QUESTION: 12We all know teenagers can be especially conscious of how others see them. Our teenage daughter is enduring terrible acne and not only is it painful, but it has understandably hindered her confidence. We’re working with a doctor to treat the condition, but in the meantime, how do we remain sympathetic while reminding our fun, kind and intelligent daughter that she isn’t defined by her physical appearance?
BBB: I don’t think there is an adult alive who looks back on his/her teen years as having been a time of great confidence and self-assurance. Ugh! What a turbulent time adolescence is, filled with ups and downs about everything—friends, school, social life, emotions, and of course, appearance.
Teens feel ugly and gawky, and think everyone else looks better at some time or other. They are famous for exaggerating their perceived “bad points” and ignoring the “good” ones. And they desperately want to appeal to their friends—boys and girls. One of the driving forces of this time of life is to fit in. Even the most intentionally eccentric kids fit in by not fitting in, if you get what I mean.
Those awkward teen years are filled with pressures and judgment of all kinds, perceived and real. It is hard enough for the insecure teen to navigate those waters, but top it with a case of acne, and ouch! Acne is just one of the many pressures that 80 percent of adolescents experience. It is especially difficult because it’s front and center, right there for the world to see at a time when her confidence is already fragile.
When your blossoming 14-year-old was a 4-year-old, the magic of your kiss healed all hurts, real and imagined. Now that she is big, it is so much harder to “make it all better” just like every parent would like to be able to do.
How can a parent build confidence and nurture self-esteem during this tender time?
Make sure you know and discuss the facts about acne—that it is genetic, that it is not her fault, that three out of four teens have it, that it will get better with a combination of treatment, proper care; and mainly time. The truth is, there is no cure for acne. It can only be managed.
Never joke about her acne, no matter how good your intentions. Never!
Know whose problem it is. Does it bother you more than her? Stay calm. Don’t judge.
Don’t downplay her feelings by sloughing it off. Saying “It’s not the end of the world” only demonstrates that you don’t get it or understand her. To your daughter, it just may be the end of the world.
Build your relationship with your daughter. Know when it is a good time to talk, and when you should put a sock in it! Be present and available.
Be a good listener. Give your daughter your best attention. Stop and sit; show that you have all the time in the world. Receive the gift of her communication.
Don’t talk. Don’t interrupt. Don’t give advice. All of these acts undermine communication as well as your relationship.
Support her treatment. Buy skin products together, reading the labels to find the best. Let her invite a friend for a spa day where she will have an acne treatment facial. If possible have these treatments very regularly.
No nagging…not about her diet, her skin, her personal care. You need to be her teammate and not her critic.
Find and encourage new activities at which she can excel, and give genuine praise along the way. Whether it’s cooking the meal for the family, arranging a floral centerpiece, planting a veggie garden, painting a wall mural for her sibling…go for it and be thrilled.
Find distractions and try to keep your daughter busy. Go for a manicure, take in a movie, go to the Pier, go for a hike up Will Rogers, play hookie for a day and go to Disneyland.
Even though your child feels that she stands out and is alone, her peers really do get it. She may feel she is being judged, but the reality is that other teens do sympathize. Three out of four teens have acne in some form. A parent shared with me that her 13-year-old daughter was having a video chat on Ooovoo with some male friends. As she spoke she was putting on her pimple cream, and no one even flinched.
Betsy Brown Braun, M.A. is a Child Development and Behavior Specialist (infants to teens), a Parent Educator, and Multiple Birth Parenting Specialist. Betsy consults with parents privately, runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers, and other professionals. She is the award-winning author of the bestselling, “Just Tell Me What to Say” and “You’re Not the Boss of Me.” Betsy has been featured on the Today Show, The Early Show and Good Morning America and has been cited in Parents Magazine, Twins Magazine, Family Circle and many more. Betsy and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have three grandchildren, so far.
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