Even when you’re doing your best as a parent, it can still feel like you aren’t doing enough. It’s the hardest job most of us will ever do but by far the most rewarding. When we see our daughter upset or down in the dumps, this can be extremely hard to witness as all we want is to make them happy. As they enter their teenage years, young women experience low self-esteem at a disproportionally high level to their male peers, and this can be difficult to deal with as a parent. By understanding exactly what low self-esteem is and why it happens, we can gain the tools to help our daughters on their way to being fulfilled and happy young women.
What is low-self-esteem?
The first and foremost issue you need to confront is what is the definition of low self-esteem? It is a term we hear so often we can become confused about its meaning, so before we dive into helping our daughters, we must begin by better understanding the problem. Low self-esteem can be loosely defined as judging oneself and feeling inferior to their peers. Of course, this is a broad definition, and you will find when you start to tackle this problem with your loved one, that the intricacies of their low moods reveal themselves. Is it based on body issues, feelings of underachievement, or something entirely different?
Getting to know the causes
Once you feel knowledgeable enough to confidently talk to your daughter about the issues she is dealing with, the first port of call is to begin by finding the potential sources of low self-esteem. This can be a tricky area, sometimes a young person will know exactly why they feel down (for example, being bullied or the end of their first relationship) but often at this confusing time in their lives, your daughter may not even know herself. Before sitting down to talk, why not make a list of reasons your daughter may feel down? After all, as her parent, you will know her best and may be able to put a name to the problem for her. You can walk her through these potential reasons and see if that sparks her in opening up and talking to you.
A huge problem for young girls in the past decade has been the growing presence of social media within their lives. With the internet now available wherever we go, young women can almost constantly be in a state of comparing themselves with other images of women online; images that are often photoshopped to make models and celebrities look thinner and taller, with flawless skin and shiny hair. One way to combat the effects of social media is to educate your daughter about how these images are altered before being published and, more importantly, why they are altered. A good place to start is to go online and find some before and after photoshop comparisons of women your daughter may look up to or desire to look like, as this will show her that you don’t have to look flawless to be beautiful or to be worthy of love and respect.
Part of the problem?
We try our best to help as parents, but sometimes we need to take a step back and ask if we could be the cause of our child’s low self-esteem. It is a difficult fact to confront, but overly critical parents are one of the leading reasons why young people struggle for confidence. A good place to start is to check your own behavior around your child. For example, are you giving them praise when they do well or telling them instead how they can do better? Pushing our daughters to reach their potential is no bad thing but not celebrating them trying their best can have detrimental impacts on their young minds. When sitting down and having these conversations with your daughter, don’t be afraid to ask if there is something you can do or how you can change your own behavior to help them. Be prepared that you may hear some difficult truths but always remember your daughter loves you and your bond as a parent will only grow as you help your daughter navigate her youth.
Improving their confidence
There are steps we can take in our everyday life as parents to begin improving our child’s confidence which can be easily slipped into everyday life to aid your daughters’ journey to a happier self. For example, one suggestion by psychologist Jennifer Kolari is to avoid the word bossy at all costs. This is because the word comes with so much baggage when you’re a woman that, into adulthood, women labeled bossy can begin to doubt admirable qualities like leadership and organization, leading to persistently low self-esteem in later life. Another tip is to encourage your daughter to give herself praise when she has done something well. Self-praise is something often avoided by women as it feels as though appreciating our own achievements is somehow egotistical but recognizing when we achieve is an enviable skill to have. By practicing self-praise, not only will your daughter will learn to value herself more, but how to take compliments off of others and not to play down her milestones.
Seeing the benefits
As times passes and your daughter begins to conquer these feelings of self-doubt, you will begin to notice the benefits of high self-esteem. In helping your child to learn how to positively recognize their feelings and develop ways of coping (such as self-praise), there will be a noticeable change in their happiness. People with high self-esteem tend to be better at making friends and socializing, for example, or form the skills to continue to grow into emotionally intelligent people, forming meaningful romantic relationships as they get older.
Understanding the changes and hardships our children face as they grow up can initially seem like an impossible task when you are juggling parenting, a job, and all the intricacies of family life, but with a few simple steps, you can begin to make a real difference to their life.