"Underestimated: The Wisdom and Power of Teenage Girls"
with Chelsey Goodan
Season 8, Episode 4

Chelsey Goodan is an educator, gender-justice activist, speaker, writer, and, for over a decade and a half, she has been an academic tutor and mentor with her particular emphasis on teenage girls. She founded the Activist Cartel in 2016 to take political and social action for gender and racial justice. She serves as the mentorship director of DemocraShe, a nonprofit which supports and guides teenage girls from historically underrepresented communities into leadership roles. She sits on the board with me of “A Call to Men“, a national gender based violence, prevention, nonprofit, that educates men and boys about healthy masculinity. Chelsey, as an activist, advises public figures, galvanizes volunteers, and organizes large scale events for national nonprofits. As a keynote speaker. She creates psychological safety for her audiences, sharing the unexpected skills and tools she has learned from her work educating and mentoring teenage girls. Chelsey regularly conducts empowerment workshops for teenage girls and coaches their parents on how to better connect with them. Chelsey is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is passionate about exploring humanity’s potential for authenticity, liberation, and empowerment.

That passion permeates in all of her work, including in her brand new book, “Underestimated the Wisdom and Power of Teenage Girls”. Of “Underestimated”, both Oprah’s Book Club and Oprah Daily have written: “If you have a teenage girl in your life, you need to read this!” Reese Witherspoon’s company, Hello Sunshine has also strongly endorsed the book!

In this Episode you will learn:

  • How to have judgement-free conversations with the teen girls in your life
  • How to “hold space” for teen girls
  • How to empower teen girls to make healthy choices, grow confidence and trust
  • How to talk to the teenage girls in your life about:
    • Success
    • Mental Health
    • Dress/Body Image
    • Perfection
    • Consent & Sexuality
    • Social Media
    • Celebrities
  • How to avoid weaving your own fears and anxieties into your conversations with the
    teen girl in your life

Petal Modeste: I am thrilled to welcome Chelsey Gooden to the podcast today. Chelsey  is an educator, gender-justice activist, speaker, writer, and, for over a decade and a half, she has been an academic tutor and mentor with her particular emphasis on teenage girls. She founded the Activist Cartel in 2016 to take political and social action for gender and racial justice. She serves as the mentorship director of DemocraShe, a nonprofit which supports and guides teenage girls from historically underrepresented communities into leadership roles. She sits on the board with me of A Call to Men, a national gender based violence, prevention, nonprofit, that educates men and boys about healthy masculinity. Chelsey, as an activist, advises public figures, galvanizes volunteers, and organizes large scale events for national nonprofits. As a keynote speaker. She creates psychological safety for her audiences, sharing the unexpected skills and tools she has learned from her work. Educating and mentoring teenage girls. Chelsey regularly conducts empowerment workshops for teenage girls and coaches their parents on how to better connect with them.Chelsey is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is passionate about exploring humanity’s potential for authenticity. liberation, and empowerment.

That passion permeates in all of her work, including in her brand new book, “Underestimated the Wisdom and Power of Teenage Girls”.  Of  “Underestimated”, both Oprah’s Book Club and Oprah daily have written: “if you have a teenage girl in your life, you need to read this!” Reese Witherspoon’s company, Hello Sunshine, has also strongly endorsed the book. Underestimation is the topic of all conversation today. Welcome Chelsey to parenting for the future. I am so thrilled to have you here.

Chelsey Goodan: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here with you.

Petal Modeste: So I’m going ask you a little bit about your background and the path you took to the work you are doing in the world today. As I mentioned, you graduated from NYU. What was your academic focus at NYU? And how did your studies lead you to your work as a tutor? 

Chelsey Goodan: Well,  NYU is known for really engaging a kid’s uniqueness in that. It’s like you kinda create whatever you envision and dream for yourself at that school. and I studied drama and theater. And I would say that I studied humanity. I studied people whether it’s performing or writing for them or interacting with them. I have found it to be an incredibly helpful degree, and every aspect of my life, whether it’s interviewing for a job, relating, entertaining, and having fun with a teenage girl or doing an interview for news right now, like being able to connect to my own voice and speak with clarity. All of that was taught to me through a drama degree, and then also just studying the intricacies of character and people. And what makes them tick is, has also been incredibly helpful. And then I took so many writing classes, creative writing classes at NYU that really helped support me in my writing. So a lot of that also be being able to enter this rare space of trust with these teenage girls is a lot about being really human with them, really honest, really real. And I try to be their portal for what they want to say to the world through their microphone. That’s what I feel is my role in this book that I’ve written is trying to translate. 

Petal: So I think the thematic thread in the book, and also in the work you’ve done is gender justice. you’ve done a lot of things in your life that speaks to empowerment of women in particular, and also obviously teenage girls. How did you become a gender justice advocate?

