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Techniques to help 13 yr old dd's confidence?

(33 Posts)
TealStar Fri 24-Mar-17 09:38:57

My dd (13, Y8) has been having a rough old time recently. She seems to have lost confidence over the last 12 months or so and apart from her having some private therapy (which I'm considering) I was wondering whether anyone could help?

She has known several of her friends since nursery, and as she has gone through school she has gathered more friends who have joined. I would say that she has a pretty solid group of friends, they have their ups and downs, but on the whole they are supportive, good kids who work hard and have plenty of outside interests and a great attitude.

The trouble is, dd can be very negative and critical - of them and herself, and seems to take offence easily. I admit that she may have inherited that from me as I have a tendency towards low self-esteem and the resultant over-sensitivity, however as I am aware of this I have always tried very hard to play it down, and approach any 'self-victimisation' on her part with a philosophical, almost neutral approach where I encourage her to see both sides of the argument. Dd2, for the record, is the total opposite of this, and is incredibly rose-tinted about everyone! smile

Most nights recently I have found dd1 crying in bed. She says that she feels totally worthless compared to dd2, who is incredibly popular, sporty, 'talented' in two subjects, funny, and seems to go through life as if it's a breeze. Even dd1s friends all want to be friends with dd2.

I go to great lengths to reassure dd1 that she is wonderful, to remind her of her many fantastic points - she's v bright academically, strikingly attractive, and kind, empathic and emotionally intelligent beyond her years.

Sorry to sound as if I'm bragging, I'm fully aware that neither of them is perfect, but I'm trying to get across the difference in their personalities and why dd1 feels this way and why IMO she really needn't as she has so much going for her.

Dd1 says that she now goes red in class and when she speaks publicly she just wants to burst into tears. She seems to be terrified of coming across as a 'geek' (sorry for any offence caused by that term but it's the one that she uses) and I am concerned that her confidence is getting poorer by the day and just feel at a loss on what to do! We encourage her to do as much sport as possible, and are always keen to help her develop any hobbies and interests.

Can anyone who has been through similar give some advice on how to inject a dose of confidence into their teen dd? I really want to help her and feel at a total loss on what to do. Every night I am hugging her and telling her it's going to be ok but she just seems so sad deep down. sad Thanks I. Advance.

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TealStar Fri 24-Mar-17 09:59:41

Bump ... anyone?

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Seeline Fri 24-Mar-17 10:09:07

Does she do anything outside of school - maybe with different people?
Just being in a different group may allow her to develop being someone 'different', and emphasising different aspects of her personality.

Perhaps guiding/scouting, drama group or even a simple Youth Group may help. Oh and try and keep DD2 out of it!

I had a much more extrovert, out going younger sister, and whilst I was happy to try new things, I would just have got myself established as pert of the group, and she would come bounding along and instantly take over all my new friends etc. Even teachers at school would aske why couldn't I be more like my Dsis (who was two years younger than me) - didn't go down well.

TealStar Fri 24-Mar-17 10:21:31

Thank you Seeline. And sorry to hear about your own struggles when you were younger. It must be so hard growing up in the shadow of a sibling.

Dd1 rides, and while she has gone a little 'off' horses lately she understands the importance of keeping up the riding as a) she's good at it (and dd2 is not!) and b) it's a good skill that she can develop at her own pace (she doesn't compete) and it does help her confidence.

They both do an athletics club and football (she is v good at athletics whereas dd2 is the better team player) but they are in separate groups for that. At athletics she is the one with friends whereas poor old dd2 is having to work quite hard to make them, which is interesting.

Totally agree that she needs to develop interests of her own away from dd2. I will have a think about what else she can do.

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emanon Fri 24-Mar-17 11:34:26

I could have written your post only my daughter is now 15. She has a brother who is only a year older and who finds life easier not only academically but he also has a large circle of friends. She has always lived slightly in his shadow. My DD continues to have friendship issues at school and is generally finding school very hard going. I am also looking at ways to boost her confidence and self esteem. It's very tough to see them struggling isn't it?

TealStar Fri 24-Mar-17 11:47:58

Yes it is emanon. I wish so much that she could just believe that 'it will all be ok'. I talk to her about how life is full of twists and turns, and that the race is long. How comparing yourself to others is never a good idea however it is easier said than done. Wishing you and your dd the best flowers

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emanon Fri 24-Mar-17 12:40:58

Thank you and to you too. The teen years are tough for them, discovering who and what they are, together with school, exams and not to mention social media (my real bug bugbear!).

