Haley Kilpatrick started her nonprofit organization, Girl Talk, in 2002, when she was just 15 years old. She had felt alone until she found a friend in an older girl who helped build her confidence. Since then, Kilpatrick’s organization, where high-school girls mentor middle-school girls, has grown tremendously. She also wrote a guidebook based on interviews with tweens called “The Drama Years: Real Girls Talk About Surviving Middle School.” She will be the On Parenting chat guest Wednesday at 11. She recently spoke to the Post about girls, confidence, and how mothers’ confidence is directly related to their daughters’ confidence; an edited excerpt from that interview follows.
Who are you, and what do you do?
I am most proud to be the founder of Girl Talk. It’s a nonprofit where high-school girls mentor middle-school girls. We serve 40,000 middle-school girls. The mentors are helping young girls ultimately build their confidence… so they can become kind, competent women.
I’m also author of the book The Drama Years, where real girls talk about bullies, body image and more. It was essentially inspired by the fact that parents seemed desperate for information. We made young girls the experts. I’m just a woman passionate about parents having the resources available so they can have confident kids.
What is the biggest issue you’re focusing on right now?
Confident moms make confident girls. The biggest finding is instead of moms and parents ultimately monitoring kids, kids are monitoring parents. It’s happening a lot younger than parents think. And so I’ve partnered with the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.
I felt I had to do this because we’re not talking about alarming statistics about women and self-esteem. The role that a mom and dad plays in a daughter’s life can’t be undervalued. We’re not talking [enough] about grown women and how they are truly struggling, feeling valuable in workplace, how they talk about themselves to their friends, the things they are posting online.
What have you found in your research?
The girls are brutally honest. We interviewed girls ages 6 to 18, and elementary-school girls are unbelievably passionate about the messages mom is sending her. The most important thing we found is confident kids come from confident parents.
Do you have an example of what a girl told you?
Savannah, who is 10, said “My mom confuses me a lot. She’s one person to me and a different person with friends. I don’t think she knows it.” When you tell parents that their kids are monitoring them online, it makes them uncomfortable. Some moms cry and say the person I want my children to see me as, they see through that. You have to be confident with who you are. If you need to vent or have an adult moment, do that at a party with other adults, not Instagram.
The main takeaway of your research?
The main takeaway [from the girls] is take care of you so you can be there for me. If you don’t feel beautiful, and are constantly pointing out what you don’t love about yourself, I will not love myself.
Tips for parents?
1. Know when the most formative [9-14] and preventative [6-10] years for your children are and don’t be scared of that. If you know that, you’ll be a lot more confident to have those awkward conversations early. Be confident having those awkward conversations… about social-media boundaries, alcohol and drugs.
2. Know that your kids are monitoring you. So while you’re trying to have those preventative conversations with them, they’re watching your behavior in person and online. Just be aware of that behavior. They’re listening when you’re talking to your friends. They’re learning how to behave off your behavior.
3. Know that there are resources to help you make sure you can safely have those conversations with your children.