Chelsey Goodan: This started at a young age because I was always the girl that was trying to do the things the boys were doing. I wanted to play baseball, and there wasn’t a girl’s baseball team. and my dad made sure that I was allowed to join the boys baseball team in fourth grade, and I often found myself in environments like that and you know I was part of the generation of feminism where it was a little bit more like girls proving that they can do what boys do.  I was always the girl in the upper math class among the other boys. Right I. And when I found myself in those environments I was really empowered to speak up and advocate. many little moments supporting my voice, telling me I can do things that maybe society doesn’t. When I hit NYU where there were so many incredible classes, I mean, I remember my feminism and theater class, and all these different things that expose me. That was another thing with my degree that exposed me to so many different narratives and voices and cultures and that helped me understand where my voice fit into this larger scheme of things. 

Petal Modeste: I’m glad you mentioned your dad because you mentioned him throughout the book quite a bit, But it also goes to show the role that we have to play as parents as well, and sort of making sure that we amplify the voices of our children. Even when those voices seem a little different from the other ones that we might be hearing.

So let’s turn to “Underestimated” now. It is informed by thousands of hours of conversations with teenage girls, girls from all backgrounds, abilities, identities, and to use your words, it essentially shares what happens when we ask teenage girls what they think and what they want. Now you say that we parents, schools, and other adults are quick to dismiss teenage girls largely because we fear them and it is a fear that has become so normalized. We don’t even question it. What? Exactly do we fear? And why?

Chelsey Goodan: Yeah. So I mean, it’s as simple as you know, when people hear you’re having a little girl instead of a little boy, what do they say? Oh, just wait! 

Petal Modeste: Good luck with that!

Chelsey Goodan: Right?  it’s everywhere. And so it’s this subtle fear in a lot of ways like Dad’s fearing about her dating a boy, Mom’s fearing that they’re going to fight with their teenage daughter the way they fought with their mom. this type of fear that disempowers a girl because she feels really misunderstood. And also let’s talk about those big feelings of being characterized as hormonal and crazy. And she feels so dismissed. And these big feelings are actually very powerful and important, and they’ve fueled incredible feats, I mean, look at their support of Taylor Swift and Barbie, they’re not to be underestimated. But these big feelings are hard for parents to connect to and understand. And so they come at it with a lot of worry, a lot of like. Shut this down, let me fix it. Let me advise. Let me protect her at all costs, too. We’re missing an opportunity to empower her, to protect herself. You know, we hope to teach our kids how to step into their own power. And because yes, this world is scary. I’m not underestimating. Also, like there is a lot I mean their way, but I believe we are underestimating a girl’s ability to be a part of the conversation, and to create her own agency and solutions 

Petal Modeste:  I’ve definitely been there as a mom to a teenager where I act out of fear, I tell myself I’m protecting her. I tell myself this is for her own good, but in fact, it’s fear that’s driving me. The title of each chapter of the book represents a topic teenage girls struggle with, and the very first chapter is feelings. What do teenage girls wish we knew most about their feelings?

Chelsey Goodan: they just need to be listened to and heard and validated. And you know I use the term holding space in the book. And it’s an idea that you don’t need to do anything beyond listening to her feelings and being like Oh, yeah, that sucks. Yeah. Oh, my gosh, that makes sense. I understand why you’d feel that way. Cause obviously, it’s really hard for a parent to see a kid in pain if they’re sharing something charged. It’s our instinct to come in and try to fix it for them, you know. Try to give them advice or try to put a positive spin on it and give the solution to her issue? And that is when the walls go up because they just feel misunderstood. And really, when I just hold that space they get relief. You can see it in their body, and they’re just like thanks, like no one understood, just needed someone to hear them and tell them they’re not crazy, right or too emotional. And the truth is, I believe these big feelings they feel. We all just learn, you know, as we go into adult head, how to squash them and repress them and minimize them. And they come out later in life and in therapy. 

Chelsey Goodan: What if, instead, we gave a girl an opportunity to sit in that space and understand these are totally normal human emotions  and then feeling them doesn’t mean she’s bad. 

Petal Modeste: But how long should we listen, Chelsey? Let’s look at anger. The teenage girl in our life is angry about something. Could be anything a friend, she lost a match, a soccer match. and she’s emoting. She’s expressing herself, and we’re holding space. We’re listening. Is there any kind of science around how long we should listen? And then, once we’ve listened, what should we do next? Should we ask questions? I know we shouldn’t try to solve things. So what next? 

