As a child growing up, I suffered from low self-esteem and had very little confidence. I would constantly compare myself with my peers in every way, and feel inferior about my physical appearance. Even though I was academically inclined and attended a top girls’ school, nothing helped the fact that I felt unattractive. It took years to overcome my negative self-perceptions and believe in myself.
Now, as a teacher, I witness my young students go through similar experiences. Many do not feel good enough — in their looks, their grades, or their level of popularity in school.
Low self-esteem comes about when children face criticism from others or when they are burdened by unrealistic expectations placed upon them by society or their loved ones.
Young girls without a strong sense of self are easily swayed or influenced by peers or societal standards of success. This can cause their confidence to plummet further, adversely affecting the way they view themselves and their relationships with others.
But there are ways that you, as a parent, can turn that around. Here are four ways you can positively influence and empower your daughters.
1. Affirm them
Affirmations are positive words or phrases meant to encourage or support someone. Many research studies have proven the benefits of self-affirmations. These include improvement in mental and physical health, academic achievements, and the building of resilience.
Children can and should practice self-affirmations as early as possible in their lives. Here are some examples of affirmations that your daughter can adopt:
“I am more than enough”
or “I am kind, I am smart, I am important”
and “I speak with respect”
“I am a girl who has lots of ideas”
One thing you could do with your daughters is to print stickers or posters with these affirmations for them. Alternatively, they can create their own posters to paste on the walls in their rooms.
(See also: Does Your Child Need a Self-Esteem Boost?)
2. Guide them out of their comfort zone
Trying out new things may seem scary or intimidating especially if your daughters tend to be cautious or introverted. Yet, allowing them to experience new things frequently will broaden their horizons. Furthermore, doing so will increase their learning capacity beyond the confines of formal education.
If your daughter remains hesitant, prep her before time. Give her information about the activities beforehand or show her pictures of what the activities will be like. Doing this might give her the confidence, and the desire to try them out.
Another way to encourage your daughters to try out a unique activity is to make a playdate out of it. Invite their best friends to join them in the activity!
3. Nurture their talents
As parents, we tend to fixate on how our children can fix their weaknesses or improve themselves. In doing so we forget to celebrate their strengths. Once these strengths have been identified, find a platform or an outlet for them to harness them.
This could take the form of a regular non-academic extra-curricular class. It could also be a competition that they take part in just to gain experience and exposure. The outcome of the competition is secondary. Instead, emphasise to them that the learning journey is more critical.
Listening to them intently whenever they reveal their interests to you is also important. In my experience, I find that children are generally more interested in the things that they are talented in.
Of course, it may take some time for your daughters to discover their unique talents. So present them with diverse opportunities to do so. This could be an outdoor activity such as rock climbing or something unique such as caring for animals.
The icing on the cake is if you do these activities with them as a form of mother-daughter bonding.
4. Give them good role models
Parents can be very good role models for their children to emulate, especially since they are their children’s first teachers.
However, children would also tend to adopt other role models, such as celebrities or social media influencers whom they admire. So you should definitely expose your daughters to role models who demonstrate positive values and traits that you would like your girls to emulate.
For example, you could introduce them to books about inspiring female figures or leaders. Then, you could have a discussion with them about which of these individuals they admire and why.
Here are three of my favourite inspirational books for young girls:
Little Leaders: Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison
Best for children who are 8 to 12 years old, this book showcases the lives of culturally diverse women who have achieved great things. The language used is accessible to children and there is also a glossary explaining more challenging terms or concepts.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli
A popular book for children aged 6 and above to inspire them to reach for the stars despite obstacles they may face. The illustrations are visually attractive as well, making this a pleasure to read. One unique feature of the book is that it encourages children to write their own stories!
Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World by Katherine Halligan
This is a celebration of 50 women’s legacies and the enormous impact they have made in the world. Girls who read this book will be motivated to view the world in the eyes of these women. The stories are organised in different sections with inspirational headings such as “Believe and Lead” and “Hope and Overcome”. It is suitable for readers above 8 years old.
Claudine Fernandez is the founder of Artistic Strategies Academy, an educational organisation that aims to groom young writers through the arts. During the September holidays, Claudine is conducting a two-day online girl empowerment camp entitled “You Go, Girl” where girls aged 6-12 years old will learn to examine and reflect upon their self-esteem, dreams and aspirations through creative and interactive activities. They will also be equipped with tools to make wise decisions about issues and dilemmas that they may encounter in their lives. Find out more and sign your daughters up for the camp here
Featured image: Rawpixel