3 Ways to Help Your Daughter Have a Healthy Body Image

Body image is important

Body image is all about how you see yourself when you look in the mirror, or how you imagine others see you. It’s something that many of us struggle with, and worry about when raising our daughters. And for good reason.

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Feelings of dissatisfaction with their bodies are common among young girls and can be very damaging. One study found that when girls don’t feel good about how they look, 80% opt out of important life activities (like engaging with family and friends), 70% stop eating or risk their health in other ways, and 70% are less assertive with their opinions. On top of that, girls who think they’re overweight (even if they really aren’t), tend to get lower grades.

There are a number of things outside of our families, in modern society/culture, that contribute to the body image struggle (super skinny/busty dolls, sexy cartoon princesses and old-fashioned gender norms—we’re looking at you). But our families also play a role. This can be intimidating, but also empowering—you can greatly shape your daughter’s body image! Modelling healthy behavior and being aware of outside influences can have a big impact on how our daughters perceive themselves. Here are some ways to help your daughter stay positive and have a healthy body image.

 

1. Model healthy self-talk

It’s easy to look in the mirror and say that you’re too fat, too skinny, too old—whatever. Not only is that damaging for your own self-esteem, but it can be damaging for your daughter too. She may see you do this and become critical of her own body when she looks in the mirror.

Instead, try to focus the conversation on what you like about your body and how thankful you are for the things your body allows you to do. If you’re working on a big personal goal like losing weight, and this feels unrealistic, try focusing the conversation on what you’re doing to get fit and what you’ve accomplished so far. Get excited about the changes you are making and how they are making you feel. Chances are your daughter will feed off your energy and do the same.

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2. Model healthy eating habits and attitudes toward food

Your daughter will take cues from you when she’s building her own relationship with food. This doesn’t mean you have to suddenly give up ice cream and go vegan. If your daughter sees you trying new foods and enjoying then, she’s more likely to give things a try. If she sees you enjoying salads and veggies, she’s more likely to do the same. And if she sees you indulging in the occasional treat guilt-free, again, she’s more likely to do the same. We are our daughter’s best role models, so let’s show them what a healthy relationship with food looks like.

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3. Limit exposure to harmful media

Beyond being entertaining, media (books, tv shows, movies, etc.) can have a real impact on children, and experts believe that characters like sexy princesses can magnify stereotypes in young girls. According to the American Psychological Association, the potential consequences of sexualizing girls include body dissatisfaction, depression, lower self- esteem, diminished cognitive ability, shame, and lower achievement levels.

It's tough to police the media kids are consuming when parents are already busy and overwhelmed. However, there are some great tools out there that can make it a little easier to mix in some healthy choices with the media everyone’s talking about at school:

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A Mighty Girl

Check out A Mighty Girl for lists of empowering and girl-positive books, tv shows and movies.

 

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media has similar lists and reviews, but with less of a focus on girls specifically.

 
 
Melissa Foley