Chelsey Goodan: Yes, so you know, a huge practical tip I have in this book is phrase everything as a question, and also ask her. How I do it is I’ll literally hold the space, and if there’s a moment I’m like, Hey, do you need more time to process this.   Do you want me to keep listening? I just asked her. Usually the answer to all the questions is, ask her and check in with a lot of respect. A lot of just non-judgmental, genuinely curious tone like it does involve you dealing with your own triggers. The thing girls can’t handle the most is feeling judged and shame and that does mean as a parent handling your own triggers so that they don’t feel that. So you ask how long to listen. I often say. Well, what do you need right now? Do you need me to keep listening? Do you need some more time to vent right now? Great! or do you want my thoughts on this? And you know, lots of times, once you’ve actually given them a ton of space to feel heard and understood, they will actually receive thoughts. I like to say thoughts instead of advice.  Ask her what her needs are. Do you want me to give you just some alone time right now to deal with this? And if she says I don’t know That’s okay, too, because we’re actually teaching her what that looks like for her to check in with herself and be like, wait! Do I need space? Wait! Do I need more time to vent? Do I want my mom’s thoughts on this? she actually needs a moment to even gauge what her needs are. So when a girl responds like that, I don’t know. Be like, okay, you know what I trust. You’re going to figure this out like that. You’ll be able to find answers that work for you – actually empower her with trust. The girls are much smarter, you know we are underestimating them to find their own internal wisdom with a lot of these issues

Petal Modeste: What about if some of what she’s expressing really makes us worry, you know she’s talking about hurting herself. She’s talking about hurting others.  For instance, same formula, same strategy?

Chelsey Goodan:  If  she’s saying something really serious like that which,  first of all, I always validate. Oh, my God, that sounds awful. Yeah, I hear you. That is awful. I always validate, first, that what they’re going through is really hard, and then I and then the other question I lean on like crazy is, what do you think the solution is, how would you? How would you like to handle it? Because I also find activating her choice in the process is going to be what sticks, what actually works right if we come in and say like, well, now, you need to definitely go to a therapist  lots of times it feels like they’re being forced to do something, and then, if it doesn’t work out, they’ll just blame the parent, anyway. Whereas, if she comes up with her own solution, she is way more into the idea of making it work.  In terms of things like self harm, more serious stuff, I would definitely be like, what type of support do you need? How would you like to handle this? I would just make sure she’s really included in the conversation, or I’d ask , do you want me to really step in here? Is therapy something you want me to help you find and to navigate? I’ve helped a lot of girls find a therapist or community support groups. And I would say, this generation is really into mental health 

Petal Modeste: And thank God

Chelsey Goodan: Oh my God it’s been such a cool shift and they really support seeing  therapists and talking about mental health issues and advocating for their mental health 

Petal Modeste: I agree with you. You talked in this chapter about this concept of powering through with our feelings, which a lot of us, I think, have been taught by our parents or their parents before them, taught them to do that.  Something is uncomfortable. Something is not going the way it should. And giving into vulnerability and authenticity. And the advice that you just gave really helps us understand why powering through is actually not the way to go.

Chelsey Goodan: Yeah

Petal Modeste:  Choice is the topic of the second chapter. So let’s talk a little bit about choice. Now you start that chapter with a story about a teenage girl named Brianna who is getting up late every day. harming her relationships with her parents. Big drama in the house. She’s not getting to school on time. Schoolwork is suffering, relationships with teachers are suffering. How did you help her make a choice to solve this problem? 

Chelsey Goodan: Well, the method I used was again phrasing everything as a question, with a tone that is genuinely curious.  No judgment and no secret agenda of what I. think is best for her. Okay? and letting go of that secret agenda is the work. and yes, I’m going to acknowledge, too, it’s easier for me because I am not the parent figure in their life. So I will acknowledge that openly. That said, I’ve seen it work so well. Because when she feels truly respected where I’m not trying to push her to do something, she really does find good solutions for herself. Make sure to affirm, affirm, affirm, and say it out loud, because that also creates her own self trust like. So with that interaction I basically just kept being like, Well, you know, what? You want to wake up in time for school?  Start with the most basic question like, cause no one’s actually asked them the most basic question right? usually way deeper stories going on, Why does she not want to go to this class? She’s like, no, I don’t care about it. Great. Then start asking why you don’t care about it? It can be quite simply like a math class that she just feels dumb in. But when I really invite radical honesty and truth in a safe space, an emotionally, psychologically safe space. That’s when they’re like, okay, wait, I actually have to think this through Okay, well.

How can you wake up? And it turned out, you know, her parents had taken away her phone, which was her alarm, right like it was classic stuff, right? So mad about that that it’s hard to see the next solution. Right? So then, I’m like, Okay, well, how do you feel about your mom waking you up like, well, I hate it. So what do you think? Another solution is right. And of course, in my mind, we’re thinking of something like an alarm clock. Right? 

Petal Modeste: Yeah, in this chapter at least, it was my first time hearing this acronym love which is, let others voluntarily evolve. I love this acronym, and I want to bring up a few situations  with our teenage girls, and hear how we can apply LOVE in that situation. So one of them is, a 15 year old, tells the parents that he wants to date somebody, and that person is 18 or 19 years old. How do you let them voluntarily evolve in that situation?

