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Let those special dad daughter moments add up towards building confidence in your teenager, who will grow up to be a strong woman.
In the final part of the article, we continue with more action items for fathers to help boost their teenage daughter’s self esteem.
Media and technology is a double edged sword. Our children are born into the technological age. And as parents, we have a tall task in front of us.
Several studies have shown how social media causes severe depression, low self esteem and body image issues in teen girls. The constant pressure to look happy, strong, sexy, hot, smart, independent, in short look ‘perfectly perfect’ breeds a lot of insecurity and anxiety in teenagers. From cyber bullying to revenge porn to lurking of pedophiles, the dangers of social media and technology are many. As a father, make sure you control, oversee and have tight restrictions on her social media activity.
The way women are projected in the media doesn’t help in building the self esteem of young teen girls either. That is why it is so important to make your teenager media literate. You can do this simply by watching TV shows and movies with her, having discussions around them, making her wise – to know the difference between the right and the wrong. Help her to be a good critic in decoding and filtering media messages. Expose the unrealistic standards of beauty as portrayed in the media, not to forget the rampant sexism.
According to Jean Kilbourne, author and motivational speaker, “The media, in particular the Western, sends girls harmful messages about beauty and the value of women. There is so much peer pressure on young teenage girls to have that perfect body and it is so easy for many of them to feel insecure.” Watch her enlightening TedTalk, The dangerous ways ads see women.
Let your daughter know that you see her beauty inside out. You see her intelligence, her skills, her talents, her passion, her kindness apart from being just a pretty face and body.
Encourage her to get into the habit of reading. Start with a few minutes a day and gradually increase the time spent in reading. Take an interest in her academic learning. Have thought provoking conversations and discussions around current world affairs, read up on science and technology, challenge her to solve puzzles and complex math problems, play a game of Chess together.
The best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother. Fathers, model a respectful and loving relationship with your wife as your daughter will expect to be treated the same way in all her relationships. Also, show your teenager that equality between men and women in a relationship must be the norm and not the exception. Refrain from any sexist jokes pertaining to husband-wife relationships, mother-in-law caricaturing etc. as it sends a wrong message to young, impressionable minds.
Dr. Linda Nielsen says, “A father can help his daughter build strong relationships in the future by teaching her to be herself. And not change like a chameleon to try to suit the man she´s with.”
As a father, you can demystify the male mind and talk about boys to your curious daughter. You can tell her just how awkward adolescence is for teenage boys and everyone has their own self-doubts, issues and the emotional need for healthy relationships. It is important to teach her to respect her body, resisting peer pressure, maintaining her dignity, understanding private boundaries, the significance of consent and the importance of fidelity in relationships.
Again, a guy thing! Men’s interaction style is usually to do things together. This comes in handy when it comes to spending some quality shared time with your teen girl. Find activities that both of you are interested in. Chances are that the two of you will share many similar interests and likes. Like father, like daughter, as they say!
The great news is that research proves that teen girls who share regular activities with their fathers exhibit higher levels of self-esteem than those who don’t. So Dads, listen to music and dance together, go on a fun date, hike, swim, cook etc. Your daughter will look forward to your time together with eager anticipation. Make it special!
In many cultures, men shedding tears is considered a sign of weakness. Real men don’t cry! But this comes in the way of the father-daughter bond. Especially when she is going through a rough patch and is highly sensitive and vulnerable. Do not bother about societal dictums. Go ahead and show your vulnerable side to your daughter. Let her see the ‘real’ you. There is no shame in showing your weakness and faults. Life is not perfect and so aren’t we. Doing so, will actually bring you both closer and make your bond stronger.
According to Santiago Trabolsi, a psychologist, life coach and dad, “When you as a father show your own weakness, it gives permission for your daughter to accept her weaknesses. This emotional connection generates warmth, empathy and honest communication between the two of you.”
Just because your young girl is now a teenager, it doesn’t mean you cannot freely touch, hug and kiss her as you normally did from the moment she was born. In fact, studies prove that such physical reminders of love aid greatly in building her self-esteem. Regular physical displays of affection act like a balm and soothe her soul.
Adolescent psychologist Dr. Linda Nielsen weighs in, “Fathers have been told by society that it is inappropriate for them to hug their daughters once they start to mature sexually — past the age of 12 or so. He should ignore this training and give her big bear hugs when he feels like it. It’s important because it’s just one more way of showing her that he is not uncomfortable with her growing up, with her becoming a sexual person or with her maturing body.”
Hug and kiss your teenager often and watch her confidence level soar. Give her thoughtful gifts and presents. It could anything even a handwritten letter expressing your love and support. A la Prakash Padukone’s letter to his daughter Deepika Padukone.
As for mothers, encourage more father-daughter time and honour the importance of a father’s role, perspective, wisdom and patience.
Finally, remember that every individual is unique and will respond at their own pace. Be patient with your teenager and give them all the time and space to bloom and flourish. Make sure both of you, her parents, are always there for her and keep the channels of communication always open. It is only a matter of time for your teenage girl to be flying high with her new found sense of confidence and a high level of self-esteem.
In conclusion, I leave you this informational video by renowned psychologist (and one of my personal favourites) by Dr. Meg Meeker Good dads — the real game changers. The video is very contemporary in outlook, relevant for our time and perfectly sums up this article.
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