Dr Richard Woolfson - Child Psychologist
Parent Doctor
Reprinted from the Herald, 31 July 2006


Our daughter is upset because no boys are interested in her

This week's dilemma: Our 16-year-old daughter doesn't have a boyfriend but all her pals do. She is very upset about this. Half the time she thinks there must be something wrong with her because no boys are interested. Recently she has said to me she would be willing to go out with any boy who asked - even if she didn't like him. Her confidence is dreadfully low. What should we do?

Readers' Replies:

It is a depressing sign of the times that a girl has to define herself solely in terms of whether or not she has a boyfriend. I feel sorry for your daughter that she would allow herself to sink so low. You must build up her self-respect. To go out with a boy just for the sake of it will be a terrible mistake: she won't think any more highly of herself. The date would be a dreadful failure and her friends would respect her less. She'll find someone who wants to date her soon enough. She needs to stay calm and be patient.

UC, Dennistoun

This could be a good time to give her a makeover: her hair, clothes and style. You and she could have great fun planning a new look for her. Girls this age love spending time, money and effort on re-doing their appearance. This would definitely lift her self-confidence and may be exactly what is needed to find her a boyfriend.
DS, by e-mail

Discourage your 16-year-old from demeaning herself by going with a lad she doesn't even like. That will backfire on her because she will be uncomfortable throughout the date, and she'll be totally miserable afterwards. Big deal if your daughter hasn't got a boyfriend. There is someone out there who is absolutely perfect for her and they will find each other in time. She has to wait.

VN, by e-mail

Teenage girls are under terrific pressure to have a boyfriend. All the magazines for this age group, and the television soaps, go on and on about boyfriends and girlfriends, to the extent that a teenager believes they are abnormal if they are not in a relationship with the opposite sex. Peer pressure to conform adds to the tension. One of the best ways to make new friends is by joining an interest class, like sport or drama or music. She is more likely to meet someone in a group where there is a common interest. That's a far better plan than throwing herself at the first boy who pays her some attention. You should not let her lower her personal standards.

AG, by e-mail

The Parent Doctor's Reply: None of our readers this week has any enthusiasm for your daughter's plan to go out with any boy who asks her. In her desperation to be part of the crowd, she's willing to consider this strategy (which VN rightly describes as humiliating). Your 16-year-old would find no joy or self-respect from spending time on a date with someone who has no appeal for her. Rather than homing in only on opposite-gender relationships - as if this is the only cause of her concerns - I suggest you have a broader look at her life in general. Is she coping well with school? Has she begun to firm up plans for the future, in terms of post-school life? Does she have a dynamic social life with her friends? You may find through your discussions that her low self-confidence stems from difficulties in other areas of her life, not just in her relationships with boys. A non-platonic relationship can be an important part of adolescent life, but it is not an essential element for the satisfactory emotional development of every teenager. Many go through these pre-adult years without any such attachments and yet develop into competent, capable and loving adults. Your daughter may be reassured to hear you remind her that she is not the only 16-year-old without a partner - far from it, despite what she might think. Cliched it may be, but AG's advice for your child to extend her social activities into new areas seems very sensible to me. I get the feeling she is locked into her own little social world at the moment. There is no harm in that, of course, as long as the confines of her current peer group don't bring her down emotionally. Persuade her to take a fresh look at what she does and work with her to find new avenues for her to fill leisure time more positively.

Dr. Richard Woolfson

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