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The other day one of my teenage daughters told me she was going to delete her Facebook page. She said she kept noticing that her mood and the way she felt about herself changed whenever she was logged on. She felt pressured about her looks and her social life; basically, she was not feeling good about herself whenever she was using Facebook.
I’ve never forbidden my three children from using social media. Let’s be real, this is our future. I embrace change and teach my children that with discretion and good judgment, we can enjoy everything life gives us (including technology). I monitor their usage, limit the time spent online and always give them the "be careful with.." speech. However, sometimes I’ve found that this "speech" is not enough.
While my daughters are very self-confident girls, the teenage years are very delicate and unexpected episodes in their lives can sometimes cause their confidence to stumble. From failing a test, feeling rejected by their peers or gaining weight to bigger life events like moving to a new place - all of these things can make our teenage girls feel vulnerable. During my years working with women with multiple mental health disorders, I learned that if we help our daughters early on to develop healthy ways to cope with life changing processes, it will help them evolve into more powerful and confident women over time.
Psychotherapy has often been referred to as the “talking cure” because of the curative effects that come simply from expressing how you feel. So let’s start talking with our teenagers! Let’s listen to them, respect their opinions (even if we don’t agree) and encourage self expression. Even though we have to struggle against the media, social networks and negativity from people around them, we still have a big impact in the lives of our daughters; let’s use it! Let’s help our girls take control of their lives and feel empowered to change something they do not like while embracing, accepting, and celebrating who they are.
I’ve noticed that it takes more than just telling my daughters how great and special they are to help them feel good about themselves. They need more specific reassurance to withstand the constant pressure to be the "ideal weight" or have the "ideal look," and the "ideal attitude." So to help them deal with moments of insecurity and help them grow up and become confident women, here are the top 10 things I always remind my daughters:
1. It’s OK to feel vulnerable. It happens to everyone, even if they don’t admit it. If you feel bad about something, ask, read, look for help. It doesn’t matter how big or small you think your problem is.
2. Be courageous. Always dare to say and do what you think is right. Never be afraid of speaking your mind. Learn when and how to say "No" and not feel bad about it. Be assertive, not aggressive.
3. Take care of yourself. Exercise and eat healthy - not because you have to be skinny, but because your body is where you live and you want to treat it the best way you can.
4. Respect yourself. Never tell yourself something that you would not tell your best friend.
5. Never feel bad about something you cannot change. Learn from the experience and move on.
6. Make your own decisions - before someone else does. Always remember that every decision you make can have a great impact in your life.
7. What you see in magazines and on the Internet is not always real. Photoshop exists, never forget that!!
8. Forget about what people think about you. What do YOU think about yourself? That is what really matters.
9. Be grateful, humble and compassionate with others. Be open to others’ opinions. There is always something you can learn.
10. When people tell you “life is tough”, don’t listen to them! Life gives you opportunities to learn; what you make out of it is what makes life beautiful.
What lessons do you try to pass on to your teenagers? Share them in the comments section!