In no other time in history has it been such an uphill battle for the girls in our country to have a healthy body image. Your daughter may be struggling with loving her body, and it’s no wonder why! The constant inundation of media telling your daughter the definition of “hot,” “sexy,” or “beautiful” can be so overwhelming for her growing sense of self.
A healthy body image is important for self-esteem, academic success, positive relationships with peers, and for good decision making with partners, now and in the future.
Check out the 7 steps you can take today to help your daughter have a healthy body image.
1.Identify negative self-talk
Address critical thoughts in your daughter’s mind. These are those negative self-statements such as “I’m ugly, I’ll never be pretty enough, I’m fat, etc.” Once your daughter can label those thoughts as unhelpful she can begin to come up with alternative more healthy thoughts.
2. Eliminate comparisons
Tweens and teens naturally compare themselves to the world around them. Your daughter is noticing the difference between her and her peers as well as the celebrities online and in the media. This is the time in her life when she will want to fit in the most. When she looks to others for comparison she is ultimately setting herself up to judge herself negatively. Let her know that comparing herself to others is unfair and harmful to her self-esteem. Encourage her to reflect on her own self-worth and what she does find beautiful about her own body.
3. Focus on skills not related to appearance
Help your child find attributes and characteristics that she can feel proud about and that have nothing to do with her appearance. For instance, creative, independent, team-player, hardworking, caring are all examples of strengths for her to focus on and value.
4. Teach her how to handle other’s comments about her body
It’s painful when peers make unwanted commentary about your daughter’s body. This may make her feel embarrassed and self-conscious. Encourage her to firmly and calmly tell her peers “I’m not OK with you making comments about my body” and for her to follow up with a trusted adult. This skill will empower your daughter.
5. Encourage her to not engage in body shaming with friends
Engaging in discussions with peers about someone else’s body in a negative way (also known as body-shaming) is unfortunately a big part of teen girl culture. Putting others down falsely give your daughter a good feeling about herself. Let her know she’s participating in an activity that hurts not just the girls she’s talking about, but ultimately her.
6. Redirect celebrity idolization to positive role models
Instead of focusing on wanting Kim Kardashian’s behind, or Angelina Jolie’s lips, have her find celebrities whose accomplishments she can admire, like Megan Markle’s work with the homeless.
7. Discuss use of advertising and film editing techniques
Make your daughter aware of what’s reality and what’s not. She may be focusing on the unattainable. Have a dialogue with her about how editing is used to make celebrities have no body fat or clear skin. Even in movies, camera angles and lighting are used to hide “flaws.” Let her know this is unfair to her to have this expecation of perfection, because it just doesn’t exist.
Bottom line: To guide your daughter to a healthy body image you need to help her have a healthy self-image. How she believes in herself on the inside will ultimately dictate how she feels about her body. Focusing on how she thinks about herself, others, and the world can help give her a healthy perspective and positive sense of self-worth.
Please comment below: Has your daughter struggled with positive body image? What strategies have you tried to help your daughter improve her image of herself?
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.