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How do I help my 16yo step-daughter's zero self esteem/confidence?

(26 Posts)
Ladyluck1908 Mon 21-Jul-14 10:29:59

I'm a fairly new stepmum. My other half has a 5&7yo daughter & son with his ex wife, and a 15&16yo son & daughter with a partner from 10yrs ago. I have no children of my own so the past 18 months have been rather a journey. His eldest now lives with us. My step-daughter has just turned 16 and starts her A levels in Sept. She has lived with us since Christmas and we have tackled the root cause of her self harming successfully. She is a gamer and has lots of friends online but few at school. She dresses typically as a teen who tries to hide. Hair covers face, hoody jumpers and jeans in this recent weather! Finds difficulty talking to people even family. We attempted job hunting at the weekend for pocket money but ended up in tears and big row. She wrote me a letter to explain that she hates everything about herself and believes anyone who says anything nice to her or compliment her or praises her, is lying! Even me and her dad! She also explained that she thinks everyone stares at her and showed signs of depression (doesn't want to get out of bed etc). I understand that it's easier to be yourself online and gaming but she has a very distorted view of the real world and herself. I know she won't change overnight and I started by saying all she needs to work on is believing her dad and I have never and will never lie to her, and if she wants to feel better about everything, we will take it one step at a time and do it together. I pushed her to go into the hairdressers and ask for her fringe to be trimmed, it took 40 minutes and a break down of tears because she was so afraid to go in.
Her own mother has no idea of any of this and tbh has created part of this problem. Her dad is very supportive but she asked me not to tell him the contents of the letter which we both respect. Deep down she trusts me but it's the fear and a deep rooted complex that is the problem
I'm just looking for suggestions to encourage her but not push her to panic. I've backed off from the job subject but might look at doing the tea round at an old people's home or something.

Bonsoir Mon 21-Jul-14 10:40:31

Gosh. Well done OP for supporting your new DSD like this. It sounds as if she badly needs a kind, supportive female adult in her life.

However - a 16 year old with issues such as those you describe should not be looking for a job. She is unable to take proper responsibility for herself - please dissuade her from taking on additional responsibilities. Her first and urgent developmental need is to learn to enjoy the carefree company of her peers. Taking care of herself must be your and her priority.

Ladyluck1908 Mon 21-Jul-14 11:36:28


Ladyluck1908 Mon 21-Jul-14 11:42:21

Thank you for your advice it has steered my thinking. It wasn't so much working that I was keen for her to do, but interacting. I agree she needs to learn to interact carefree with friends and try to become comfortable with that, and herself.
As she's finished school she's gone to visit her aunt for a few days and maybe catch up with her best friend who lives in the same road. I regularly encourage her to invite friends over and it makes me smile to see her enjoy herself.

LastingLight Mon 21-Jul-14 12:43:28

She is so lucky to have you in her life. I certainly found volunteer work very uplifting when I was depressed, so doing something together with you might be beneficial for her. Also could you do some exercise, even if just walking for 20 minutes a couple of times a week? I wonder if her behaviour doesn't warrant a trip to the gp, therapy might be very helpful for her.

Ladyluck1908 Mon 21-Jul-14 13:06:59

I've just returned to the gym which has a big pool. She likes swimming so we're going to go together. She can swim, I'll gym it and then both relax in the health suite. The 3 of us have just returned from a week in Greece which made her 'awkwardness' with herself and with everything more apparent. Overall it was a lovely holiday which we were all needing.
I'm keeping the option of GP open. I'm just so glad of the breakthrough that she has identified her issues. It's definitely a massive step.
Thank you for your encouragement

maudpringles Mon 21-Jul-14 13:26:11

Our youngest dd had very little confidence and was painfully shy around strangers.
She has got a part time job this summer and we have seen a difference.She has lots more to chat about of an evening and was really animated at a recent party telling a group of a funny story about work smile
A bit of independence and money has put a smile on her face.

Ladyluck1908 Mon 21-Jul-14 13:50:00

That's fantastic, I can remember being shy until I got a part time job at 14yo. My OH was the same. Which is why I was pushing her to try it. We are putting it on hold for now. She came to live with us because of frustration with her mother. Her and her brother were an income. She came to us with only 1 school shirt which she wore everyday and had stained under arms! OH was devastated, thought the maintenance he provided (more than he had to give too) was at least partly being seen by the children. We both work full time but live in an adequate 2 bed apartment in a nice village. In comparison it's life of luxury for did, doesn't go without but isn't spoilt and also has a cleaning roster.
Once the confidence starts to build up, I'll suggest working again. I made some of my best friends at work when I was her age who I'm still good friends with now. I just want her to experience as much fun and happiness as possible.

