Q: When I was a teen girl, I was concerned about my appearance. But our 13-year-old daughter seems almost obsessed about how she looks. She locks herself in the bathroom until she gets makeup, hair and clothes perfect. I was never THAT bad. What can my husband and I do to help her keep her perspective?
Jim: No doubt, teens today -- and especially girls -- are pressured from all directions about image and appearance. Social media has made things exponentially worse. That means you'll need a proactive strategy for helping your daughter balance her desire for outer beauty with her inner self-confidence.
Where many parents fall short is in not having a plan. Mom tells Dad, "You need to talk to her." Dad punts back to Mom, "You're a woman. This is your territory." But your precious girl needs to hear frequent affirmation from BOTH of you. Remind her that she's lovely. Fill her soul with words of encouragement that bring her heart to life.
That said, what your daughter SEES from you is just as important as what she HEARS from you. Mom, she's watching how much emphasis you place on outer appearance and how positively -- or negatively -- you talk about yourself. Dad, your girl definitely notices how you treat women. If you objectify females, she may believe it's OK for men to treat her the same way.
My suggestion: Avoid over-emphasizing your daughter's outer or inner beauty. Address her as a whole person. Teach her that she's a uniquely created human being with a body, a soul and a spirit. Help her to balance what she sees in the mirror with who she is on the inside. That's how she'll discover genuine happiness.
In closing, I'd strongly recommend our organization's BRIO magazine for teen girls. Call 800-A-FAMILY (232-6459) or see FocusOnTheFamily.com for details.
Q: I'm "recently single again" after years in a difficult relationship. I've made a lot of progress in healing to the point where I'm ready to think about getting romantically involved again. But I feel rusty and out of practice dating-wise. I'm not even sure at this point what sort of person to look for; only perhaps what type to hopefully avoid. Do you have any advice?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: I think far too many single adults rely on feelings in their dating pursuits, rather than strategically thinking things through.
You probably know this intellectually, but it bears repeating: The most important quality of any individual is character. A person may be outwardly attractive and have a charming personality or intelligence. But if there's no character behind the veneer, in the long-term it will be difficult (if not impossible) to form a meaningful and lasting bond.
The only way to get to know someone's character is to spend a lot of time together. And that requires patience. Do the hard work of first building an authentic friendship with someone of the opposite sex based on points in common. Over time, you'll discover the truth about one another's values and attitudes. That knowledge and familiarity will inform your decision whether to take the relationship beyond mere friendship.
To clarify: The point isn't to find someone who's perfect, because nobody is. It's to get a sense of who that person truly is (and who they're striving to be). Because in the long run, a person lacking solid character will definitely not be a good dating prospect -- no matter how smart, successful or attractive they may appear.
By the way, Focus on the Family has a fantastic outreach addressing young adult life topics -- including relationships --from a faith-based perspective; see Boundless.org.
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 jimdalyblog.focusonthefamily.com or at Facebook.com/JimDalyFocus.
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