Building self-confidence in girls

How can you make sure today’s girls grow up with a healthy level of self-esteem?

In today’s world, there are so many things that can affect a girl’s self confidence. As a parent, it is important to make sure that you guide your daughters to have the self-esteem that they need to navigate the challenges of growing up in an image-obsessed society. How can we raise our girls to shine and be themselves without bowing to the pressure of the image-obsessed media

More pressure than ever

Today’s girls and young women are faced with more pressure than ever to fit into a certain image. With the media-rich society we live in today, it is impossible to not be bombarded with a certain image ideal, which only a small percentage of women fit into. Girls are pressured to look a certain way and to act a certain way, and with more females doing more outrageous things to get attention, it can be a very confusing world to a young woman trying to find her way. With reality television and social media, the pressure is on to look your best at all times, because every living moment is documented. Reality stars get rewarded for bad behavior, and many teens are trying to push the limits with the things that they share on social media. Boundaries of what is appropriate behavior are constantly blurred. It is more important than ever that girls have the confidence to resist the pressures placed on them and to stay true to themselves.

Let them be young

It seems that, with every generation, the kids are growing up faster, dealing with more “adult” issues at a younger age. Allow kids to be young, there is plenty of time for other stuff later. Encourage more innocent pursuits with young girls. Naturally, you do not want them to be naive and out of touch with their peers, but keep strict rules on what is allowed. And let them know that, even if the other girls say they are too old to “play,” they can still play in the privacy of their own home. Don’t give into the peer pressure of “all the other kids get to …” Sometimes, when faced with a new or potentially scary situation, girls may secretly, subconsciously hope that you will say no, as this will relieve the pressure on them. Don’t let them get into situations that may get out of control or make them feel uncomfortable without a way out. As a parent, offer to be your child’s scapegoat. If they don’t want to do something that friends are pressuring them to do, your child can always say, “my mom is so mean. She won’t let me do anything.” Make it easy for them to say no to situations they are not ready for, and make sure that they know they can always talk to you about anything

Find beauty everywhere

Whenever possible, point out beauty that doesn’t fall into the media ideal. Beauty is truly different for everyone. While a magazine rack may seem to point to one specific type of person, there is beauty everywhere. Look for the beauty in people of different ages, sizes, shapes, and ethnicities. Sometimes it’s hard for a young woman to step back and look at more than what is presented in her face on television, the internet, magazines, and movies. Look at the beauty in differences. Look at the beauty in people who are unique

Decisions today impact the future

As a young girl or teenager, it is difficult to look at the big picture and how decisions made today can have an impact on your future. Giving in to pressure to have sex or use drugs today can lead to regrets tomorrow. We have to teach our girls to value themselves. Sure, having sex today may get you attention and may make you popular for a moment, but once you have done it one time, you will do it again and again. If the first time is not with someone special, that is something you will carry with you throughout your life. If it is handled too casually, and then results in multiple partners down the road, it can take a hefty blow to the self confidence, as teenagers face the reality of being used for their body. Girls need to learn to respect themselves and not give in to what seems important and popular today. Girls need to be taught that they have value, and they are worthy of love and affection, not just someone using them for their body. A common thing that happens with teenage girls is that they don’t give in to pressure to have sex, and their love interest moves on to someone who will. First, if he is worth it, and if he really cares, he will wait. Secondly, don’t think for a moment that if you DID have sex with them, that they wouldn’t move on to the next girl anyway.

Many young girls feel pressure to drink or do drugs, and this may seem harmless to them, but can have lasting, damaging effects. Using drugs or alcohol lowers inhibitions and can potentially put a young woman into a situation where she may be pushed into having sex or making other decisions that she would not have made if sober. This can lead to later regrets, depression, and self doubt, which can lead to more drinking or drugs, and can cause a downward spiral. Teenage hormones are so erratic as it is, adding chemicals to the mix can have devastating results

Encourage a healthy lifestyle

Living a healthy lifestyle can have such a positive impact on a girl’s development. Girls who are in the habit of eating regular, healthy meals and exercising regularly will have a healthier self image and feel better overall. Exercise and diet are important factors in whether someone is affected by depression, which is common in young women. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can boost confidence in a young woman, knowing that she is healthy and maintaining a healthy weight, and it helps to regulate emotions and stress. If the body is in good shape, the mind will follow suit. Too many young women are crash-dieting or binge-eating; not only are these things damaging to a developing body, but they make the mind less able to function correctly, causing problems in school, with concentration, and dealing with day to day stressors

Watch for red flags

Watch girls for signs that something is wrong. Watch for depression, drastic behavior changes, changes in eating habits, and changes in peers. Pay attention to your child’s friends and dating partners. If a child suddenly changes friends or has a relationship breakup, they need your support, and being observant can help you provide the needed support at the right time. Be careful not to meddle, but always ask questions about who they are hanging out with and/or dating. Major changes in peer group or behavior can signal depression, drug use, or other problems. Be approachable and interested. Be nonjudgemental. Keep communication lines open.

Confident girls today, confident women tomorrow

It is a difficult balance, trying to help build self esteem in girls. We want them to grow up to be confident, self-assured, healthy women, so it is very important to guide them on the healthy path. Everyone has bad times, everyone makes mistakes, but helping your daughter land on her feet, and bringing her up with a solid foundation can make all the difference in the woman she becomes tomorrow.