Bonsoir Mon 21-Jul-14 13:55:57

Gym, swimming and generally making her aware of her body and appearance and happy with them are really good things to work on to help boost her self-esteem.

How does she do academically?

Bonsoir Mon 21-Jul-14 13:59:15

And well done for encouraging her to invite friends over - it's not always easy to have your home invaded by teens, especially SDCs' friends! Can your DSD work up to going to the pool or gym with friends? Or for a run? Has she got nice clothes now?

Nowaysis Mon 21-Jul-14 14:13:24

I remember being this age and absolutely hated myself and I really relate to thinking everyone was lying when they told me things to boost confidence. Words don't mean much from people you know.

I felt better when I started working too, it built my confidence

I also listened to people who were still "young" in my head, like an older cousin, or friends friend in their 20's. My mum took me to meet a friend of her and this friend brought her 20 year old daughter, so only a few years older but she gave some really nice advice and built my confidence just by speaking from her own experience.

Perhaps talk about your experience? What were you like at 16? Different to how you are now?

I have to say, the fact she's confided in you is amazing, so I would maintain her trust and try and instigate things to do together eg something a little out there like caneoing, rock climbing, a cookery class. I love your swimming idea too.

You sound like a fab DSMum

Ladyluck1908 Mon 21-Jul-14 14:20:58

She's very bright but a bit lazy. She took some gcse's a year early and we're eagerly awaiting her results. She had no idea what career to take but I made a few suggestions on holiday that seemed to spark some interest. Hadn't thought about her taking friends to swim, sounds like a good idea thank you! Most of her clothes are band t shirts and jeans but at least they fit her, but because we went to Greece I bought some nicer, brighter clothes. We're going to have to go shopping for sixth form clothes at some point. There's a ban on hoodys and jeans so she's mortified lol. She's taken to wearing shorts since we got back though smile
There was the daunting event of the prom which she wore a beautiful plum long dress and looked stunning. She nearly backed out of going so very proud of her for going and she actually enjoyed it. We let her have some friends stay after too.

Appletini Mon 21-Jul-14 14:24:08

Can you see if there's any kind of local mentoring scheme she could be part of?

Bonsoir Mon 21-Jul-14 14:31:16

If she's wearing shorts she's doing well!

Bonsoir Mon 21-Jul-14 14:39:03

It sounds as if if you are doing all the right things, OP. Obviously it will take your DSD some time to build up her self-esteem and to take ownership of her new self and new life with you and her father. I expect that with more emotional and domestic support her erstwhile "laziness" will reveal itself to have been due to lack of encouragement and parental interest and she will shine!

maudpringles Mon 21-Jul-14 16:11:38

You sound so kind and caring ladyluck

Minifingers Tue 22-Jul-14 17:17:02


Show her this OP. Very few of us love our teen selves. Not knowing who you are and crippling self-consciousness is an adolescent rite of passage.

The cure is:

Being busy doing stuff which interests you
Surrounding yourself with good kind people
Avoiding looking in the mirror
Do good stuff for other people


twentyten Tue 22-Jul-14 20:16:14

Sounds like you are doing an amazing job. Are there any voluntary things she could get involved with? Charity shops etc? Would help confidence and great experience.
Does she write? A good way to self - express. Or art stuff?

SantanaLopez Tue 22-Jul-14 21:05:35

You sound absolutely lovely flowers

SocialMediaAddict Fri 25-Jul-14 18:27:33

You sound lovely and SD is lucky to have you in her life.

Ladyluck1908 Fri 25-Jul-14 19:36:35

I have amazing news!
So DSD came back from her aunts last night. Both my OH and I were working all day today. We have not long got home to a statement from her that has blown me away.... "I went to the charity shop today about the voluntary job. I start on Thursday" [grins]
We both welled up. I'm so so proud of her and I just wanted to share it with you as you've all been so kind and helpful.
I could not have predicted this. I know it's earl

Ladyluck1908 Fri 25-Jul-14 19:37:47

Oops... It's early days but this is a massive step. I'll let you know how she gets on x

twentyten Fri 25-Jul-14 20:07:10

Brilliant brilliant news!! Deserves chocolate for all andwinewine!!

LastingLight Sat 26-Jul-14 10:09:07


Nowaysis Sat 26-Jul-14 18:55:56

Brilliant news Ladyluck, she has one lovely DSM who's supporting her. She can't ask for anything more.

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