Chelsey Goodan: Yeah. Well. It’s hard to give overall advice. Right? Every teenager is going to be at different developmental stages. So, I approach it with curiosity. First, you know, say, hey, I really just want to understand. why this guy you’re into, what makes you feel good about dating him. Why, you feel like you’re responsible enough to have a relationship like that, like, talk to me. Tell me about it. Tell me your perspective on it. and give her space for her own voice rather than immediate crackdown. It’s the immediate crackdown that will put up walls, and probably secretly do it by the way, or do it with shame also. And  tell her. I’m not trying to do this to evaluate if you are right or wrong.  I’m doing this so that I can deal with my own triggers about this, and really meet you where you’re at right now.  And so that’s the jiu jitsu that I’m talking about – it’s not easy to navigate.

Petal Modeste: What about a 16 year old who wants to vape because she thinks it’s cool and all her friends are doing it.

Chelsey Goodan: Yeah. you know that framing of she thinks it’s cool, and her friends are doing it. I think there’s way more usually going on that actually again, kind of dismisses it as some flighty teenage girl thing, And we’re talking about vaping tobacco or weed? 

Petal Modeste: Oh, it is a good question. Probably weed. 

Chelsey Goodan: Yeah. cause that’s really the space that I know better. And When I actually asked girls how it makes you feel like, your intention behind doing it? And again with curiosity, no judgment and then it’s up to the parent to decide. I think it’s worth listening to because and not immediately just being like you’re bad. You’re wrong. Because what’s going to happen is they feel shame. They feel judgment. They go into hiding. They put up walls, and that’s not what parents want.  I’m just trying to prevent the wall. And the shame is, that’s my first goal. 

Petal Modeste: ok with these 2 examples, I think what hits me is also the physical well-being like with the example of vaping weed . We know what that does to the teenage brain. We know how dangerous it is. I’m wondering when in the conversation, would this come in because you also don’t want the scientific evidence of why this is bad, to sound like a judgment, to sound like something that will make them shut down. 

Chelsey Goodan: Sorry. I should have addressed this, because obviously, that’s true. I’ll probably call out and be like, this is going sound dodgy. But, like, you know, the evidence, the science behind how it can affect a teenager’s brain differently than an adult’s, do you know? And she might be like, Yeah, I know. You’re like, Okay, good. I want to hear you out. So, can you write something? Can you write up like a one sheet on the evidence and the research about how it affects kids’ brains differently. And that would make me feel better, knowing that you know about it, so we can get on the same page about it, because that’s my goal, And again, it’s always giving voice to what’s going on inside your head, right? So they need to not think you have a secret agenda, and I’d be curious. I actually know a lot of girls who would write up that report and then choose not to do it because they’re smart. 

Petal Modeste: I bet you that they think they know how weed might impact them. But if you say to them, can you just write it down from me, if you’ve done the research, just write it down for me. Tell me what you found. I bet they’ll go back, and they’ll do more, and they’ll find more, and by the time they come back to you to have this conversation it’s they might make a different choice. So that’s good. 

Alright, another chapter. Big topic, sexuality. You tell us that it may be the topic that exposes the most gripping, overpowering, alarming toxic fear for parents in particular, that fear may as easily center around words like rape, pregnancy, STD as it could around words like orgasm and pleasure and masturbation. And that fear often determines how or whether we choose to talk to our daughters about sexuality. So first, how do you define sexuality?

Chelsey Goodan: I would say, sexuality is your own connection to what gives you pleasure, like attracts you? And It could also be your sexual orientation. So how do we help her even explore that part of herself? That is a very human part of yourself.   So when parents feel so uncomfortable, and understandably, I’m always having compassion for parents in these situations. When they have so much fear about talking with their kid. About this I always ask, what makes you uncomfortable about talking about it with them? Answer that question first for yourself because we’re back to those same triggers. We live in a culture where we can’t do anything right. You’re too sexy, or you’re repressed, or you know, it’s wild how much we have to navigate. Right? So we have our own baggage and when we come at it with tons of fear and worry, she absorbs that messaging.  So the more healed we can be in our own journey, the more we can meet her again, loving curiosity. And meeting her where she’s at so she feels safe to actually talk about it and share truth about it

Petal Modeste: So what conversations about sexuality do the girls that you work with most wish they could talk to their parents about. And what are they most hesitant to discuss?

