It’s hard enough being an adult in today’s world, filled with weight-loss and diet commercials, airbrushed images, a relentless emphasis on appearance and an obsession with dieting and shame around eating.
Being a girl? Probably even more confusing and potentially damaging and demoralizing.
As I wrote in an older post on Weightless, tween and teen girls are just starting to form to their identities and figure out the world. They’re trying to make friends, yearning to belong and fit in, maybe even being bullied, dealing with a changing body, dealing with academic and other social pressures and trying to make sense of an often contradictory and damaging culture.
So what can parents and caregivers do to help girls grow up with a healthy sense of self?
Today, I’m pleased to present my interview with clinical social worker Barb Steinberg, who works with girls and parents to build a healthy self-image and body image.
Below, Steinberg reveals how parents can raise confident girls, help them quiet their inner critic and create a positive environment where they can thrive. As adults, we also can learn quite a bit from Steinberg’s wise words.
Q: How can parents help their daughters build up their confidence?
A: There are three basic elements to confidence: our sense of achievement, belonging and self-esteem.
Achievement: Parents can provide their daughters with opportunities to experience achievement using their minds, bodies and hearts – whether it is achievement in sports/ the arts, achievement in grades or achievement in being a kind, considerate human being. Encourage the notion that what feels like achievement for one person may not for another – it is individual. Feeling the pride of achieving something increases self-confidence.
Belonging: When parents create an atmosphere of belonging it adds to their daughter’s feeling of well-being, safety and sense of self. Getting a sense from your parents that what you have to say is valuable, that you are capable of problem solving within the family, that you are an important member of the family adds to girls’ confidence levels.
Self-Esteem: Self-esteem is our self-perceptions – our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. Parents can help their daughters increase self-esteem, and thus increase their confidence, by giving them many different opportunities to try new things, see what they like and don’t like, see what they are good at or not good at – let them fail and get back up to develop resilience. It’s in this failure and recovery that girls learn how strong and capable they are. This gives them the tools in life to believe in their own abilities.
Q: In your workshops you talk with parents about creating a “positive body culture” in your home and quieting your “inner critic.” What are some ways parents can do that?
A: Here are some tips I like to give parents and girls to use to create a more positive body image and treat themselves in a kinder way:
The most powerful message we can send to our girls is: You are not your body. You have a body but it is not who you are. You are so much more!
More about Barb Steinberg
Barb Steinberg is a licensed, masters level, clinical social worker. She has worked with adolescents and the adults in their lives for over 20 years through life coaching, workshops, parent education and products, such as her popular, educational DVD, The Wisdom of Girls: Teens, Sex & Truth. She has been featured as an expert on adolescent girl issues on KUT News, KVUE-TV, Fox7, The Savvy Source for Parents and LiveMom.
What do you think about Steinberg’s responses? Anything you’d like to add? What would you like to know about raising kids with a healthy self-image?
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Last reviewed: 17 Jan 2012