At age 7, it was clear that Madeleine liked to be in charge. Her mother feared she was destined to be “bossy.” Then the preteen years hit; by age 10, Madeleine rarely made a decision without checking in with her friends; she exhibited a hesitancy that surprised and, frankly, concerned her mother. What happened to the confident and self-assured daughter she knew?
Girls are social beings; it’s normal at age 10 for Madeleine to engage more deeply with her friends. In addition, preteen girls begin to deal with hormonal fluctuations, social pressures, and cultural messages which lead them to continually ask an internal question, “Am I OK?” As the parent, you want your daughter to answer that question with a hearty “Yes!” While we cannot stop her internal questioning, we can help a daughter, like Madeleine, grow into a young lady with a positive sense of self and confidence to be the amazing and wonderful person she is meant to be.
Here are five things you can do as a parent to help instill confidence in your daughter as she readies for and navigates the teen years. Think of these as anchors she can hold onto as she grows from girl to young woman:
- Help her identify and claim her strengths. You will probably see her strengths more clearly than she does; be a mirror for her.
- Accompany her as she stretches into new territory. Help her develop a specialized skill; being skilled at something (anything!) is a particularly powerful way to help your daughter gain confidence in herself and her abilities.
- Surround her, as much as possible, with positive people who have strong relationship skills. We are social beings and we become more like the people we hang around with; it’s been proven over and over again. The positive people your daughter interacts with will help strengthen her.
- Listen to your daughter. Encourage her to share her perspective, her ideas, her dreams and desires. Validate her observations and perspective as often as possible.
- Teach your girl about real beauty. The computer altered, surgically enhanced, and air-brushed images broadcast to her daily through the media portray false images that harm a girl’s sense of self. Help your daughter identify her own physical attributes. Teach your daughter about inner beauty; it’s more long-lasting and powerful than the made-up images the culture presents. This lesson is, perhaps, the most difficult to teach so start now, however young (or old) your daughter is today.
All of our daughters are like Madeleine; they go through a period of uncertainty in the preteen and teen years. Give your daughter anchor points to hold onto. A strong sense of self, and a skill set will help your daughter navigate the particularly difficult years of adolescence. Arm her well, stay by her side, and start as soon as possible. Loving parents make a big difference.
Amy Sluss, RN is a family-life specialist, an author and an acclaimed mother-daughter speaker from Pleasanton, CA. Visit her website www.fab2bfem.com to access her product line of uplifting parenting education tools and to arrange a Growing up Female workshop for your daughter.