Browsing the parenting section of my local bookstore, I was astounded by the array of books on the shrinking self-esteem of adolescent girls. As the mother of three daughters, the oldest approaching adolescence, I figured I’d better pay attention. I bought all the books I could carry and drove home to learn how to save my daughters from the self-esteem destruction poised on the adolescent horizon.

Psychologists, behavior analysts, and researchers have all studied the subject. The stats prove there's a problem.

In Everyday Ways to Raise Smart, Strong, Confident Girls, Barbara Littman tells us 45 percent of elementary school girls say they are "good at lots of things." The percentage plummets to 29 percent by middle school, to 23 percent by high school.

Mary Pipher, Ph.D describes adolescent girls as "saplings in a hurricane" in Reviving Ophelia, Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls.

So what do we do about it? How can raise our daughters to be confident, resilient, loving women? Recognizing the problem is the first part of the solution.

As early as nine years old, our daughters feel the emotional disruption of surging hormones. As their bodies change, the rules of their world change, too. Our daughters yearn to find their new place and search for answers.

Where do they turn? Our daughters turn to their peers, the girls who are searching, too. They look to magazines and movies, music videos and television. As they seek to define themselves, our daughters turn away from us, their parents, and begin the drawn out separation process we call adolescence.

When our daughters turn to the media, we know what they find. While some companies buck the trend, the too-thin, "perfect" woman is still the norm. Our daughters compare their awkward bodies and blotchy skin to this vision of perfection. Most find themselves lacking.

As our daughters begin to evaluate themselves on the basis of appearance, many lose their way.

To mold themselves into the "norm," our daughters deny the parts of themselves that don't fit. Many redirect their energies from school, church, sports, music and art toward appearing pretty, fun and, yes, sexy. Grades fall, interests and friendships change. In some cases, wanting to be cool or wanting to forget the compromises they are "forced" to make, our daughters experiment with alcohol, drugs and sex.

Just as our parents could not prevent our adolescent angst, we cannot prevent our daughter's. Nor would we want to. It is our daughters' place to find her way between our culture's opposing values. Only she can answer the questions: How important are looks and personality? Can I care for myself and not be selfish? Can I be sexual and not a sex object? Can I achieve and not threaten, be responsive, but not responsible for everyone? The answers to these questions will determine the shape of our daughters' adult lives.

Encouraging your daughter to recognize and develop her strengths, is the second part of the solution. Below are fifteen ways to help your daughter grow into all she can be.

While it may take years before your daughter admits she heard you, she listens and watches you everyday. When it's time to make a decision, to drink the vodka or not, to study for the test or not, she'll hear your voice. If it's a voice of love, chances are she'll say "No thanks," and open the book.

15 Ways to Help Your Daughter Flourish

1. Notice media's portrayal of women. Show your daughter. Being aware of the problem helps defuse it.
2. Buy your daughter a journal and special pen. Encourage her to write down thoughts and feelings. Promise you won't read it…no matter the temptation.
3. Hold family meetings. Discuss problems, brainstorm solutions, plan outings or a family vacation.
4. Give your daughter her past. Tell her stories of what you did when you were growing up, what an aging grandmother was like in her youth.
5. Celebrate her accomplishments with her favorite dinner, a small memento or card of congratulations.
6. Don't try to be her buddy.
7. Consider your life and what it tells her. Take time to nurture yourself, to cultivate your own interests.
8. Teach her that doing her best will always be good enough.
9. Encourage her to do a little more than is required. It will set her apart.
10. Encourage her to imagine a day in another's shoes.
11. Spend time alone together -- take a walk, go shopping, visit a museum, talk for ten minutes before bed.
12. Contribute to food and clothing drives. Recycle.
13. Take yoga or self-defense class together.
14. When she is good at something, tell her.
15. Tell her you love her. Tell her again, and again, and again.

Author's Bio: 

Dede Perkins is host of Bella Online's Daughters site. For weekly articles and links to information on Your Daughter's Health, Communicating with your Daughter, Raising Resilient Daughters, Money and your Daughter, Fun Sites for Her, Shopping for her Perfect Gift, Your Daughter, the Athlete, Homework Help, Girls and Women in History, and Your Creative Daughter, visit http://www.bellaonline.com/family/daughters.