Chelsey Goodan: Yeah. Well, I’ll start actually with  the sexual violence, sexual harassment type of realm. Because I actually find that you know, that’s why, everyone is worried and scared because it’s not fully safe out there, and girls want to be a part of that conversation. They feel crazy that no one isn’t actually talking openly about one in 5 girls on college campuses being sexually assaulted and they want to feel like you are on her team about it. Instead, they first of all feel like no one’s talking about it or respecting her thoughts on it. It’s actually a really nice intellectual way to approach a girl about these topics where it’s not about her own personal sex life, and you’re trying to gather data on that.  One statistic that blows everyone away is that in 6 such a sex education curriculum, there’s only 11 states in the US that require consent be taught. And so that explains a lot when girls hear that. And sometimes girls know that statistic when they hear that they’re like, Oh, my gosh! That is messed up. And you’re just like, yeah, how messed up is that they just feel like you’re on their team. And it’s not some debate about

what they’re wearing.  Girls get blamed for anything bad that’s happening about a girl’s sexuality, and they’re so tired of it. And then there is this other narrative where they are kinda like we, why can’t I talk about pleasure. I always say that’s a scarier word for parents. Boys are very permissioned to seek pleasure and be a player like that’s a completely different frame on it, whereas a girl is immediately slut shamed, and I’m going to bring up slut shaming because it’s something girls bring up with me all the time.

Petal Modeste:  All the time, I can imagine

Chelsey Goodan: Huge issue, because there is no word for a sexually empowered girl. Right. It’s just the slut. And people tried to reclaim that word. It hasn’t necessarily worked.  I have girls to share with me, you know there are her brother’s friends. So she was wearing a skirt one day, and when she was like 12 or 13, they called her slut, and she didn’t wear a skirt for 5 years after that, because these things are wounds. 

Petal Modeste: So you just started to talk a little bit about dress. And you tell us that when it comes to dress, instead of teaching boys how to respectfully process their own sexuality and humanize girls,  we trample on girls’ choices. How are we doing that? How are we trampling on those choices when it comes to dress?

Chelsey Goodan: The endless stories I could share about girls feeling so much pain about being sent home because of dress code violations or having to wear a sweater over their bra strap at school, or a hot sweltering day. I’m willing to challenge this idea of, Is that so bad? because that actually tells the girl again that her body is dangerous and it’s a threat, and that she’s responsible. The focus should be on boys and teaching them how they can responsibly manage their own desires as well. They need to be part of this conversation, teaching them consent and so on.  So often gender based violence is phrased as violence against women putting the onus on the women to solve it. If women could have solved it, we would have done it. Male violence is the issue. And where is that coming from? And I say that with compassion, as you know, from our work, with a call to men. It’s like, how can we help support boys? And feeling a full spectrum of emotions and understand these things rather than just assuming, oh, well, boys will be boys like it’s wild. How much we just let them off the hook that they apparently can’t manage their desires. This is not true, not true. 

Petal Modeste: So I would love you to model for us, Chelsey, a healthy conversation that we may have with a teenage girl in our life on consent.  If you were to model this for us, I’m your teenage daughter, I come to you. I’m not sure about consent. I live in a state where it’s not required that it be taught in school, and I’m starting to see that people are looking at me a certain way. How would you go about doing that if you were me? 

Chelsey Goodan: Yeah. Well, it’s always about inviting her consent and the conversation, too. It’s like, Hey, do you want to talk about this?  To them, Sex is super scary like this thing that has been told to them is bad in so many ways, and their instinct is: I’m feeling like it’s supposed to be a pleasure thing, right like it’s really confusing. And it’s also really squashing the empowerment of women and  them connecting to their own needs and their desires. So in terms of actually talking to a parent I model a conversation in the book about coming in through a conversation around consent where you just bring up that statistic. You get their thoughts. They might be like, yeah, that’s so messed up. I would often be like, what do you think sex education curriculums at school should teach? And girls have smart thoughts on that.  If a girl responds, though at any point, like Mom, I don’t talk about this with you. You can also be like, Okay, I just want to know, I’m here like, there’s a lot of a process where you give her space and respect like it. It evolves over time. It’s also really nice to have another adult in your kids’ life like an aunt, another trusted adult that they can go to, I would say, it’s really helpful.  A good, really tangible way is watching a TV show together. That is such an opportunity to have these types of conversations. So you’re watching a TV show and you’re like, Hey, why do you think he likes her or why do you think she likes him? That’s a really good way to gauge whether your daughter is ready.  I love having these conversations with girls like we talk on TV all the time.  And the more I can kind of call it out on TV shows and get them to question that narrative the better. Right? And again, this is a process. It’s not necessarily a secret agenda. I’m literally curious about her thoughts or, by the way, I also like to phrase this as a crush rather than it being a boy,  because really girls identify on a spectrum of sexuality, sexual orientation in particular. I mean, it’s identifying as bisexual, pansexual. Queer, I mean they do not want to be put into a box right now. 

Petal Modeste: You devote another chapter to perfection, and you tell us that you had no idea, when you started to work with teenage girls, that it would become a full time job trying to dismantle their deeply entrenched relationship with perfection. How do teenage girls define perfection? And where does this definition actually come from?

