Parents of daughters face incredible challenges when it comes to teaching their girls how to feel positive about their bodies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in association with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), girls start expressing worries about their size or shape around the age of six. Half of all girls in elementary school are worried about gaining weight. As a parent, you may try to set a good example by encouraging your kids to eat healthy and exercise. But how are you supposed to deal with the multitude of messages about weight that our young women receive from the media? Read on to find out.
While the statistics surrounding girls and weight are alarming, there has been progress in helping young women to develop healthy body image in recent years. Girls are more involved in sports than ever, even in non-traditional female sports such as martial arts and football. These types of pastimes help young women to develop assertiveness, confidence, and above all a love of their own bodies. Of course, you can take it further than that by using the following strategies.
Change Your Message
Parents overemphasize girls’ appearances from birth. Society responds differently to a baby dressed in pink versus blue. Unfortunately, gender-based expectations can harmfully impact young girls to believe that what they look like is all that matters. Even advertisements for young girls send the message that they need to have sex appeal to be successful in life. Try to counter this message by encouraging your daughter to go for looks that make her feel comfortable.
Personality Over Looks
Complement your daughter on her personal qualities as opposed to her looks. Is she a good friend? Does she handle stressful situations well? Does she work hard in school? Point out qualities of hers such as assertiveness, problem solving, and bravery.
Discussing Images of Women in the Media
Set limits on the television shows, movies, and music videos your daughter watches. While it’s impossible to prevent your daughter from being exposed to oversexed images of women in the media, it is possible to talk to her about what she’s seeing. Try to balance the impact of what she sees by asking her how what she sees makes her feel.
Protect Her Innocence
Young girls may have a desire to dress the way they see older teenage girls and women dressing. Unfortunately, we live in a world where children’s stores sell makeup, thongs, and bikinis for young girls. While your daughter should have a say in what she wears, it’s up to your to steer her away from clothing that calls attention to her sexuality.
Helping your daughter to develop a healthy body image is one of the most difficult things you will have to do as a parent. It’s important to complement her on personal qualities other than looks, limit her exposure to images of sexy women in the media, and protect her innocence by helping her to dress like a child.