Bensyster Fri 24-Mar-17 18:12:12

I think criticising others is the source of her low confidence. By criticising others you mentally measure yourself up against the your critique of others - it will make your child feel awful. Ds had this habit and we talked about how negativity and criticising others made him feel worthless too - it's a bad, destructive habit but when its negative affect on ds was pointed out he made a concerted effort to stop the thinking, it takes time and practice....he needs to do this with his negative inner voice too and his over thinking stuff.....mindfulness can help - Headspace App has been recommended loads of times on here and its good but there are loads of free resources online if you google mindfulness for teenagers.
The other thing I would suggest is to find what she is good at and help her become really good at it - confidence can be extracted from feeling good about one thing and transferring some of the skills onto another interest.

TealStar Sat 25-Mar-17 06:29:32

Thank you Bensyster. You are right, of course. We had a long chat about it last night and I questioned how happy being negative made her.

Will look up the headspace ap. one thing I'm trying to do is cut down the amount of time the dds spend on their phones (which is helping quite a lot as too much SM use can be counter active in terms of dd's happiness) so she'll have to use any gadget-based tools during allocated times or she'll get distracted by the never-ending stream of chat notifications!

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abeandhalo Sat 25-Mar-17 06:57:00

I think Guiding might have a lot to offer her as a great deal of the programme is about building girls' confidence.

sandgrown Sat 25-Mar-17 07:15:19

DS had no confidence and was a bit overweight and was anxious about certain situations. We saw the doctor and researched online support but he seemed to change when he got a paperound. He saved his wages and bought a bike and all of a sudden the weight started coming off. This gave him the confidence to join a football team. He loves the football and feeling part of the team and he is so much more confident. School work has improved too. Good luck . It is do hard seeing your children suffer and feeling powerless to help.

TealStar Sat 25-Mar-17 07:19:45

Thank you abe and sandflown.
Abe, dd used to be in Brownies but we missed the boat with guides as I didn't get her firm in on time and it is oversubscribed here. I didn't think much of it at the time as dd wasn't too bothered about joining. She has activities on every night bar one anyway. Agree sandblown that sport is amazing for confidence which is why we really push the girls to participate in as much as possible.

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user1487175389 Sat 25-Mar-17 07:26:43

I'm not sure your insistence that she sees both sides of the argument is helping. I was that teenage girl and my parents did that to me. What she needs imo is to have her own feelings acknowledged and accepted for what they are. This doesn't mean she's 100% right about everything - only that you accept her, and allow her to work through her feeling in her own way.

TealStar Sat 25-Mar-17 08:34:30

User, that's interesting.

I am pretty hot on validating feelings though as my parents were crap at that and I think it accounts for some of my own issues (apart from that my parents were pretty great smile)

When I said about seeing other sides of argument I meant I encourage her to open her mind a bit to the possibility that there are shades of grey and that there are two sides to most stories... but I take on board what you say; I hadn't thought of the potential repercussions of that. Thank you.

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user1487175389 Sat 25-Mar-17 09:07:38

I think it's probably a matter of where you put the emphasis: my parents were 100% about trying to get me to see the other point of view - which is part of the reason I'm so messed up and have no faith in myself. From what you're saying it's much more balanced in your situation. Sounds like you're doing your utmost for her. flowers

SavoyCabbage Sat 25-Mar-17 09:22:18

I think you have my daughters!

My dd2 is like the Pied Piper wherever she goes. Everyone bloody loves her. She is not so good academically though.

My dd1 is less confident and is definitely on the geeky side. When she was nine or ten I was sitting near her at gymnastics before it started and a girl said to dd that she hadn't been last week as her grandad had died. Dd gave her nothing! No 'that's sad' or anything. Just went on about something else. And I knew it wasn't because she didn't know what to say sensitivity wise. So after that I talked to her about how she could act in different situations. What she would want other people to say to her if she fell over in a 100m hurdles or whatever. I also took her to after school stuff where I knew she wouldn't know anyone.

Another thing I have always done through all of her school life is make sure she has the 'right' stuff. She couldn't give a hoot so I give a hoot for her. When she started school High School Musical was all the rage so I got her a High School Musical lunchbox.

TealStar Sat 25-Mar-17 09:40:25

Thank you user smile

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TealStar Sat 25-Mar-17 09:44:54

Savoy, I'm about to pop out but thank you for taking the time to write your post. Dd1 is actually very good at empathy and wanting all the 'right stuff' a bit too much sometimes however she lacks confidence and seems to value popularity and image far higher than good grades. Which I get is totally normal for a 13 year old. But I just wish she had the confidence to be able to stand out and stick her head above the parapet etc. Tall poppy syndrome I guess. It's sad. But I guess age and maturity will help. We have been spending some nice time together recently, although it's a bit like living with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide!