Chelsey Goodan: Yeah, I think it’s coming from all sorts of sources. And when I say perfection, it’s the pressure of “shoulds” on them. They should look like this. They should act like this. They should do this, and they should get perfect grades. They have to get into a perfect college, or they’re not going to succeed in life.   And there’s a lot of achievement pressure. often coming from parents, even if they don’t think they’re overtly doing it. We’re just constantly telling them. That’s what their value and their worth is in the world. Or  their looks. From a young age. What do we tell little girls when we see them?  How cute you are, show me your pretty dress.  Boys, we’re all like, what sports are you doing? What’s your favorite subject in school, you know, and these girls learn that their looks and their relationship to looking perfectly is a part of their value and their worth in the world.     Society in general also has very little room for women and girls to be messy, and I’ll kind of bring it back to those big feelings – What if we are just grumpy sometimes. That’s really human and we’re not giving women and girls space to express it. So instead, we power through, or we do all these kinds of things that end up. closing her off from her own emotional center.

Petal Modeste: Yeah. so what are 2 or 3 strategies we parents can use to undo this thought that our teenage girls tend to have that they have to be perfect. You talked a little bit about the gray zone in this chapter. Tell us a little bit about that. And then what are some other strategies we can use to really walk them away from this idea of perfection?

Chelsey Goodan: Yeah, so often. We’re thinking in binaries like black and white. The gray, that middle zone which is where we learn where we grow It’s a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. Honestly, I’ve had many girls read Carol Dweck’s   and they love this idea of growth mindset. And so I permission a lot of that space where I’m saying, hey, what if you did get a C on that paper. And, by the way, she doesn’t usually end up getting the C. I’m not trying to make her mediocre. I’m literally just trying to take the pressure off of her. And I say to her, “What if you got to see you have nothing to prove to me?” I already know you’re brilliant. This grade is not even a sign of your worth and value in the world. They get emotional sometimes when I say that cause they just it wasn’t even really, it’s not even been an option often.   And then when they feel that relief for their entire identity and worth is not time to a grade, that is, when they actually end up doing great in the class. 

Petal Modeste: before we move on. I want to make sure our listeners know that in addition to the topics, we just covered feelings, joy, sexuality, and perfection, the book also covers compliments. people pleasing, self-doubt, radical honesty, beauty, identity, shame, and power. And we don’t have time, obviously, to delve into all of them. But I wanted to make sure I noted that so that when parents pick this book up, they know they’re getting the full spectrum of some of the feelings that you’ve been talking to girls about. But I want us to talk now about the media. Because this is a big one. For every parent in every household, around the world.

And in the book, you define media quite broadly. As you should. social media, movies, TV books, brands, magazines, fashion celebrities, all of that and this chapter made me smile a lot because you started off by telling us that you particularly love talking to the girls you work with about Kim Kardashian. you said, “Yep, you know, queue in the “eye roll”.  I know any parent reading this is rolling their eyes”, and I literally rolled my eyes as I read that. It was so hilarious. And you say, you know, every time this name comes up people. Parents roll their eyes, What are we missing? Why should we talk to our teenage girls about celebrities, even if they’re a little bit controversial, or we may not agree with everything they have to say or everything they’ve done. Why should we embrace those conversations rather than roll our eyes? 

Chelsey Goodan: Yeah. Well, again, the eye roll is judgment, and when they feel that judgment the wall goes up. And I used to have an eye roll with Kim Kardashian. So this is a territory where I have been humbled, if you will. And what happened was I sought to understand. And so I started watching the show, and I started watching the show along with many girls, and just talking about each episode with them. By the way The media and TV shows are just fantastic conversation starters in general when you’re struggling to have these  deeper conversations with your child.  The episode where she had Covid, and she’s studying for the Mini Bar exam, because she’s working to become a human rights lawyer and they showed her working with the tutor to study to do well on this test that she ends up passing. and the girls like talking to me about this episode. They were so inspired by it, right? And I’m not talking about old episodes. I’m actually talking more about the last few years of the show, because that’s when things have really expanded their narrative. And, by the way, Kim is the first person to call that out, she’ll be like, Hey! I’ve evolved and have more to offer this world than like a pretty bikini photo. That being said, what is wrong with the Bikini photo? Right? Like a lot of girls –they love that. She posts this Bikini photo. And then she posts about getting someone off of Death Row, And what the girls love about her is that women can be all things, and we have had such a limiting narrative for women we just can’t do anything right. We’re like too sexy or too smart She’s also wildly successful businesswoman, and one of the most influential people on the planet. And when girls see us roller eyes, when we dismiss her, they’re like, Oh, well, I guess you can’t do anything right. 

