As a girl grows, all sorts of changes occur in her body, including developing more womanly features. Your daughter may be growing taller and filling out in areas where she's not accustomed. All of these changes can create self-esteem issues. Particularly, if she is the shy type or has problems with bullying. Also, she needs to know she's not stupid. Even if she happens to lose the soccer game or doesn't earn the highest grade on an assignment.
A study conducted by the NYU Child Study Center estimates that 59 percent of girls from grades 5-12 are dissatisfied with their body shape. Among the same group of girls, 47 percent felt they needed to lose weight so they could look as good as the models in magazines. By age 15, girls are twice as likely as boys to become depressed. These statistics are sobering.
It's vital for a young girl to know she is beautiful and talented no matter what. The changes she is going through are normal and natural. Fortunately, there are many subtle ways to help boost her self-esteem.
Around the ages of 8 or 9 may be an excellent time to start talking to her about puberty. Knowledge is power and starting young is the best, according to kidshealth.org. It's not uncommon for girls to begin puberty around this time. If they know what to expect, you can head off self-esteem issues before they get serious. For more mature girls, talking to them about relationships with other girls, boys, and teachers, is also a helpful way to learn more about how to help them when they're having issues.
Show by example
It's important your daughter knows you have strong self-esteem. If you're constantly berating yourself or other people about how they look, it can have a negative effect on her. A self-confident parent can do wonders for a daughter's self-esteem and help her to feel good about herself. This can set her up for strong self-worth and confidence to handle the more difficult times in her life.
Show by love
Even in times when you're both ready to tear each other's heads off, you can show love; through a hug, smile, and the three little words, "I love you." When times are tough, be there for her. If she wants to talk, let her. If not, write her a note telling her you care. Sometimes, taking her shopping for a new summer or school outfit can help her feel better. The key is to boost her self-esteem, but not go overboard. When one of my daughters has a bad day or she feels ugly, we go eat ice cream. Sometimes she wants to talk. Other times, she doesn't. However, just being a shoulder to cry on can be all she needs.
Magazines usually show a stick-thin model looking flawless with no fat on her body, and perfect skin. There is a plethora of "role models" out there vying for your daughter's attention. It's up to you, as a parent, to give your daughter the real scoop. A model looks perfect because she has 10 experts and designers working on her. They airbrush flaws in her appearance. They apply large amounts of makeup to hide imperfections, and dress her in expensive clothes. The point is, tell her no one is perfect. Fashion models go home and deal with many of the same issues as other girls. The important thing for your daughter to learn is that beauty really comes from inside. A girl with virtue, integrity, individual worth, kindness, and who is service-oriented is not only beautiful inside, but precious in the eyes of everyone around her.
Involve Dad or other male role model
Girls need to hear from their fathers that they have worth. It's vital that they play a role in boosting their daughter's self-esteem by praising her accomplishments. Having a fun "daddy-daughter" date is a great way for a relationship to flourish. If there is no father around, a grandfather, uncle, or other male role model can help her feel self-confident and sure of herself.
Let girls fail
We all want our daughters to succeed. However, achieving too much with little effort can go to their head. Having self-esteem doesn't mean getting everything you want through pouting. Let them try many things, but don't coddle them if they're not perfect at everything. Sometimes, failure is inevitable. Yet through failure, growth happens, and she is better for the experience.
Self-esteem comes in all forms. Knowing how to help your daughter when her own self-worth is waning can help build trust and love which can develop into a lasting and healthy relationship.
Julia Nielsen is currently parenting three kids with pitfalls and pleasures. She co-authored two published books in "The Crystal Locket" series, and graduated from the Institute of Children's Literature in 2005. Check out her blog: http://jewelswrites.blogspot.com