What an Aware Young Woman Should Know

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Ultimately, no one can save our daughters better than our daughters themselves.

Ideally, young girls will know enough to see trouble coming and avoid it, but wisdom is a hard-earned commodity. Few of us earn enough of it as adolescents to avoid the temptations that adolescence brings.

Our daughters need help.

They will not only welcome it but also embrace it when offered by caring adults in an organized peer-support program. I founded the Best Friends program upon realizing that so many young women had little real help in their lives, and what support they did have was unstructured and insubstantial.

Aristotle once wrote that there are three kinds of friendship – those of utility, pleasure, and virtue. The highest form of friendship is based on virtue, that of a person wishing the best for friends, regardless of utility or pleasure. This is the truest of friends.

Our credo at the Best Friends Foundation is

The best friend to have is the one who makes you a better person.

Appropriately, the curriculum begins with the unit called “Friendship.” Friendship matters as much to boys as it does to girls, and it is the theme that unites our program.

I believe that the surest step a girl can take to protect herself when she is away from home is to have at least one good friend on whom she can rely. The curriculum units within the Best Friends program contain vital information for the protection of our girls. In the program, in order to make the girls their own first line of defense, we focus on a series of related assumptions.

• Friends respect each other while they pursue a common goal and help each other make the right decisions, and the best friend to have is that person who makes her friend a better person.

• Sex and love are not the same, sex is never a test of love, friendship precedes love, and abstinence until marriage is the best policy.

• In middle school and high school, it is better to have boyfriends who are the same age and certainly no more than two years older.

• Girls can earn self-respect through honesty, self-control, and accomplishment; self-respect begins with the assumption of responsibility for one’s behavior.

• When girls accept responsibility for their decisions and make choices that show respect for themselves and for others, they will succeed.

• Alcohol impairs their decision making, erodes their health, clouds their judgment about sex, and should be avoided, especially since so many people today have a predisposition to alcoholism. We also make it clear that it is illegal to drink alcohol until age twenty-one.

• Drugs cause all the problems that alcohol does and, in addition, can lead to addiction, imprisonment, and death. In the vast majority of states it is illegal to use marijuana and other addictive drugs.

• Fitness requires proper nutrition, regular exercise, and self-discipline. Being fit provides the rewards of good health and self-respect.

• The only sure protection against HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases is abstinence from intravenous drug use and abstinence from sexual activity until both partners are in a monogamous marriage.

As timeless as these lessons are, as rich as they are in common sense, our girls must do constant battle with a culture that mocks and diminishes virtues and these practices. At the end of the day, each of our daughters must face not just one Goliath, but many.

Although each daughter must ultimately stand alone, there is much we can do to arm her.

Watch this sobering video on Daughters In Danger:

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Your Turn

This is such an important topic for parents to face bravely and positively with their daughters! How have you helped raise your daughter to be an aware young woman? How often do you talk with your daughter about protecting herself when she’s away from home? How do you encourage self-respect? Even with today’s myriad of concerns for teenage girls, we can equip our daughters to be prepared, aware, and successful! Leave a comment on our blog! We’d love to hear from you!

Elayne Bennett

Elayne Bennett serves as the founder and director of the Best Friends Foundation and is an avid spokeswoman on issues of adolescent behavior and development. She is the wife of William J. Bennett and the mother of two sons.

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