They’re actually usually more interested in the other things she’s doing, but also what’s wrong with them liking, beauty and hair and makeup and fashion, if they’re also liking all these other things?  this new wave of feminism of Gen. Z. In particular, I want girls to be all things. Guess You can be sexy and smart, and so Kim Kardashian is opening up a narrative that is new

Petal Modeste: Certainly, if our daughters are interested, we need to take advantage of that opportunity. It’s a conversation starter at the very least. When it comes to social media overall, You tell us that rather than fighting a futile or against it, we should actually help our teenage girls tap into the untapped potential. That’s part of the social media world. So tell us a little bit more about some of this positive potential. What does it look like? And how do we help our teenage girls tap into it or talk to them about it if they’re already tapping into it? How do we even understand it and embrace it ourselves?

Chelsey Goodan: Yeah, instead of pushing tons of fear How do we help them protect themselves to make healthy choices in their relationship to social media? And it may start with you just being like, Hey, I know, I’ve kind of been on your back about this. I want a “do over”. And I am going to start by actually trying to understand what it is you love about social media like, what do you get out of it? I truly want to understand what are some of the accounts that you like? I find the girls follow psychology accounts, mental health accounts and social justice accounts.  Now  there are many problematic and harmful potentials. I find that if you activate a girl’s agency, she can choose what’s going to make her feel good. An algorithm does respond to the way you like things. The way you follow accounts. And girls know that they actually understand the algorithm better than we do. And so you know, when there’s toxic beauty standards, which, of course, is an issue I’ll show them posts and be like, Wait. Okay, this makes me feel bad about my body like, does it make you feel bad? What do you think about this post? You feel like she’s just trying to get likes? Do you feel like this is a toxic beauty standard? And just truly ask her, you know, sometimes they’re super experts on this and like, Oh, my gosh, yes, she’s face tuned, that’s photoshopped, like they know.

Petal Modeste: But there are lots of harms, right. They’re still teenagers so certain parts of their brain, just physiologically, have not fully developed, including the prefrontal cortex. So if we are worried and again, we don’t want to lead with worry and fear, but maybe it’s the kinds of accounts they’re following. And we think, wow! This is probably not great for them. They’re looking at images of women who look certain ways, and they themselves don’t look that way. And what if they start to think? Oh, I need to eat differently, or start to diet, or whatever it might be? How do we balance that and empower them to make choices?

Chelsey Goodan: So I bring it back to kind of that compromise territory. It’s like, what if you can, come back to me with 10 new social media accounts that you’re going to follow that you think are going to be positive and inform you and expand your brain. And I’ve seen girls on their own, no parent forcing them to do it, put her phone down at night or limit her exposure to it.  I’ve seen it a lot because they know that it can spiral I think it’s worth asking a girl like, Hey, you know why everyone is, keeps talking about social media, which I’m sure is so annoying to you call out  their experience of this. They feel so like almost over in a different world, as the adults all like fight when people talk to me about it, I’m always like, well, clearly, you’ve never actually like hung out with a girl and looked at social media with her because you’ll understand that, or how much a part of their social life it is in a positive way. I’m also going to put out there that LGBTQ+ kids, when they’re in communities where they have no support,   social media saves their life when they can find a community online that helps them feel understood and seen. But I’ll ask her like, you know. Well, what do you think about how a teenager’s brain is still developing, and how these images could affect it?  It’s approaching them, intellectually rather than with some secret rule you’re hoping to implement.

Petal Modeste: So you do have a whole chapter on beauty. You mentioned that girls hear voices from a very young age, telling girls they’re cute. They’re beautiful. They’re pretty things like that. So they start hearing these voices early on but whose voices do you think most profoundly impact teenage girls’, self-image, and what do teenage girls most need from those voices. 

Chelsey Goodan: I’m going to say this with a great deal of compassion, because we’re all victims of the same system. Right? Girls tell me over and over and over again that the women in their lives, often their moms right, but any woman in their life, their teacher, sisters. Women commenting on their own body and demeaning it and saying bad things about it, I got to go on a diet like or seen their mom dieting for years on end, having a mom say something bad about the girls, or commenting on the girl’s body is definitely never good territory.  But the more subtle one that isn’t talked about a lot is a woman talking about her own body in front of a girl. And I mean the things I’ve seen play out right in front of me like it’s no big deal, you know, like I look so fat in this dress: like that’s what normalizes this culture in a big, big way. And I say that again because that mom, struggling and we’re all handed these cycles. my mom said, told me to suck in my gut when I was a teenager, and it was really casual. She probably didn’t remember it, 

Petal Modeste: But you never forgot it.

