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Am I a shit mum or do all teenage DDs have esteem issues?

(24 Posts)
itsbeingsocheerful Thu 17-Sep-09 15:50:23

Sorry, this will be long, but please bear with me.

In the last couple of days I have been hit by the realisation that both DDs 13 and 16 have really low levels of self-esteem. Dangerously so in the younger ones case.

We had a great summer, few arguments, lots of family time, but they also spent lots of time with friends at sleepovers, days out etc. So feeling really positive until the first couple of weeks of term.

DD2, who has been 'troubled' in the past mainly by friendship issues, is now down about something and has decided she is giving up swimming - up to July was in pool 5 hours a week and would nag and sulk if she couldn't make it. Now she isn't going because she 'just doesn't want to go'.

Two years ago she gave up dancing for a similar 'reason' but then I'm convinced it was her changing shape. She's tall and was then quite large. But with all her swimming and 20min walk to and from school etc she's lost loads of weight and is looking really good.

And although I don't want to focus on her weight I am really concerned giving up swimming can only be the start of a downward spiral as I know she has a tendency to comfort eat.

I have also come across notes while looking for the phone in her room, written, I'm hoping just as a diary-type exercise, ie not to be sent, to a boy in her form, which is full of terms like 'I know your gorgeous and I'm an ugly fat bitch but we could work'. Is this normai?

Now DD1. I had a meeting this morning with her head of year who is concerned about her self-esteem. I had assumed her luke-warm report last year were to do with her levels of lippiness, basically teachers saying she's doing ok, but not great to have in class. Her grades are not great but not really an issue.

HoY seems to think exactly the opposite that she's not lippy but quiet and withdrawn. And that the teacher's when asked all seemed to think she was capable of much more, but didn't have any self-confidence and somehow seemed to assume that anything she thought must be wrong!

Thanks for getting this far, but where have I gone wrong, and more importantly how can I, and DH, put all this right?

Uriel Thu 17-Sep-09 16:17:18

Here's a link to the campaign for real beauty, Evolution video. Just to show her not to believe in the images she sees.

There's also a self-esteem thing in the girls only section.

And you're not a shit mum, because you care. smile

itsbeingsocheerful Thu 17-Sep-09 16:52:01

Thanks Uriel for the link, but also for saying I'm not shit. It definitely feels like it at the moment as I just can't seem to do or say anything that doesn't get shrugged off.

Fortunately DD2 doesn't really seem to care about celebrity etc - doesn't buy mags or that sort of thing. Unfortunately she does compare herself alot to friends and also her sister

Ixia Thu 17-Sep-09 20:49:47

You're not a shit mum. You are posting here and worrying about your daughters, so you obviously care.

I've had terrible self esteem issues since I was a young teenager. There's no reason for it and I certainly don't blame my Mum, I love her to bits and she's always been fab and supportive.

No real advice to offer, but it's so easy for us Mums to blame ourselves when it is not the case.

bidibidi Sat 19-Sep-09 09:30:49

It all sounds normal to me, OP. I say that from my own teen experiences, plus friends of teens report similar, especially with DDs. Very strange to deal with when you can easily see how much your DC has going for them.

heverhoney1 Sat 19-Sep-09 21:15:49

I have without a shadow of a doubt the best mum in the world and still had low self esteem so no this does not make you a shit mum!!!!

Hang in there. be there for your girls and isten to them! with your 13 year old giving up swimming is prob due to "her changing shape" I know that was one of the reasons I stopped enjpoying swimming so much. Do you have any council run gyms in your area? Many do sessions for teenagers. This way she could keep fit and cover up more?

LollipopViolet Sun 20-Sep-09 11:39:46

I too suffer with low self esteem. I'm 19, and have always been the biggest girl in my group of friends. Luckily, they accept me for who I am. But I couldn't, so I've been trying really hard with my weight and have lost nearly 5 kilos in 2 months. I went out last night, first time EVER with those friends, first time at all in a blue moon. And you know what those lovely people I was with said, "LV, you look amazing."

I just feel SO good now. I really hope you can get to the bottom of your dd's problems, and help them overcome them, because the feeling when you do is brilliant.

sarah293 Sun 20-Sep-09 11:50:13

Message withdrawn

BonsoirAnna Sun 20-Sep-09 11:51:02

Self-esteem comes from being confident that you are good at something that you enjoy and value - from having skills, basically.

Do you think that your DD is giving up swimming because she doesn't feel good enough at it?

itsbeingsocheerful Sun 20-Sep-09 13:23:01

Thank you all. I must repeat I am not a shit mum. It's funny I thought this thread had run it's course and stopped following it on Thursday. I actually assumed there were relatively few responses because I was the OP.

And I worry about DDs' self-esteem.

Bidi I don't think stopping swimming is about her shape this time, because she had gained all her curves before she started - she's now far slimmer.

