How do I support my step-daughter in learning to love herself?
For as long as I can remember, I only wanted a son. So, I never gave much thought as to what it would mean to raise a girl. This changed when I met my husband. He was very clear about the role his daughter played in his life; he wanted to be with someone who not only loved him but also loved his daughter. It was one of the things that led me to fall in love with him. He treats us both with respect and is showing my step-daughter what to look for in a quality man when she is ready. My role, however, is slightly different.
I am blessed with a son, and I have also been blessed with an amazing step-daughter. She is sweet, kind and ambitious. She is also at an age, where her views of herself can become skewed. When she gets in trouble, she is quick to think about herself negatively or compare herself to others. I realized that I was playing a significant role in her life, which meant that my “girl issues” could be affecting her. Being in her life meant that I was another woman who can help her learn how to love herself.
Here are some ways I go about this:
1. Acknowledge Your Differences
My step-daughter and I come from different cultures which can be confusing for her. I can speak a different language, and if I’m not careful, she can feel excluded. We talk a great deal about the differences in our cultures, language, music and hair textures. We also talk about our similarities. We are females and because of that do a lot of things in a similar way. She is also exposed to different ways of approaching situations. If you have a step-child, I encourage you to discuss your differences to see what you can learn from each other and recognize the commonalities that can bring you closer together. By doing so, your step-daughter will feel included in your home, life and heart! She will learn to love herself more deeply.
2. Admit Your Areas of Growth
As a blended family, you don’t see each other often enough to see the good and the bad. There was a time my step daughter thought I was perfect for keeping up the house, taking care of her and doing my work. She only saw me a few days out of the week and for a short amount of time. It was very easy to “get away” with hiding my flaws from her. When her dad and I moved in together, that was completely different. She started to see how much of a mess I can be. The laundry goes unfolded; I work late hours, and don’t eat in a healthy way. I admitted these areas for her so that she can learn that no one is perfect. Slowly, she started acknowledging and owning her areas of growth. Every day we are together, we talk about one thing we love about ourselves and one thing we want to grow on. She is learning that by telling herself she loves herself, any “mistakes” are merely opportunities to grow.
3. Help Her Make Choices
As her step-mother, I have a chance to help her discuss the choices she has available to her. I can step into a role of outsider and provide a different perspective from her parents. I would never go against what her parents decide for her, but I do find opportunities for her to make choices of her own. Even if they are small, such as what do you want to make yourself for breakfast, they are moments in her life that I can jump in and help her make decisions for herself. As she learns to make these decisions, she is gaining confidence in herself.
Learning how to love yourself is challenging at any age. As mother’s or step-mother’s of girls, we have an opportunity to help the next generation of women value who they are and love themselves at every stage of life. Model for her, share your stories and don’t be afraid to embrace your differences!
Help her love herself at every stage of her life!