With the new school year about to get underway, many parents are preparing their kids by buying them new school clothes and supplies – but there’s another very important thing they should be doing as well, according to one doctor.

Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, a developmental psychologist at the Girl Scouts of the USA, said parents need to be having a conversation with their tweens or teens “about being a leader in their own life – not a follower.”

She sat down with Dr. Manny Alvarez, the senior managing editor of health at FoxNews.com, to specifically talk about young girls and the importance of keeping their self-esteem intact in a world where they are bombarded by influences from friends, the media and social networks.

Q. I have a 12-year-old daughter, and I want her to BE 12. Why is the whole world trying to make girls this age act older?

A. Girls are confronted with so many influences – it’s really our culture. If you could take culture out of the mix here, girls might be a truer representation of a tween or 12-year-old. Our culture is moving very fast and marketing and sales certainly fuels a lot of direction towards young girls. Young girls are big consumers. So what we have to do is empower girls with the smarts, with the leadership skills, and when I say leadership skills, I’m talking about leaders in their own life to really navigate and understand and look critically at the media and different companies that are trying to sell them.

Q. Why is it important to build those leaderships skills?

A. We can’t take them out of the culture that they are developing in so we just have to give them the tools, the practical everyday tools, and the skills to look critically at the media and say, ‘What’s right for me here?’… ‘What are they trying to sell me?’. These girls need to say they don’t need to tell me how ‘I need to be.’

Q. How do we help parents get a handle on some of the issues their tweens or teens are facing?

A. Our latest leadership journey, as we call them, is called ‘It’s Your Story – Tell It,’ and we have healthy living and practical leadership skills woven throughout the fun and engaging activities for girls across all grade levels. We don’t specifically program to risky behavior, but instead we help girls to develop leadership, decision-making, problem-solving skills around real life situations so that they can make the decisions that are right for them within the context of their families and their communities.

Click here to find out more about the Girl Scouts of the USA.