I think I'm worried that it's a self-punishment thing ie giving up something she really enjoys in a sort of self-harm way. When she was younger she would often tear up the pictures she was most proud of when she got angry. It's that sort of turning in on herself that scares me.

Bonsoir Anna: it may be that she doesn't think she's good enough, she started late at her club, and is a group that is mainly a few years younger, and unfortunately looks huge among them! But that hasn't bothered her for the last year and she showed no signs of wanting to stop before the summer break.

fluffles Sun 20-Sep-09 13:45:35

yes, all teenage girls have SOME level of self-esteem issue... but it sounds like your daughters is at a level that needs help.

but no, you're not shit because you care and want to help smile

as to what to do... gosh, i don't know. i would probably start with some honest discussions with her, it sounds like you are a similar personality-type? it might help her to know that!
tell her you've felt bad at times too and how you get over it and times when you made yourself do something you didn't want to but it worked out well...

talk about her worries hopes and dreams (but you might have to confess some of your own in order for her to feel able to do that).

Good luck!

BonsoirAnna Sun 20-Sep-09 14:24:48

I wouldn't have thought it great for her self-esteem to be doing an activity where she was several years older than the rest of the group. Feeling competent and skilled is something - when young, for sure - that you feel in relation to others' skill level.

itsbeingsocheerful Sun 20-Sep-09 15:48:23

It's true Anna, she did feel uncomfortable, particularly when they weren't actually in the water. But she enjoyed the swimming so much she stuck with it and made seemed to have made some good friends - but I don't think she's spoken to them all summer.

Fluffles she refuses to talk about it. Just keeps saying 'I don't want to go swimming' and offers no reason whatsoever.

And as I said earlier it's not so much the swimming it's just the fear that with out the 4 hours exercise a week her weight and size will become a big issue again.

I have said, but felt awful after, 'no swimming, no after-school snacks' but that feels like a punishment. Aargh

BonsoirAnna Sun 20-Sep-09 15:52:27

Is there another water-based activity that she could do with her peers? It seems such a pity to give it up if it had such a positive impact on her looks/health, but I do understand how it can be a bit depressing to do activities with much younger children.

poshsinglemum Sun 20-Sep-09 15:53:25

Please read Queen Bees and wanabees. I can't remember the author. I bought it on Amazon and it an excellent guide to girl cliques and the effect they have on our daughter's self esteem. There are lots of exercises for mums and daughters to explore and it points out how to get adolescent girls to open up to you.

BonsoirAnna Sun 20-Sep-09 15:54:11

Can you have a frank talk with her, saying how fabulous she looks thanks to all that swimming and walking, and how you would like to help her find something to replace the swimming in order to make sure she keeps fit and healthy? Does she know how proud you are of her for keeping on with all the activity last year?

GetOrfMoiLand Sun 20-Sep-09 16:01:08

Oh dear - please don't say you're shit mum. Mind you, and please don't take this the wrong way, but saying that you think yourself a shit mum signals that you may have low self-esteem and confidence, and your dd's may have picked up on that.

My dd is 13 and has had crises of confidence - she is a big girl (6 foot0 and has had a huge growth spurt recently, so the poor thing has stretchmarks on her torso and hips. I feel so sorry for her because I know she is self-conscious about this and thinks she is fat. It doesn't help that she has recently became rather clumsy (I think this is to do with the growth spurt, it's almost as if she is too big for herself, iyswim).

I do think that what Anna and others have said about being successful in activities helps a lot with the confidence. DD has always loved sport, and was overjoyed to be made football captain this year, despite her recent clumsy ways. Is there another activity she enjoys which you could encourage, perhaps one which doesn't need her to be in a swimming costume or something clingy, as she is so self conscious about her body.

I try to encourage dd as best I can by saying how clever, lovely she is whenever I can. I think every teen girl's self esteem is a fragile thing and needs boosting. You sound like a lovely mum to be so concerned about them.

nighbynight Sun 20-Sep-09 16:20:53

oh dear, cheerful, I do sympathise. I have 1 out of 4 children who has terribly low self-esteem.
We recently went on holiday, and had some time to talk, and he admitted that he hates it when people say negative things, or criticise him. (my others tend to shrug such things off). I think it is just genetic, as I too take everything to heart, and had terrible self esteem crises in my 20s. He also focusses on one thing that he thinks he isnt achieving, in his case, its school work.

I am helping him to achieve his goals on school work and hope that when he's feeling a bit more confident and better about himself, he'll get out of the habit of low self esteem, and grow out of it. Not sure if this is the right approach, but its the best I can think of.

itsbeingsocheerful Sun 20-Sep-09 16:35:34

6ft? goodness that is tall, mines only 5ft 6.

