I’m Amanda Rootsey, the founder of Teen Academy – Shine From Within and best-selling author of the book Shine From Within; A Teen Girl’s Guide to Life. With my background in life coaching and youth mentoring, I am honoured to write this article in which I share my suggestions to teach your teen girls self-love.
Those teen years … they are a tough time, right?
We all remember it.
And if you’ve got teens in your household right now, then you are likely experiencing some of the challenges all over again (lucky you!).
One thing parents often ask me is how they can encourage their kids to love themselves and develop a positive body image. (Sometimes I get asked the complete opposite… ‘my daughter is obsessed with herself and has no empathy whatsoever for anyone else…. HELP!’ – but we’ll leave that discussion for another time!)
With this in mind, I want to help you to help your teenage girls to love them themselves. Here are my simple practices to teach teen girls self-love.
Warning: There may be some truth bombs ahead. #justsayin
Further reading: Gifts for teenage girls that have nothing to do with iphones.
I know you know this one. But let me highlight things you may not be aware of that can potentially harm your children’s body image.
It’s none other than – your language around your own body.
Every time you say something negative about your appearance, you’re normalising this behaviour.
Wearing swimmers in front of your daughter without embarrassment sends a powerful message that you embrace your body. It reminds her that ALL bodies are beautiful and life is to be enjoyed, regardless as to whether you are not built like a typical swimwear model, or not.
But if that’s a stretch, start with becoming aware of the thoughts and comments you make to yourself when standing in front of the mirror.
Recently a student shared that her Mum saw a random person on the street, and said:
“I just don’t know how that person can let themselves get that big; it’s so unhealthy.”
It made the daughter feel really uncomfortable.
Passing judgment on other people based on their appearance can show your children that they need to look a certain way if they want to be accepted by you.
What we grew up with as normal behaviour and acceptable viewpoints are being questioned and debunked by science daily.
‘Healthy’ doesn’t look a certain way for everyone.
Eating disorder prevention training teaches us that even words and phrases we believe to be innocent can cause issues, such as:
These statements suggest that some foods are dirty or should make you feel guilty. Labelling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ can cause stress for the young people around the types of food they eat.
Instead, encourage intuitive eating. Notice how foods make us feel (which can be different for each of us). If you’re trying to get healthier in your household, it’s recommended that you increase the stuff you know to be full of nutrients (such as fresh fruits, veggies) rather than restrict foods.
Important note: Dieting is the most significant risk factor for an eating disorder.
Instead of fixating on how the human body ‘looks’. Focus on what your body and your child’s body can ‘do’.
When your daughters realises how flippin’ incredible her body is, she may view it more favourably which is a brilliant way to teach a teen girl self-love.
Here are some incredible facts to share with her:
Keep a close eye on your teen girl.
For example, you might notice she is fixating on her weight. Such signs are:
If you try and talk about these issues but nothing is changing I strongly advise that you take her to see a professional. This could be a counsellor or psychologist who specialises in working with adolescents.
If you have any queries or concerns, call The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673. They are wonderful, will talk to you about anything related to this topic and provide recommendations if they feel you need more help.
Empowering teenage girls with self-care rituals not only minimises stress but also fosters a deep sense of self-love.
By instilling these practices early, they develop lifelong habits that prioritise their well-being.
Such habits include:
My eldest daughter had a lot of trauma early in life (around age 15). Because of this, she had to learn at a young age how to manage stress and look after herself. Although it was hard at the time, she is now 20, and miles ahead of her friends in knowing how to look after herself on a deep, personal level.
You don’t need trauma to teach stress-relief rituals early in life. But know that if you do, your gorgeous teen girl will be better balanced and more able to cope with the world around them in later years.
Speaking of rituals, I’d like to talk about one in particular that I have known teen girls to have a lot of success with … a mirror message board.
Instead of a typical message board made of wood, this one is a mirror that they can fill with positive messages. Using a special pen that rubs off, tell them they can write self-empowering quotes and mantras on the reflective surface. Every time they feel down, they can simply look in the mirror and read the messages to lift their spirits.
Aside from optimistic quotations, they can also write whatever they are feeling at the moment. Because sometimes all we need is to write down our thoughts to feel better. To encourage them, you can also write cheerful messages from time to time. This will let them know that you’re there for them.
One time during a mother-daughter retreat I was running, I took the teens to chat with them separately, while my co-host spent time with the mums.
The teens shared that they knew their parents were stressed a lot of the time, wanted to be able to talk to them about it and, most of all, wanted some 1:1 time with them. They realised this wasn’t easy and it didn’t have to be often, but they wanted to schedule it in.
Some of their suggestions included once a month they could go for a walk together, or once a week they could do the grocery shopping together and perhaps before or after the shopping was done, they could sit in a cafe for half an hour with nothing else to do but chat. It’s not a lot to ask for is it?
Take them to their favourite place, be it a cafe or a spot on the beach. Every now and then, you could get your teenage girl a gift to show that, however busy and preoccupied you seem, you are always thinking of them.
Often these rituals take time to develop and it can take time for the teen to open up. But, by simply knowing they have this time with you coming up, they can think about what they’d like to share with you during those precious times.
Bringing a teen girl into the world is no mean feat! Especially if you want to offer them the best opportunities in life and encourage them grow with a healthy, happy mindset.
Trust your gut and be kind to yourself. Not only will this make you feel better but it will rub off on your teen girl. Show them that you make mistakes sometimes and love yourself regardless.
