Top 10 Ways to Preserve Girls’ Self-Esteem, Part 2

Smiling Mother and Daughter with Lipstick, Looking at MirrorIn my last article, I shared with you the first five of my top ten list of ways in which parents can help to preserve their daughter’s self-esteem during the often emotionally-turbulent years of middle school and high school.

Before we dive into the remainder of this list, remember that girls tend to experience a drop in self-esteem as they reach puberty. The problem is that many girls stop sharing with their parents at this same time when they really need them most. Negative messages from others and the media can leave a girl with fractured self-esteem and an abundance of self-doubt.

As parents, you should make sure your home is a safe place for your daughter to ask questions and discus her feelings.

This list will help you do that.

  1. Teach her it’s okay to say NO.  No is a complete sentence.  Many girls feel as if they are being mean or rude if they say No to a friend.  You can see how this can create problems for them in their social and dating world.  A girl who is not comfortable saying No is lacking the ability to hold boundaries with herself and others.  There is an epidemic of girls who have the people-pleaser personality type.  I did.  Standing up for herself and learning when it’s okay to say No is a skill you can teach and role model.  Have her practice.  We all want our daughters to be able to say No to a boy who is not respecting her boundaries.  You might be surprised how many strong, outspoken girls struggle in this area.
  2. Challenge the ideal beauty standard.  Girls are bombarded with images of the ideal beauty standard.  Today it is being thin, having straight hair (straightened with a flat iron), dark eye liner and a flawless complexion.  The media today often projects an unrealistic and often dangerous standard of beauty.  I hear many girls talk about their dissatisfaction with their physical appearance and their weight.  Talk to your daughter about her standard of beauty.  We need to widen our definition of beauty so every girl can fit into it.
  3. The real scoop on popularity.  I have yet to meet a teen who really understands popularity — or anyone else for that matter.  Popularity is difficult to define.  It’s elusive.  It may always seem just out of reach.  It’s something most girls want at some point and it can cause a lot of emotional pain.  Most adults know the reality is that after you graduate, popularity means nothing.  Encourage your daughter to explore her thoughts on popularity and challenge some of her negative thinking, such as “I could never be popular.”  What if she were popular in a different sort of way?  Again, this is not a black and white issue.  In the grey is where she will find the answers she is seeking.  You can help her.
  4. Dealing with mean girls and mean comments.  The truth is that all girls have experienced life on both sides.  We have all been a bit mean to others, and also have been on the receiving end of it.  An open discussion is what I recommend here.  One of the best pieces of advice is to always validate your daughter’s feelings.  Her feelings are real to her and they can be scary.  If she feels she is being picked on, then that is where you start the conversation.  If she is experiencing emotional pain from being picked on or bullied, seek counseling to help her learn ways to stand up for herself and overcome the self-doubt she is most likely experiencing.
  5. Stay connected — no matter what.  Let’s face it, in today’s world with teens being so connected to technology, it can be challenging to keep our own connection to them.  However, most teens really do want to have some quality time with parents and family members.  Be creative.  Listen to your daughter; don’t just talk at her.  Spend time with her doing something she enjoys.  Research shows that when parents offer an open, supportive environment at home, teenage girls are more likely to reach out in times of trouble.

A daughter is a wonderful gift. Think back to when she was a little girl coming to you about everything.  Well, she still is vulnerable and scared at times on the inside.  Remember this is a difficult time for her and her hormones are causing her to feel even more emotional.  So be patient, take a break, and get support.  The end result will be worth it.

If you feel that your daughter will benefit from speaking one-on-one with a counselor as she enters these uncertain teenage years — or if you would like to learn how to guide her —  please contact me via email or phone 703.505.2413 to arrange an appointment.


Michelle Kelley

Michelle Kelley Licensed Counselor, Owner, Girls Stand Strong

Licensed counselor and founder of Girls Stand Strong Michelle Kelley, LCSW, helps girls and women of all ages develop and improve their self-image, self-esteem, relationship and communication skills, emotional understanding, coping skills, the ability to handle difficult situations and people, and resiliency to create a brighter, better and more successful tomorrow. For more information about Michelle’s coaching and counseling services, call (703) 505-2413 or email michelle@girlsstandstrong.com.

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