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If you’re a parent of a child who’s age just cracked the double digits, you may have noticed their opinion of you might be slipping into the ’embarrassing’ category more and more each day. What did you ever do? Probably nothing, but as your child’s sense of self changes you can expect their view of you to change as well. His or her friends will become increasingly important, as will your child’s own sense of independence and self-confidence. Here are some things you can say (when you actually have their attention) that let them know even if they don’t think you’re cool, they still have your love and support.
1. You can be anything you want to be.
Telling your child they’ll be a gold medal Olympian may be setting up some unrealistic expectations, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t encourage them to think big, dream big, and not limit their idea of themselves. Especially if you hear them say self-deprecating things, speak up and let them know just how much potential you see in them.
2. You are capable of a lot!
Point out strengths your child has – right here, right now. At a time when their perspective can be overly-focused on their faults or lack of ability relative to their friends, be the one who reminds your child all they do have going for them. Their kindness of spirit, their generosity, that they are a good sibling…get creative about what it is you truly admire about them or see as their strengths, and by all means let them know!
3. You are beautiful.
Girls at this age are growing and changing and may feel awkward about their looks and/or their body. Even if it is just Mom/Dad telling them they are beautiful, it does make a huge difference in self-confidence.
4. You are smart.
More than looks, praising your child for their smarts can go a long way to build their confidence from the inside, out. When they make a clever joke, when they figure something out without being asked, and most obviously when they earn good grades in school, let them know you respect their brainpower.
5. I will always be here for you.
Everything is changing for your tween all the time – hormonally, in size and shape, their brains and bodies are undergoing major change. Letting them know you are there to be a constant in their life is a straightforward way to be good to your child. Consistency is a great thing to provide for them.
The teen years go by fast and in a blink of an eye, the kids are gone. As difficult as it may seem at times, cherish the opportunities to re-enforce your child’s confidence by making it known that you believe in their abilities and strengths. They won’t let you down.
Founder of Healthy Chats, Dr. Chrystal de Freitas is a pediatrician, author and mother of three children who has a special interest in health education. She completed her pediatric training at the University of Washington, in Seattle, WA, and has been in private practice for 22 years. She practiced with North County Health Services in Encinitas, for 6 years. In 2004, Dr. de Freitas opened her solo private practice of pediatrics, Carmel Valley Pediatrics in San Diego, CA.