I did/do struggle with esteem stuff. I was in my 30s before I realised that buying size 10 Chelsea Girl (showing my age!) when I was 17 meant I probably wasn't as big as I thought I was!

I was also around that time that I stopped thinking I was lucky to get into university because my interview happened to be with a leading Russian literary academic. Never oocured to me there probably wasn't too many 17yo who had read Solzenhitsyn (can't even spell it now}

So I also wonder if I'm over-reacting cos I hate the idea of them growing up with that sort of veil over their lives and expectations.

Anna I have said how proud of her for sticking with the swimming and we have talked about other activities but haven't come up with anything else. She has said she misses ballet, but won't go to a class round here, because none of them do the RAD syllabus she used to do before we moved a couple of years back

GetOrfMoiLand Sun 20-Sep-09 16:50:18

I know how you feel Cheerful, I have always had so little self esteem, I have been absolutely desperate not to 'pass' it onto dd. Even now I think someone's going to find me out, like my work will suddenly realise I am a complete prat and sack me.

Luckily dd has always been pretty self assured, however it may be that she was born like that, not made. Anyway, I am not sure what else you can do that you're not already doing, you are being supportive, you are there for them and you love them.

Bloody teenage years wouldn't want to go throuigh them again. Especially not these days.

itsbeingsocheerful Sun 20-Sep-09 16:56:45

Sorry Posh (I hope Victoria Beckham won't sue :]) I missed your post. I will order the book, because I suspect there is some girl-clique stuff going on a at school.

After a really rubbish time with 'friends' in a small primary she sometimes seems desperate not just to be part of the group but to have The One Best Friend.

And xpost with nigh. I think my DD1 is like your DS and takes things to heart when we think were being affectionate/funny and I am being much more careful about what I say and praising more.

heverhoney1 Mon 21-Sep-09 20:46:10

Have you thought about a community theatre group? Drama at school did my self confidence the world of good. It taught me that even if I didnt feel particularly confident I could ACT it. Havinbg that barrier that allowed me to pull 1 step away has helped me in all sorts of situation from making friends to job interviews.

It is also a very physical activity which could help your youngest boost energy levels and feel more confident in front of others.

Things do change very suddenly when you have a crisis in confidence I used to love doing kick aerobics but 1 week I even got to the gym, stood outside, felt sick and just couldnt face going in. Just because she hasnt had body issues before about swimming does not mean her feelings have not changed now.

nutiella Mon 21-Sep-09 23:04:21

Last year my DD (then 12/13) had terrible sleep problems and in the end she became so exhausted I had to let her have time off school. I was fairly sure some of the problem was due to some kind of school-related worry: work, friendships, etc. Now after a great summer, lots of activities and fun, we are only 3rd week into the new school year and the pattern is recurring. She was fine over the weekend but had a nose bleed overnight, a bad night's sleep and today (Mon) all sorts of non specific unwellness at school. She doesn't feel well enough to go on a geography field trip tomorrow yet has had the energy to spend most of the evening going round and round the arguments with me. At least we have had a mega heart to heart and she has admitted something (she doesn't know what) is bothering her and she feels she isn't coping with school. She has also said that she puts so much into school and gets so little back. I find that really sad- we give her unconditional support but maybe drive her too hard? She's a bright cookie, wants to succeed and capable of lots if in the right mindset. But it's her mindset that worries me: does anyone have any helpful hints on what to do next? We have a good relationship and can talk fairly easily- but it all seems quite intangible.

itsbeingsocheerful Tue 22-Sep-09 12:07:26

heverhoney: we have talked about a drama group and she said she would consider it, but if none of her friends go I think she will refuse.

But I am now getting the feeling that the problem is that she wants to be permanently available for every social invitation. So she can avoid saying 'no, sorry' to requests whether for a Friday sleepover, after-school tea or just a walk down the beach. I think she worries that if she ever says no they won't ask again.

Nutiella: my DD1 went through exactly the same with sleeping when she was 12/13. It lasted one and off for about 9/10 months. And in one of the most shaming moments of my life, after a week of her wandering waif like around the house at 1am, I remember really yelling in her face just 'go to sleep'.

We tried loads of things, camomile, sleep tapes, lavender baths and relaxation/ meditation exercises. But even when she went to sleep, I would wake up to find her sleeping outside our door or on our bedroom floor.

In the end we stopped worrying about it. Let her sleep wherever she wanted, her bedroom floor, ours, the landing. She still had to go to bed at the same time but could read/draw whatever til she chose to turn in. Just taking that pressure off helped loads.

I don't think I'll ever know what caused it, I'm not sure she knew either. I suspect a sort of early teen hormonal imbalance which left her feeling anxious and then she worried about why she was anxious and got caught in a spiral which, with all fears, was worse at night.

Even now three years on she's not a great sleeper, but seems to manage!

Not sure that helps, but hope so

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