In today’s overwhelming world of altered photos, filters, and fillers, the thought of raising a teenager (let alone a teenage girl) may be a scary one. As mothers, we remember being teens ourselves, and recall the pressures and anxieties that we faced. Nowadays, more than ever, it’s a time to focus on shaping girls into strong, independent young women, to help them rise up, be heard, and exude confidence. So, what can we as parents do to encourage our daughters in all of the above? We’ve tapped Kristi Hoffman, M.S., author of the best-selling book Total Package Girl: Discover The Ultimate You For Life, to offer some insight on the personal and social development of pre-teen and teenaged girls. Read below for her take on the ins-and-outs of teenage girls and how we as parents can help build their self-esteem.
How does a girl’s self-esteem in her teen years affect her as an adult?
“When girls plant the seeds of positive self-esteem early in life, it pays dividends later on. Early positive self-esteem leads to making constructive choices in times of conflict or during peer pressure moments. This pertains to decisions regarding friendships, relationships, and social media choices. I often tell girls, ‘the right choice isn’t necessarily the easy choice’ and they quickly learn after making one brave decision that it was worth it when the consequences play out. When kids feel good about themselves, they are more likely to trust their own judgment. Self-trust plays a giant role in navigating, and even thriving, during the teen years and beyond.”
What are healthy ways that a parent can help boost their daughter’s self-esteem?
“As parents, we play a pivotal role in the formulation of our childrens’ actions. Parents need to exemplify assertiveness and confidence in their everyday engagements, but also show that even as adults we make mistakes, and the importance of forgiving ourselves and moving forward. Letting your girls know that you as a parent believe in them—that when they make solid choices, you truly support and recognize the courage it took for them to make those decisions. This will be hugely beneficial. Likewise, when they make mistakes, being there for them, loving them unconditionally, and helping them through it is critical for their blossoming self-esteem and self-worth. Children need to feel support when they succeed and perhaps even more when they fail.”
What are some confidence boosters that young girls can do proactively?
“Teach your daughter to practice daily affirmations. Emphasize physical activity, which research has shown can combat some of the negative effects of stress or anxiety. Journal. Talk about real-life scenarios using people in the media or in the news to bring the point home. Encourage her to pay attention to her inner thoughts and feelings, so she can develop self-assuredness when peer pressure moments arise. These activities teach kids that how they feel about themselves is what matters, and not what others think of them.”
What advice do you have for parents who want to help their teen overcome low self-image?
“Parents need to set example by being supportive and not critical. Refrain from gossip, mean words, and envious comparisons. I suggest to all parents to let your girls talk. For example, when someone asks your daughter a question in your presence, don’t jump in and talk for her. If you listen, she might reveal something you’ve never heard her say before. Simply listening to their voices and their thoughts without talking over them or placing your opinions upon them in that moment might teach you a valuable lesson. Let them know you support them. Give them hugs. Take the negative out of the equation as much as you can by focusing on what truly matters and what they are doing well. Emphasizing and supporting their involvement in positive activities and smart choices and steering them towards supportive friendships is important. They really are listening to your words, believe it or not.”
How can parents find the balance between over-parenting and being too hands-off?
“I know first-hand (as a parent to teens myself) that it is difficult to watch our kids fail, particularly when we could easily step in and make it right for them. If we can envision ourselves taking a second-row seat, not a front-row seat, in our teens’ lives, then they will have room to grow and gain confidence and self-esteem. I do not mean to step out of their lives completely, but rather stepping back a bit, so they can make their own decisions—that is how we will watch our teens grow and gain more confidence and self-esteem.”
What can more parents be doing to lay a strong foundation during the teenage years?
“Be there for support, guidance, and love. Maintain a loving home environment. Engage them in two-way dialogue at the dinner table. Listen, truly listen. Make sure they are held responsible for their actions. Teach them how to think—not just what to think—when it comes to working through decisions. For instance, you can ask your child how they would handle a certain scenario, and compare and contrast how you’d do it without passing judgment on their opinions. Let them know that the difficult situations they are working through now will truly help them as an adult.”
How do you think social media is impacting teen girls and their self-image, and what can parents do to encourage healthy social media use?
“While social media has opened lines of communication with people around the globe and does provide some advantages to our teens, much of social media is not healthy for our daughters’ self-esteem. The images, selfies, and videos they see and post every day at such a young age can not only become addictive, but also expose them to a variety of inappropriate things. Children need to be taught not to engage in inappropriate behavior in the digital world. The ramifications can be devastating to their confidence. Sending personal photos or selfies, for example, could lead to that photo being shared amongst peer groups and around the Internet. To help your child’s self-esteem in social media, emphasize time limits, monitor her usage, reiterate to her that she should post using excellent judgment, and only download appropriate apps. Remind your kids of the permanence of social media and make sure they know to stay away from negative activity online.”