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How can parents help their daughters develop healthy self-esteem?

Although the media, peers, and celebrity culture influence girls, parents still hold more sway than they think when it comes to having an impact on a daughter’s developing self-esteem. It is within the family that we first develop a sense of who we are and who we want to become. Parents armed with knowledge can create a psychological climate that will empower each girl to achieve her full potential. Parents can help their daughters avoid developing, or overcome, negative feelings about themselves and grow into strong, self-confident women.  When we are bombarded with digitally altered images of impossibly thin women, bringing up our daughters to have healthy self-esteem can seem daunting. As parents, we do have influence—both by what we say and what we do.

The latest “must have” 

Advertising has a lot to answer for in making already anxious and self-doubting girls feel they need a certain product to feel “cool”. Again, I would concede that there is nothing wrong with the “feel good” factor of owning something new, but when having the latest trend becomes a measure of self- worth, it’s a problem. If you feel this is the case, sensitively ask the questions;
Do you ever feel bad about yourself for not owning something? 
Have you ever felt that people might like you more if you owned a certain item? 
Has an ad make you feel that you would like yourself more, or that others would like you more if you owned the product the ad is selling?
Do you worry about your looks? Have you ever felt that people would like you more if your face, body, skin or hair looked different? 
Has an ad ever made you feel that you would like yourself more, or others would like you more, if you changed your appearance with the product the ad was selling?                                                                                  
Help her develop the ability to filter negative media messages.

Let’s hear it for the girls

Encourage your daughter to recognise that other girls may need support and offer that support. Girls who are able to empathise with their peers will build their own confidence and have higher self-esteem through their skills in supporting others. If you are available and open to discussing anything with your daughter she will learn to be a good communicator and supporter.

I wish I was more………

Every teenage girl I have supported who was struggling with self-esteem issues has said that after a few minutes of looking at a fashion magazine, her mood starts to shift from interested enthusiasm to making comparisons, wanting to change her looks and putting herself down.” It’s as simple as this, be careful what magazines you have in the house.  Don’t be negative about other women and don’t let the boys and men in your household do it either. Keep an eye on what children are teasing each other about. Don’t allow negative comments about looks or the fact that a child may appear different. It’s really harmful. It’s equally harmful to chastise the teaser without discussing why comments are hurtful and not appropriate.

Dads: A message to you. 

If you treat girls as though they are fragile and helpless the message is, “ a man will step in and save you” Instead, give her the opportunity to use her voice and speak up for herself, to challenge herself and when faced with a negative outcome be able to brush herself off and get back up again. Girls with positive male role models, (involved, active, hardworking) are more ambitious, more successful in school, more likely to attain careers of their own, less dependent, more self-protective, and less likely to choose an abusive partner.

Help!! What’s happened to my child?

Make sure she knows you love her no matter what. Children will be reliant on what their peers think but what parents think matters too. Girls in their teens are changing every day and this is when they will search for the person they want to become. Often parents feel helpless at this stage in their daughter’s life and the girl they see before them becomes unrecognisable!! Parents reading this who have experienced the “teenage daughter phase” will know only too well how challenging it is. Again, working with girls has informed me that although they would not admit it at the time, they needed to know that their parents loved them no matter how their appearance changed, how they dressed, who their friends were or how many mistakes they made.

             “always remember to be YOUnique”