Over the last several months, the media has featured stories depicting the belittlement of women. Add to that, the proliferation of unattainable or unhealthy body imagery, the day-to-day tribulations of teen/tweenhood, and it’s no wonder so many of our teen and tween daughters are struggling to maintain healthy self-esteem.
Healthy self-esteem is vital in young women, helping them develop the inner fortitude to forge confidently into their adult years. As a parent, there’s plenty you can do to help. Here are four essential aspects, and several helpful tips, to promote healthy self-esteem in your teen or tween daughter.
It’s normal for teens and tweens to assert their independence, but it is also vitally important that they do not feel socially isolated. Young women need to feel a deep sense of belonging, both within their family and within their “tribe.”
The longer a girl goes without a tribe, the harder it can be for her to forge new friendships. Here are a few ways you can create opportunities for your teen or tween daughter to achieve the sense of connection she needs and craves:
- Praise your child regularly.
- Listen to her with your undivided attention (put your phone and/or computer away).
- Lead by example, even when it’s a challenge.
- Don’t give advice unless your child asks for it.
- Let your child discover solutions on her own – simply listening is often all she’ll need to find a solution from within.
- Enjoy quality family time by eating meals, playing and taking vacations together.
- Create as many positive peer experiences as possible for your tween/teen. Whether it’s a sports team, camp, theatre troupe or another group bonded by a similar interest, find something she enjoys and create opportunities to get involved.
It’s important for teens and tweens to contribute to their family, their friends and their community. Mastering the art of anticipating others’ needs, and occasionally placing those needs before their own, requires conscious effort from your child and has an intrinsic positive effect on her self-esteem.
Pulling your daughter away from potential contributions, however, are the distractions and instant gratification of television, computers and mobile devices. It may seem like a tired buzz phrase, but it is crucial to limit the screen time to which teens and tweens are exposed. The Pediatric Society of Canada recommends a maximum of 1.5 hours per day, not including educational screen time such as writing papers, creating Power Point presentations and doing online homework.
Learning a new task or skill, and then practicing and improving it, increases self-confidence. Keep in mind, however, that the focus needs to be on progress – not perfection.
Whether your child’s learning takes the form of a new sport or activity, an art or cooking class or helping to fix the family car, it will help her become more confident and will boost her ability to overcome obstacles through problem-solving.
I like to think of gratitude as a “secret weapon” – not just for teens and tweens, but for all of us. Writing down three things for which you are grateful every day can have a powerful, life-altering effect. It can decrease negativity, improve relationships and increase the ability to problem-solve. Ultimately, gratitude can improve both self-awareness and self-esteem. Challenge your daughter to try this for 30 days and see what happens.
And most importantly . . .
If you’re concerned about the mental health or self-esteem of your child, please work closely with your healthcare provider.
Above all, enjoy and appreciate your young woman every single day, and remember to treat her like the little gem that she is.