During my sessions, teens often tell me how much they love and respect a parent more when they realise they are not perfect!
Being kind to yourself is a brilliant way to teach your teen girl self-love.
This one of the most critical reminders when nurturing self-love, especially in teenagers.
Let your teen girl know that by comparing themselves to others, whether on social media or between schoolmates and friends is a big no-no. Tell them that doing this will spread negativity not only within themselves but also among the people around them.
I encourage the teenage girls I work with to accept that we are all different; and that being different is not always a bad thing.
Alongside this, I help them understand that it’s better to focus on loving oneself and not on how we measure up to others and society.
A study, published on September 11th 2019 in JAMA Psychiatry, from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that:
“Adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more likely to report high levels of internalising behaviours, which can involve social, difficulty coping with anxiety or depression or directing feelings inward.” (Read more here).
This could mean ensuring phones and other devices are taken away each night at a certain time.
Another thing you can do is spend some time setting up apps on your phone together.
For example, Instagram allows you to set a daily reminder that will pop up when you’ve been online for your desired time that day (e.g. I set mine for 20 minutes/day). You can also mute push notifications. This way, alerts cannot distract you throughout the day and can check privacy settings together.
Yes, they need to conform at school with rules and uniforms.
However, they don’t have to look the same as everyone else. Just because, say, straight blonde hair is in fashion, and they have red curls, does not mean they are not beautiful.
Teach them that following trends is not a requirement and that they have a choice. This is critical for them to understand particularly with choices that involve their body or the way they look. They should not feel left out just because their taste is different from the current trend.
Tell your teenage girl that the first step to loving oneself is by being true to themselves.
For example, they might see a top they love but don’t buy it as it’s not the current trend. But if they like it, they should buy it and wear it proudly to show their individuality, rather than desperately trying to fit in with clothes, hair, makeup which everyone else is wearing.
True story: When my youngest daughter did the Walk of Honour on her last day of high school, we kept mistaking her for other girls. They all looked the same! Blonde, straight hair, tanned skin, fake eyelashes. I showed her the video afterwards and she was shocked. She hadn’t realised how much she had conformed and what that actually looked like.
Watching shows together can be a powerful way to enhance self-love in teen girls.
Shared TV time creates opportunities for bonding, fostering open communication and understanding. It allows you to engage in discussions about characters, storylines, and themes that may resonate with the girls’ personal experiences.
By exploring diverse narratives, teens can gain valuable insights into various perspectives and emotions, promoting empathy and self-reflection.
Most importantly, it provides a platform for discussing body image, relationships, and self-acceptance in a comfortable setting.
This shared entertainment experience not only strengthens familial connections but also encourages a positive self-image by affirming that everyone’s journey is unique and worthy of acceptance.
It might feel like it was all a long time ago now but remember what it was like for you as a teen!
I know I had heaps of body image issues. They are nothing new, they’re just presented in different ways now.
It can be hard for us to understand the real pressure kids today are under from social media as we didn’t have it. Yet, we can still share stories of what it was like for us as teens in the hope of connecting with them and showing we have a sense of how they feel based on our own experiences.
Remind the young person in your life that they get to choose their social media ‘feed.’
They can unfollow anyone who doesn’t make them feel good. Instead, they can fill their feed with positive, uplifting, interesting, challenging, educational, and activist profiles. That will be super cool and empowering!
Some of the body positive advocates I love include:
Or encourage your teen girls to search these hashtags: #bodypositivity #positivevibes #nobodyshame
Last tip on how to teach your teen girl self-love …
Talk about: Real vs fake. And ask how social media images, influencers, and celebrities make them feel.
Try to listen without judgment or jumping in to tell your daughter how beautiful she is to you (it often elicits an eye-roll because well, ‘Mum has to say that!’).
Instead, listen and acknowledge her feelings without needing to fix them immediately. Allow her to share, empathise with her, and perhaps ask some questions, such as:
Is what we see online, in movies, on billboards, etc actually real? (hint: it’s not!).
Is it helpful or realistic to compare yourself to that?
Note: In my book, Shine from Within; A Teen Girl’s Guide To Life, I share my experiences as a model and how I wished I looked like images of myself in real life! I then share that we can change our perspective rather than hating all images and avoiding social media and anything else that makes us feel bad about ourselves.
Tell your girl that these images can be incredibly beautiful, but we don’t compare ourselves to them because we know they’re not real. In the same way, we can appreciate what an influencer is sharing on Instagram.
It all takes work and is how that person likes to express themselves, or perhaps even how they make a living.
If you have a teen girl who is struggling to love themselves, I hope the suggestions I have made in this article based on my expertise and experience, will help give you a path forward.
The best thing you can do to teach your teen girl self-love is to lead by example. Be kind to yourself. Be aware of the language you use when talking about yourself, others and your teen.
Work with them to change their perspective and remind them that they can choose how they react to things and what to look at … this is so empowering, and they can start NOW.
Celebrate all the things your teen does and remind them that they do not need to please others to feel and be loved.
Most importantly, no matter how busy you are, make time for your kids. Even a few minutes will go a long way. This will let them know that they are not alone and that they matter. In my experience, most cases of low self-esteem in teens are rooted in a lack of attention at home.
Through your extraordinary parenting skills and with the list above as a guide, I’m sure your teen girl will grow into a confident, self-loving young woman.
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