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Notafish Sat 25-Mar-17 10:34:25

My DD'S are the other way round. There's a book I'm planning to work through with DD2 called starving the anxiety gremlin. It's perhaps a bit young for your daughter but I believe there's a teen version. It uses CBT techniques I think. Also, look into compassion focused therapy techniques. If you can afford counselling and can find one who has experience with adolescents and uses an evidenced-based, technique, I'd try that.Especially as it is causing her continual distress. She might be more receptive to counselling now and it would help scaffold her for her later teen years.

TealStar Sat 25-Mar-17 13:43:00

Thank you Notafish. I will investigate.

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swingofthings Sun 26-Mar-17 08:36:04

I strongly believe that we are all born with some personality traits that makes us who we are, and that as parents, our role is to make them accept them and learn to cope with any negatives associated with them rather than trying to 'change' them so not to have those traits any longer.

My kids are also opposite in that way. DD if anything is too positive whilst DS is naturally negative. DD has always been ambitious, believing she can achieve anything, always looking at solutions, always believing that whatever the outcome, things will be fine. She is massively forward thinking, so as soon as she gets a knock back, she'll be planning her next move to make it better.

My DS is a natural worrier. He approaches everything new with extreme caution and will always assume that things will go wrong anyway and that makes me want to avoid trying new things.

What I have tried to teach them both is that neither trait is all good or all bad. Although in apperance, it would seem that my DD's way is better, it is not always the case as she can be guilty of rushing into things before taking the time to assess things properly. DS caution can actually lead to a better outcome. However, I have spent a lot of time teaching him that you can't avoid things just because there is a chance that it can fail that negative attitudes can be self-fulfilling.

I am so proud of how both of them have learnt to deal with their behaviours. DD will always be a leader, DS will always be the advisor but DD has shown ability to take a step back and slow down whereas DS has shown signs of being able to take a leadership role... once he's assessed the situation. DS now laughs about his negative attitude and sometimes will even point it out himself.

My advice would be to continue to do as you are. Tell her that they are strength and weaknesses in both her and her sister ways, and that what matters is to try to reduces the weaknesses and emphasise the strengths. She is her own person and will be valued as such.

TealStar Sun 26-Mar-17 09:11:27

That's a lovely post swingofthings, thank you for taking time to write that.

My dds are such polar opposites too! Even little things from when they were tiny such as one likes to sleep on her back and the other on her front; as babies one screamed all day and the other slept; one blonde, one dark; one into princesses the other into Transformers. Their 'opposite' natures have up until now been quite defining and ensured little competition between them as they've been aware of each other's differences and thus led to a harmonious relationship. However now that they're older I think dd1 is starting to envy dd2's popularity, prettiness and general easy-going nature. Similarly dd2 says she feel 'thick' compared to dd1 [eye roll]

So yes I totally agree that celebrating each others' good points and trying to work on the negative points is a good thing. And I like your suggestion on injecting a little humour into things, at the right times of course. We do a lot of humour in our family and regularly mickey take (lightly don't worry - I seem to receive the worst of it myself hmm)

We always say to the girls that our only expectation of them both is to try to be the best that they can be. Not necessarily the best.

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Pompatrol Sun 26-Mar-17 10:42:50

Sounds tough and like you're really thoughtful trying to help your DD. I read a book called siblings without rivalry by Faber and Mazlish. It's really easy to read and full of quotes and practical tips ... It might be worth having a look at for the bits about how to avoid comparisons being made between siblings and how parents might subtly promote comparisons without meaning to? I can't find it just now to check the details though sorry, maybe another poster might know what I'm on about!

You're right to want to try to help your DD if she's been crying every night and to try to address it before it becomes full on social anxiety.
I agree with the posters saying there is a link between criticising others and criticising your self.
Sorry I don't have experience of older kids so no advice but those books and website sound a good start.
Best of luck flowers

Pompatrol Sun 26-Mar-17 10:46:02

I started my post before your last one (got distracted!). Something that sticks out from that book about sibling rivalry is eg although it's great you've all tried to foster the girls' individuality, to try to avoid comparisons, one side effect is that maybe they are now 'type cast' into those 'roles' so it's hard to break out and be like the other one, or maybe feeling of one is pretty then the other one isn't, as they're so different. Does that make sense?!

elastamum Sun 26-Mar-17 10:50:32

There is a really good TED talk on confidence called 'fake it until you make it'. Have a look online.

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