When your daughter grapples with things like self-acceptance, it's hard to just stand back and do nothing. As a mother to a daughter who's embarking on her tween years, I've seen and experienced and know the struggle. As her body shifts into different contours, her voice's tone and cadence sharpens and her ability to walk confidently into a room fades. So I've been thinking a lot about how to help. Some little ways you can teach your daughter to accept herself aren't that hard, really, but make no mistake: it all starts with you.
On the days I fought the same insecurity issues — the ones my daughter's going through now — I wasn't all that sure how to overcome them. Self-acceptance wasn't something I was innately born with or learned to cultivate, so in having this sweet girl look up to me as her example, I've had to practice. Whether I'm looking in a mirror, or mumbling something about my big hair, I've become more aware of the self-imposed negatives in my vocabulary. Honestly, and even though it's not always easy, I'm so grateful for this lesson my daughter has unknowingly given me.
While my daughter searches for ways to express herself, ways to use her voice, and ways to empower herself, I'm discovering the huge impact the following little habits and decisions have made when I'm teaching her to accept herself. If I can do it and overcome my own demons in order to set the right example for my kids, any mom can, too.
Let Your Daughter Be Independent
I'm not the best at letting go. In fact, the closer my daughter gets to puberty and her teen years, the more I catch myself holding onto her tighter than ever before. I know someday soon I have to loosen my grip, though, so that she can grow into the young woman I know she can and will be.
Letting our daughters venture out into the world on their own — be it by making more decisions independently or spending more time with friends — not only teaches them to accept themselves in new ways and by gaining confidence in their ability to make decisions without their loving parents hovering, but also helps us mothers and fathers prepare for the day our daughters leaves the nest. No, I'm not crying, you are.
Give Your Daughter The Chance To Develop New skills
Along with letting my daughter be more independent, whenever there's something she's even slightly interested in my partner and I push and encourage her to try it. So far, she's been in soccer, t-ball, gymnastics, dance, and karate. Maybe none of those sports were her "thing," but in branching out and trying different activities she found new strengths in herself that she didn't realize she had before. Whether it was resilience in not quitting when she wanted to, or more physical strength and endurance kicking a ball around for an hour, these skills built upon one another, helping her accept herself a little more each time.
Help Your Daughter Foster Healthy Relationships
A huge part of self-acceptance stems from how we interact within the relationships we have and share and enjoy in our lives. My partner and I aren't perfect, but we strive to set a healthy example for both of our children — especially our daughter. We also encourage our girl to choose her friendships wisely, and to be a good friend in return. Maybe these acts don't create self acceptance, but they definitely contribute towards that overall goal.
Teach Your Daughter How To Label Her Emotions
When I was younger I didn't always know the correct name for the thing I was feeling, mostly because I didn't have the best examples of healthy emotional outlets. I never knew if I was angry or depressed, happy or cautious. In not having proper labels for my feelings, every relationship I've ever had — family, romantic, and otherwise — was negatively affected.
By teaching my daughter to use her words, and unapologetically telling me she's feeling frustrated or lonely, I can better help fix whatever's bothering her. This all leads to a more emotionally secure, self-accepting young woman.
Remind Your Daughter Of Her Strengths
If I could list the number of strengths my daughter has in her, but has yet to realize, I'd be speaking for a very, very long time. All the places she sees weakness, I see potential. My girl is abundant with this light radiating from every part of her. If I can teach her to tap into that light, and use all the things she's best at (while working on those she's not so great at in order to improve), she will be a leader capable of ruling the world — no doubt about that.
In my years as a mother, I've learned that parenthood means so much more than providing for my children. It's also about taking a step back and thinking about what it felt like when I was that age, and mostly, what I might feel when I see things from their point-of-view.
My daughter's at that age where arguments are constant. After all, she's looking for her place in the world and wants me to step out of her way. It's not always about me when she's angry, either. If I can remember that, and empathize with her feelings, she usually calms down long enough to talk it out.
Show Your Daughter The Value Of Using Her Voice
There's no better time than now to emphasize the strength and power of my daughter's voice. She may not always feel like she's heard (hell, sometimes I feel that way, too), but in teaching her all the ways her unique, powerful, and worthy voice can help the world around her, she may start to believe in the power it has.
You know, the power she has.
Let Your Daughter Take Risks
I'm a self-proclaimed helicopter mom, but I'm starting to see how valuable it is to let my daughter take more risks. If I can allow her to try new things that challenge her, she'll see how much I believe in her and, maybe, she'll start to believe in herself, too.
Self acceptance comes in many forms. One of which, I think, is overcoming the things that scare us. No matter how badly I want to hold onto my little girl and protect her from absolutely everything under the sun, I also know that allowing her to face those scary things is only going to benefit her in the end.
Let Your Love Be Unconditional
I never felt safe as a young girl, mostly because it always seemed if I messed up no one would love me. The love I received was conditional and, as a result, I was constantly afraid I wold lose it. I never want my kids to feel that way. Ever. My partner and I have tried to show our daughter there's nothing she can do so wrong, and there's no way she can behave so badly, that we'd ever stope loving her with every part of our beings.
This is arguably the most important lesson I want my daughter to learn. I don't want her to go into adulthood trying to fill a void — one that can't be filled, honestly — when she should've learned how to love herself, and others, from the very beginning.
Set The Example Of Self-Love
I've not always been my own biggest fan. I've battled weight, depression and anxiety, and don't always love what I see when I look in the mirror. When I look at my daughter, though, I realize that she's always watching the way I treat myself and listening to the words I use about my body. If I want to raise a strong, independent daughter who fully accepts herself, I have to treat myself the way I deserve to be treated, too. Period.