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Magazines, television, the "in-crowd" at school. Teen girls get myriad messages from all over about how they're supposed to look. It's no wonder they often think they're too big, small, short, or tall.
As a parent, you can help your teen daughter like what she sees in the mirror. Work on building her self-esteem and she'll learn she's beautiful, inside and out. Here's how.
Help her realize why she's special. Every night before she goes to sleep, ask her to list three happy moments from the day. Give her ideas if she's stuck—that good soccer play, the math problem she solved, the funny joke she told.
Point her toward realistic goals in school, sports, and life. Setting the bar too high can lead to feelings of discouragement and failure. But, at the same time, encourage her to push herself toward achievable, if sometimes difficult, goals. She should feel challenged and that she's aiming for a higher purpose. We all need to feel we're great at something. Encourage her to pursue her passions.
Encourage exercise. Studies show active teens have a better body image regardless of their weight. Drive your daughter to practice, cheer her on during games, and model healthy physical activity yourself. Get Dad involved, too. Fathers may have an especially important effect on their daughters' self-perception.
Eat together. Family meals lead to teens who are better adjusted and less likely to engage in risky behaviors. A bonus benefit? They'll also have a healthier diet.
Guide her toward places where she can belong. Help her get involved with friends, schoolmates, sports teams, or religious or neighborhood groups. Volunteering is a great way for kids to take on a meaningful or useful role—and realize there are more important qualities than outer beauty.
Be a self-confident family. This makes your teen feel good, too. Study your heritage, get involved in the community, and care for extended relatives. Praise each family member for his or her strengths.
Even in happy, supportive families, poor self-esteem can happen and it can lead to eating disorders, including anorexia or bulimia. Watch for warning signs, such as an unusual concern about weight, using medicines such as laxatives, or an obsession with calories. If you spot them, talk with your child's doctor.