Kate Orson tackles a potentially tough conversation but one you may well need to have
For teen girls especially, growing older can come with feelings of insecurity about looks, and a desire to experiment with all the latest products for enhancing hair and make-up.
As the Bible tells us, God is more concerned with our inward appearance, (1 Sam. 16:7) but how can we get that message across to our daughters?
We are all created in God’s image, made with such care and attention that every hair on our head is numbered (Matt. 10.30). As children of God, we are adored, and when our identity is in Christ it frees us of needing to seek approval from elsewhere in the world. One extreme example of this is Ollie London, an internet influencer who was trans and identified as Korean, having hundreds of surgeries to change his appearance. When he became a Christian he detransitioned and came to peace with himself.
It’s natural to want to look good, and be presentable to the world, but when we see our child caring a bit too much about what the world thinks, I think it can be interpreted as a kind of blessing, showing us that they need help, to return to connection with us and God.
So many negative feelings often come from a sense of hurt and upset that might not even be related to the situation where upset is being expressed. So when a child wants to straighten their wavy hair, or curl their straight hair, their hair is not the real issue.
Maybe they are feeling lonely, fearing rejection, or just dealing with a build up of stress that is manifesting in different ways? The parental relationship mirrors on a smaller scale the relationship between a person and God, so we can step in to bring connection, and healing, helping children feel more secure and less focused on what others think.
Firstly, I think it’s important that we meet children where they are at, spend time hanging out in their world, without judgment. You could try some ‘special time,’ just being with your child. This might look like a spa day, putting on make-up together, or trying on facemasks, doing each other’s hair or going on a shopping trip and trying on clothes. You might even suggest a ‘yes’ day, in which your child gets to do what they choose! While these activities might not be your favourite, the sense of attention will fill up your child’s ‘connection cup’ creating the safety and trust from which conversations can happen.
When we observe our teen obsessing over our looks it can be a reminder to pray, and ask God for help. Some advice I read recently was to spend 80% of the time listening and 20% of the time talking, and I think this is a great way to approach the issue. As Proverbs 12 says, ‘The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.’
Perhaps there will be a moment, when the Holy Spirit will prompt us to say something. Reading, reflecting and memorising scripture about what the Bible says about appearance can prepare us.
If a child is upset, angry, or expressing strong feelings it might be a time to listen, offer hugs and connection, and also perhaps suggest looking together on what the Bible says about a particular topic.
If the moment doesn’t come, God is still working. We can keep praying. We never know what might happen like an unexpected ‘yes’ to a offer of going to church, or watching a Christian film. God may put things in our children’s path, to help bring them back to him.
It can be alarming to see our children pulled towards the world, but experimentation with identity is normal for teens just like little children enjoy playing, dressing-up. As they explore, we can watch carefully to make sure they don’t stray too far, shepherding them back towards God.
Some scripture about appearance to reflect on;
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam.16:7).
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.NWonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psa.139:14).
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Pet. 3:3-4).