I'm a long distance father to an eight year old daughter and a four year old son, whom I see on average most weekends. My daughter has periodically lost her sense of confidence, and recently has begun to say things like, "No one wants to partner with me in school", "My friend K is just better than me, she's so popular," "I need to learn how to be popular," etc.
As a long distance parent, how can I help with these situations, and what can I do to boost my daughter's confidence?
When I'm around, I try to respond to statements like the above by asking for more specifics, by talking about my own experience of rejection in school, and saying to my daughter that while she might believe she is dumb or inferior, I don't, and as I've taught her many things I know that can't be true, etc. But often I feel like I'm going about this wrongly, as she'll just switch off or change the subject. Sometimes I feel like I get through, especially when I can manage to have a conversation (I try to avoid lectures). The problem is that I'm not around all the time so I'm not there when these things strike her. Talking about this face to face itself is difficult and in a phone / video call, which my daughter anyway does not like, it is impossible. So what can I do to contribute to solving this?
Some more elements of the context are important. I've posted a number of questions here so my messy situation may be recognisable. My wife has what I think I can best sum up as mild narcissistic tendencies. She was also emotionally abusive towards me for much of our marriage, until very recently, when I stopped staying with her during the times I visit. Her abusive behaviour has improved since (we may save our marriage), as well as her aggression with the kids, but with our daughter she still will:
- React at times to our daughter's tears at rejection / bullying with "What is there to cry about?"
- Harshly rebuke our daughter in front of others for small mistakes like dropping something or being absent minded, including at times using mild force, like squeezing her arm painfully
- Internally compare our daughter to some friends of hers in a way that implies the others are superior because they are confident and "strong" (she doesn't explicitly say this to our daughter)
In these ways I think she is possibly contributing to the problem. In light of her personality and our marital situation I can't have a really productive conversation with my wife about these issues (NB: hence, please don't provide me with advice around communicating with my wife). What can I do as the long distance parent to help here? I'm very worried about her.
Edit: An additional question. Would it be helpful to provide books about assertiveness etc? My wife may contradict them, but will that destroy their effectiveness?