I had a chance to sit down with renowned sex educator, Jackie Brewton, to discuss how to improve a teen girl's sense of self-confidence when her father is absent. This is a major issue that affects girls into adulthood because they personalize their father's rejection which can result in lowered self-esteem. It can manifest itself as lacking the necessary presence to set limits, expecting consistency and commitment when dating. In essence, what you don't know will hurt you. Research reveals that a dad's relationship with his daughter is the number one most important relationship on a young girl's self esteem. So, it can be devastating when that relationship is harmful, inconsistent and/or absent.
Here are a few tips in talking and parenting your teen daughter on how to deal with an absent father so that her self-esteem can be repaired and enhanced:
#1- Separate from the Abandonment & Rejection- You are not your rejection. Avoid wearing your father's rejection of you as evidence that you are somehow damaged goods. Instead, label your father as the problem. He gets the F, not you, for doing a terrible job at being a father. You cannot be a "father" without spending consistent time loving, shaping and guiding your children to be healthy, happy and loving adults. There is nothing you can do to cause a father to not spend time with you. That is his responsibility!
Imagine that you are wearing a shirt labeled, "Rejection", and simply take it off and replace it with "My Dad Has The Problem" and be done with it. It's bad enough that you have to deal with an absent father but to double the effect by believing the lie that you are somehow the reason for his abandonment is soul murder and not allowed. This is your ego talking!
#2- Write a Disappointment Letter- In order to move on from this feelings, you're going to actually have to do something about it. Specifically, you must write a letter (or have a direct conversation) to your father expressing your disappointment in how you are being fathered. I would keep the letter positive by stating your needs as a wish and expressing the standard for how you wish to be fathered. This way, you can avoid being critical which will run him away. Does he deserve criticism? Lord Yes! However, the goal here is to get him to respond. Next, tell him your desires and be specific (daily texts, quality time once a week, visit your school, etc.). Finally, tell him how not being fathered properly is making you feel (invisible, unloved, un-cared for, rejected, abandoned, etc.) and your wish that he would change so that you could feel differently. This could elicit the "Superman" response to where dad tries to fix the error in his ways.
Special note, some dads will not respond or will respond negatively because they are beyond repair, in prison, on drugs, etc. However, writing the letter will be therapeutic because you are getting those feelings out of you. Did you know that most of my clients never even send the letter and feel better simply after penning the letter? You get to decide (consult with your parents) whether or not sending the letter would be beneficial or not but you still need to write it! Why? Aren't you ready to dump those negative feelings and get to the real you? Now, you can move on and build your self-confidence around other people who will love, respect and spend time with you consistently because you are amazing!
#3- Develop a Ego Boosting Activities- Self-confidence comes from people validating how awesome of a person you are. You cannot simply think your way into feeling better about yourself all the time. You need real feedback about your best qualities and uniqueness in this world. So, you must get involved in activities that intentionally grow you and develop your talents. For example, get involved in dance and practice hard. Now, imagine how awesome you will feel when friends, family and the audience all clap and tell you how well you dance. This does wonders for your self-confidence.
Of course, not everyone is built to dance. That's not the point. The point is that you must do something to develop yourself and it is best to pick activities that match your passion. If you like to draw, take art lessons. If you like sports, join the volleyball, basketball, track, softball, gymnastics team. If you like to argue, join the debate team. If you simply just want to chill with like-minded teens, then join a social club or church small group.
The bottom line is that you must get the positive attention that you need from alternative sources. I also recommend that moms get really great guys to spend time with their daughters and even provide access to how great guys treat their mom so that teen girls can see healthy, dating dynamics in action. Check out my next post for that video. You are awesome! Stop depending on a F-rated to validate you and allow your amazing social circle to validate your awesomeness!