Parents always want to raise a confident and happy daughter… but how do we go about that? Are there things we can do or say to help establish a girls high self-esteem? of course! Here is a crash course on how to lead your daughter in the right path of loving herself…
Girls These Days!
First let me start off by saying the world has become a more accepting place for girls when is comes to equality. They can play sports, achieve higher education levels, and can even run their own business, the list goes on… But while those doors of opportunity are widening, and girls are even consistently outperforming boys academically, their rates of stress, anxiety, and depression have risen to an all time high. A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration found that girls have three times the number of depressive episodes than boys do, says Simone Marean, cofounder and executive director of Girls Leadership.
So What Can We Do?
Mothers are their daughters number one role model, the most powerful influencers throughout their daughter’s life. Many research studies have reported that the way a mother acts in front of her daughter largely influences the child’s behavior. A mother can model a healthy self-image that will benefit both the mother and the daughter. (don’t worry fathers, there are things you can do as well, I haven’t left you out!)
- First of all, Watch what you say! Women have a tendency to talk in questions or begin to speak with a caveat, like “I’m not sure if this is right but…” And it’s not just what you say (questioning yourself) but how you say it. Mother’s work on speaking with conviction and urge your daughter to do the same. Remind yourself as well as your daughter that girls have important things to say and we should be taken seriously. DO NOT 2nd guess yourself! A way to practice assertiveness is to speak up for yourself. Have your daughter order her own food at a restaurant, encourage her to raise her hand in class, or go talk to the teacher if she has a question or concern. Find one thing a day to step out of yours and her comfort zone.
- How do you feel and act about your body image? Research shows that how a girl feels about her body image is largely determined by how her mother feels about her body image. If you speak poorly about how you look or seem unhappy when looking into a mirror, that says a lot to a daughter… she will mimic you! A great way to show love for your image is to get active. Showing your daughter that you’re taking care of yourself and seem joyful in the process will scream confidence to your young one. Dance with her in the home, be free-spirited, go for a run, do some yoga, BEING ACTIVE TEACHES HER TO LOVE HER BODY!
- Let us not forget the other parent…FATHERS! Your daughters take cues from the men in their lives and this starts at a young age. The attention fathers give to their daughters influences things like seeking boys approval to finding their career path. SO we know fathers’ worry about their little girls growing up and starting to like boys, a way they can ease their own worries is to be there for their daughters, giving them lots of positive attention with good messages along the way (that way they’ll gravitate to the boys you’d most approve of!). Dad’s make sure you tell your kids you love them, they NEED to hear it. Dads when you complement your daughters, make sure it’s not just appearance, but also her character… Tell her your proud of the way she dealt with a situation, like good sportsmanship even though her team lost, or for her patience of having to wait a long time.
- Embrace her uniqueness! Between elementary and high school, a girl’s self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than a boy’s does, found the American Association of University Women. How can we, as parent, help our daughters to keep herself esteem high during this time? By encouraging her individuality and helping her to find her passions. What makes your daughter happy? what does she love to do? what are her interests? Let her pick what sport to play, or what books she’d like to read, or what color clothes she’d like to wear.
- Praise her Imperfections. Letting your daughter screw up is actually beneficial, it is one of the best ways to build her confidence. Let her know that mistakes are okay, that it doesn’t mean ‘not good enough.’ Don’t be afraid to share some of your mistakes you’ve made in life, so she can relate to you and form a stronger bond with you as well. Get her to do more things on her own, teach her the process of messing up, to then problem solving, and then achieving whatever she is doing.
- Last but not least, teach her social confidence. “Conflict is inevitable in a kids life. And for that very reason, you need to teach your daughter how to handle it,” says Rosalind Wiseman, author of the best-selling book ‘Queens Bees and Wannabes.’ Showing your daughter it’s okay to express a full range of emotions is the number-one way to handle conflict. Emotions are a powerful tool, and you need to teach moms and daughters that when you feel angry or upset, it’s a signal that something is important to you and you should express it, says US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Some things that your daughter may face in life will hurt her, but the way you help her get through it can help her confidence instead of hinder it. With young girls, look for opportunities to increase their emotional vocabulary, by asking her ‘how do you think so and so feels?(if reading a book or watching a show together). You can role-play tough talks so she is used to saying phrases and it becomes easy for her to stand up for herself in those tough situations. You can even ask her what she thinks ‘makes a good friend.’ so if she finds herself being excluded from friends or in an argument, she can distinguish between friends to keep and friends to let go. When she talks to you about a boy being mean, acknowledge her feelings, and whatever you do, don’t tell her that when boys like you they become mean…this only implies that it’s okay for boys to hurt you and that it’s the way boys express love/ admiration to girls. The last thing I will add to helping social confidence is to get your daughter involved in a group (Girl Scouts, sports, or a weekly get together like a book club or art class). Girls are more likely to express independence and pride when they are among other kids working towards a common goal.
Your unconditional love is the base of a healthy child and their free-spirited attitude in life. Kids need to know the answers to these three important questions… What do you think about me? Do you understand me? and What are your hopes for me? Make sure you express these with your children and they will grow up confident, strong, and happy.