Chelsey Goodan: I’m sure every woman who’s listening right now remembers the thing their mom said about their body and what it was and then you end up having all this pain around in. And so the more we can just  practice self-loving, like the thing that is in our control is our own behavior, our own choices, our own language, and that models so much for the girl in front of us. That’s where I think change begins, because, as much as I would love to change the beauty standards and the whole entire culture. I can’t.   The only thing I use is my own relationship to my own body. There’s so much more depth to this conversation, and girls actually have a lot of incredible thoughts I shared in the book about what they actually think beauty is – they say  things about the energy you share, the love of a child like all these really cool things 

Petal Modeste: experts say that in another few years the United States will be a majority minority nation and you know, Media has changed dramatically over the last few years. I mean, I’m a black woman. When I was growing up I couldn’t open Vogue and every major magazine, and see so many pictures of dark skinned women with natural hair, for instance, right? This is something that my children have known all their lives, and they don’t realize that 10, 20 years ago it was very different . So perhaps media itself can be a source of that kind of empowerment, reflection, and changes in what it means to be beautiful.

Chelsey Goodan: 100%.  I talk about that in the book, and how we’ve characterized beauty with all these really limiting narratives that girls do not see themselves in. And the girls follow social media accounts of women influencers that help them see themselves differently. And there’s actually a lot more space on social media for them to see that.  

Petal Modeste: So you know Chelsey, this podcast is meant to give parents a new lens through which to understand the forces shaping the future as well as cutting edge parenting, tools, and resources, all of which we could leverage as we raise the next generation of powerful, purposeful people. A lot of the advice that you gave us today is helpful to us as we think about our teenage girls and how we connect with them. Girls have told you that it’s easier for them to admit their mistakes to you because they don’t feel that you give off any “parental vibes”. Such a great quote. And so what exactly is a “parental vibe” and how on earth could parents avoid giving them off So we can have richer and more meaningful discourse with our teenage girls?

Chelsey Goodan: It is back to the same thing I’ve been saying, which is judgment.   They feel judged. And the reason parents might be doing that is because we’re back to them, having their own narrative, their own agenda, of how they think it should go for their kids. And teenage years are the stage of life where they need that space to explore, space to make their own choices and you can’t control them actually. So the “parental vibe” is  control, worry, and judgment. And I say it again with compassion, because nothing is harder than parenting. And it’s not that I’m trying to say you should come to your kid  trying to be their friend  – it’s really just meeting them where they are with love; loving them exactly the way they are;  not wanting them to change them because that comes off to them as control. And judgment

Petal Modeste: At the end of the book you give us an appendix with questions we could ask to expand our conversations with our teenage girls and with ourselves, which I also think is how you started this conversation which is, we have to actually do some internal work. It’s really important that we do this work before we even approach our daughters right or before we respond too quickly to them. What does that look like? And where have you seen parents succeed in doing that work? Have they talked to each other? Therapists?  How have you seen this happen in your work with girls and their parents? 

Chelsey Goodan: Well, I’m a huge fan of therapy. I have done lots of different modalities myself, and have really gained so much from it, and many people in my life have to. that is a space. And it’s not just some cure. All you have to be is humbly ready to look at yourself.  I’m all about support groups. We’ve had a lot of feedback from moms of teenagers, not having actually a lot of community to be real with other moms, because everyone’s kind of scared to talk about what their teenage girls are going through and feeling judged themselves. And so this book is really good for a book club because of the way the chapters are organized. It creates space to have heart-felt, real honest conversations with other moms about what you might be struggling with. And then another fun thing is a mom reading it with her teenage daughter.  And then that opened up conversations –  that’s been really interesting, too.

Petal Modeste: Looking back at your own teenage years. And now having benefited from the wisdom of so many teenage girls, what single lesson do you most wish you learned as a teenager, one that perhaps we with teenage girls in our lives can make sure we teach them?

Chelsey Goodan:  I needed to know that there wasn’t some perfect way to do things;  that  my path was going to be really unique and that the things that made me weird, if you will, were actually my greatest strengths. So often we were trying to put kids in some normal box and actually what makes them weird and weird, I think, is a great thing,  is so often shoved into a bad box. And it actually gives really amazing clues about their authenticity,   about where they can potentially thrive and their passions and their identity. And I did have some support for my weirdness in a cool way that I think I really benefited from, and I see that show up for girls constantly how I love to give affirmation when they’re like doing something kinda outside the box. And then they feel seen and understood in a new way and then that part of them grows stronger and they feel good about it. And that’s where I have self confidence. Everyone wants teenage girls to feel. How do we make them feel? Confident?    I say go in through their weirdness, actually.

Petal Modeste: I once told my daughter, who’s now a teenager, that “otherness” was her superpower. And I got that from one of the authors who came on, Richie Jackson, who is a gay man and wrote a book to his gay son, which is extremely powerful. All the things that make you weird and make you uniquely, you. Those are the things that we focus on. Those are the things that are important.  Those are your superpowers. What a wonderful way to end.  Thank you, Chelsey. Thank you so much. 

Chelsey Goodan: Your questions were so insightful. 

Petal Modeste: Thank you so much! I’m really appreciative.

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