Every day, your daughter is blasted with images of women’s bodies. And, even though she may not be able to read, chances are she’s already aware of the messaging that often accompanies these images: too thin, too fat, too curvy, skinny but unhealthy, too muscly, not strong enough…It’s easy to see why so many girls grow up with body issues.
Here’s how you can play a role in promoting a healthy body image:
Watch what you say
Obviously, the more taboo a topic, the greater your child’s feeling that there must be a reason why. If you never talk about bodies, she’ll know that there’s a reason to feel, perhaps, strange about them – so not discussing body shape at all is a no-no. That said, think about what you say when you discuss your body. Do you moan constantly about how fat your bum is? Do you snigger at people who don’t fit the ideal body type? When you’re having coffee with your friends, within earshot of the kids, does the conversation often revolve around diets? Complete censorship is neither desirable nor realistic, but try to set a role model for your daughter, letting her see that you accept your body the way it is (and if you don’t – fake it!).
Focus on the positives
Rather than telling your daughter that she has skinny legs or a nice flat tummy – or even a cute round belly and the most kissable thighs – tell her she’s strong and capable. Complement her on the things she does, rather than what she looks like. When you do talk about her body, ensure the conversation hinges on all it’s able to do (running, dancing, walking, spinning, somersaulting, and swimming) rather than what it looks like.
Teach her the importance of self-care
When you tell your daughter she can’t have that second piece of cake, she’s going to want to know why, and “Because I said so” won’t cut it. This is a great opportunity to talk to your daughter about why we need to take care of our bodies, and why our bodies need healthy nutrients to make our brains work, our muscles strong and our organs function.
Remind her that bodies come in all shapes and sizes
With that in mind, steer clear of comments like “Gosh, that lady is so nice and thin.” In fact, try keep all comments about weight inside your head. Where you can, expose her to different body images – try to find dolls that represent body types other than the ideal (even Barbie comes in “plus-size” these days).
Teach her kindness
Treating others with kindness is, of course, vital, but a healthy body image starts with being kind to ourselves.
Show her the way
Gently guide your daughter towards healthy practices by stocking your fridge and pantry with nutritious foods and including exercise as part of your family time.