have made sure the litter got into the pail. Sometimes I even picked up other people’s paper towels to make sure. If my mother had seen me, she might have been rightly concerned about germs!

I also remember knowing that a lot of the fights my mother and father had and even fights I heard my grandmother and grandfather having were silly and not worth it. I wanted to stop them, but I didn’t have the power. However, I did promise myself that I wouldn’t fight over stupid things when I grew up.

Did I keep my promise? Somewhat. I wish I could say 100% but life is tough and I didn’t realize as a kid that I would still have to deal with moods and emotions when I was a grown-up.

In my book, The Truth, the girl makes a lovely list of the things she promises to do when she grows up. It is simple and rings true. Here is her list: Things for Grownups to Remember: Don’t be mean to animals; Try not to swear for a month; Don’t fight with anyone you love; Don’t put people down or call them names; Believe your child if she tells you she is in love; Answer a kid’s questions; Listen to their ideas.

It’s a good list for even us grown-ups. We might not always succeed but trying is better than not. And the world will be a better place! So let’s put our best foot forward.

Our kids will thank us, so will animals, so will people we don’t fight with and think how nice everything will feel without much swearing going on!