The preteen years are some of the most difficult, trying times for parents and children alike. Preteen girls are just beginning to experience bodily and hormonal changes that might make them more self-conscious, less confident and increasingly concerned about what other people -- especially their peers -- think. A strong sense of self-esteem might help your preteen feel more secure and help protect her from the impact of some of these issues. A healthy level of self-esteem helps kids more easily handle conflict and resist the negative pressures of the world, according to KidsHealth.
Model positive behavior and attitudes. You are one of the most powerful role models for your daughter, says talk show host and mental health expert Dr. Phil McGraw in an article for his website. If she witnesses you feeling negative about your self-image or beating yourself up for issues like weight or appearance, she might take on these attitudes as well. Modeling appropriate, healthy behaviors may help promote a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-acceptance.
Identify incorrect or negative thought patterns and behaviors. Help her replace these inaccurate or self-defeating concepts with more positive, realistic beliefs, advises KidsHealth. If you hear your daughter putting herself down for being fat or stupid, step in immediately to stop these trains of thought. Be especially watchful for comparisons with celebrities or models in magazines, advises Dr. Phil. It's easy to confuse body image with self-image, and if she feels like she doesn't measure up, her self-esteem might suffer.
Affirm her positive qualities and build on her strengths. Providing opportunities to display her unique talents can help her build a healthy sense of self-esteem and promotes feelings of self-efficacy. If she enjoys art or music, consider enrolling her in art or music lessons. If she likes sports, encourage her to join an intramural team. When children have as many opportunities as possible to shine, they are more likely to experience positive levels of self-esteem.
Display support and provide unconditional love. One of the most important factors in building healthy self-esteem is parental love and and a positive family environment, says KidsHealth. Let her know that you love her and accept her for exactly who she is, the way she is right now.
Consult a qualified mental health professional if you feel like she's struggling with certain issues, such as body image or self-acceptance. While almost all preteens experience these concerns, it can sometimes be a sign of a potential mental health problem. Counseling might help nip these issues in the bud and help her develop a healthier sense of self-esteem.