Q: Our 14-year-old daughter has recently become obsessed with her appearance. She'll practically lock herself in her bedroom or bathroom until she gets her hair, makeup and clothes perfect. What can we do as her parents to help her keep her perspective?
Jim: It's no secret that teens today -- and especially girls -- are pressured from all directions about their appearance. Social media only makes it worse. So you want to be proactive about helping your daughter balance her desire for outer beauty with her inner self-confidence.
Many parents don't have a plan. Mom says to Dad, "You need to talk to her." And Dad says to Mom, "You're a woman. This is your territory." But your teenage daughter needs to hear that she's beautiful from both of you -- frequently. Tell her she's beautiful. Fill her soul with words of affirmation that bring her heart to life.
But just as important as what your daughter hears from you is what she sees from you. Mom, she'll watch how much emphasis you place on outer beauty and how positively or negatively you talk about yourself. Dad, your daughter will notice how you treat women. If she sees you objectifying women, she may believe it's OK for men to treat her the same way.
Here's what I suggest: Don't overemphasize your daughter's outer beauty or her inner beauty. Address her as a whole person. Teach her that she's a unique human being with a body, a soul and a spirit. Help her to balance what she sees in the mirror and who she is on the inside. That's how she'll discover genuine happiness.
P.S. Your daughter might be interested in our organization's Brio magazine for teen girls. Call 1-800-232-6459 or see FocusOnTheFamily.com for details.
Q: How can my spouse and I work through our many unresolved conflicts? At this point, we're practically living separate lives, and the problem is only getting worse. Should we simply agree to disagree about our differences?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Differences are usually what attract partners to one another. Agreeing to disagree, when it's appropriate, is realistic. But it's silly and pointless to stay divided over issues that really don't matter. Here are some steps you can take to deal with the more formidable conflicts in your marriage:
-- First, realize that you learn to work through conflict by confronting the issue -- not by avoiding it.
-- Remember the purpose of confronting the conflict: resolution. Your ultimate goal is to reconcile and make your relationship even stronger. Winning the battle isn't important. What matters is continuing to strengthen your bond.
-- Don't procrastinate. Conflict resolution should be undertaken as soon as either party recognizes that he or she is feeling upset.
-- Take turns expressing your feelings about the conflict at hand. Listen to your mate carefully. Use "I" statements instead of attacking the other person -- for instance, "I feel hurt when you don't follow through," rather than, "You're so irresponsible."
-- Specifically express your need to your spouse. Then come up with a mutually satisfactory plan of action. For example, say something like, "It would help me if you'd take out the trash as soon as you agree to do it." Once you've established this, write out a schedule specifying that the trash is to be taken out every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. That way, both of you will have the same expectation.
-- Find another couple or a counselor who will commit to keeping both of you accountable. Share the plan of action you've agreed upon. Knowing that someone is holding you accountable can help you follow through.
If you need help sorting things out, please call our counselors at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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