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


imagesE0HLB0FZAlthough 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.
Does my bum look big in this?……Monitor your own comments. Mums have a huge impact on their daughters’ body image. Don’t ask, “Do these jeans make me look fat?” or obsess out loud about food whilst putting your appearance down. Avoid talking about food and yourself as “good” or “bad”. A lifestyle of healthy eating habits and regular exercise without the obsession and guilt over food and body image will be so beneficial in counteracting the effects of advertisers who take advantage of the typical anxieties and self-doubts of pre-teen and teenage girls.
Independence Day….Don’t bring up your daughter up to be a “pleaser”. Encourage your daughter to respectfully speak her mind. Create opportunities for independence through asking “What do you want”, letting her make choices and stand by those choices. Let girls fail – which requires letting them try. Helping them all the time or protecting them can translate into a girl feeling incapable or incompetent.
imagesUMWPKFOA “Oh, how pretty you are”……We need to make a conscious effort to balance our compliments about a girl’s appearance with compliments about who she is and what she DOES. Of course if someone looks nice or wears something we like, we should complement them – everyone likes effort to have some reward!! It becomes concerning when girls believe that the ONLY way to gain complements and reward for effort is through appearance or owning the latest “must have” possession. Challenge yourself to match every compliment you give about your daughter’s appearance with at least two compliments about something non-appearance based, and do the same for other girls in your life
Confidence, creativity and activity……Help her build skills that are independent of appearance. Get her involved in activities that build a sense of confidence, rather than focusing on looking good and acquiring possessions. Sports, drama, music, art, anything that can help girls express themselves through words or creativity or activity rather than through their appearance or what they own. Regular physical activity enhances mental health, reducing symptoms of stress and depression. Do something physical as a family or encourage your daughter to form a group of her peers to engage in some form of sport together.
And the winner is…………Praise your daughter for her efforts rather than her performance. It’s not the end of the world if we do not win every time, by doing our best we will sometimes be the winner, this feels good and motivates us to set the bar higher. Focus less on the outcome and more on efforts and the development of new skills. To do your best is what builds confidence, and experiencing failure fosters resilience.
Involving the boys…….Watch television, movies, and other media with your daughters and sons. Discuss how images of girls are portrayed. Girls and boys need to be aware of self-respect and respect for others. When entering personal relationships with boys, girls need to be able to put a value on themselves, the standard of how they want to be treated, as opposed to looking to boys for validation. Witnessing a respectful, equal relationship between parents will equip both girls and boys with the necessary skills to be able to have similar relationships. Be aware of your own stereotypes; don’t limit girls’ choices because of the traditional girls’ role and boys’ role. Let girls try things that were traditionally kept for boys and vice versa.

 How can parents help their daughters build healthy self esteem – part 2 – to follow

              “always remember to be YOUnique”