9 Ways to Boost Your Daughter's Self Esteem
Anea Bogue | Tonic
In the face of research that suggests girls’ self-esteem peaks at 9, hope lies largely in the hands of parents.
Most moms I work with are completely unaware of studies out of the NYU Child Study Center that indicate the average American girl’s self-esteem peaks at the age of 9 and then plummets. Yes, you read that correctly — 9. The reasons they report are many and varied, ranging from hormonal shifts to media influence, specifically the sexualization of girls and the setting of unrealistic physical standards.
Here’s the thing, the impact of low self-esteem in girls often leads to behaviors that can be life-altering well beyond the teen years. The recent Real Girls, Real Pressure report, sponsored by Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, indicates that 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities such as disordered eating, cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking and using drugs when feeling badly about themselves.
Of course, as girls become sexually active, low self-esteem also becomes a catalyst for risky sexual behavior that often results in STD’s, pregnancy and deep emotional scars. Yes, as parents of daughters, we have our work cut out for us. Societal messages that work against every girl’s self-esteem are powerful and pervasive, creating a daily uphill climb.
That said, there are many steps we can take to build and protect their self-esteem and, in turn, their future.
• Build a strong foundation. From her first breath, remind your daughter on a daily basis, through words and action, that she is strong, smart and beautiful. Research confirms that girls with low self-esteem most commonly receive less praise and more criticism from either parent.
• Limit her access to media early. The messages you work diligently to provide will quickly be challenged if you don’t filter media that blatantly contradicts them. A great deal of television and print media sets unrealistic physical standards and portray over-sexualized, disempowered girls and women. Unchecked, it will shape your daughter’s sense of reality, self and the standard she is expected to meet for acceptance, desirability and success. Additionally, it is essential that you help her to achieve media literacy so even when she is engaged with it, it will be with a more discerning mind. An easy place to start is the
Dove Real Beauty Campaign website where, in addition to taking quizzes on self-esteem, she can take one on image manipulation so she realizes how unreal print media images frequently tend to be.
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