Four Ways You Can Help Her Create a Positive Body Relationship
As a mom, you want your daughter to grow up and feel good about her body. Maybe for her to not have the same struggles that you had. But did you know that kids as young as five can have a negative view of their body? Worse, poor body image issues are linked to disordered eating, eating disorders, depression and anxiety in kids and adolescents.
A mother’s actions with her own body and body talk will directly impact how her daughter sees and feels about her body. Below are four meaningful steps you can take help your daughter build a healthy relationship with her body.
- Do not speak negatively about your body. Your words about yourself play a huge role in how your daughter will see herself. When you openly critique or judge your body you are teaching her that her self-worth lies in her appearance too. This can come from your comments on how your stomach shows in a tight shirt, how your hips looks big in a pair of jeans or how you look unflattering in a picture. It can come in your difficulty accepting a body compliment. Are you quick to dismiss it with, “Thanks, but I’m so _________________” versus just ‘thank you’, even when you are not feeling good with your body? This may feel like a struggle to do, but remember you are modeling body acceptance language to her. You can teach her to look at a picture and concentrate on the joy of the moment versus her appearance and how to be gracious accepting a compliment. You can give to her maybe what you did not get at her age. The beauty of our children is that they can be the greatest teachers. They reflect what we no longer want for ourselves as well as for them.
- Concentrate on the health of your body not the size. One of the most important things we can teach our children is that we are not a “One size fits all” society. We come in all shapes and sizes. We are taught through our society and media that the only acceptable size is “skinny.” We are surrounded by very strong weight stigma. People who are of larger bodies are seen in a light that is very different than someone who is in a smaller body. There is judgement, criticism, the belief that they need to be “fixed.” With a Health at Every Size approach, you are teaching your child that all bodies can be healthy, regardless of size. Healthy doesn’t equal skinny. It is how you take care of your body, feeding it nutritious foods, moving in a way that feels good, getting enough sleep and drinking enough water. Anyone can be living by these behaviors, regardless of size. This may be a new way of thinking for you but it is a gift you are giving to your child rather than tangling healthy behaviors up with their weight.
- Remember puberty. During puberty, there can be anywhere from a 20-50 pound weight gain in fatty tissue, in a relatively short period of time. This shift is very normal and will vary person to person. But often, this is a time when parents become concerned about their daughter’s (and son’s) weight. The education of what is happening to your child during this time is so important so that she knows that these changes are a normal and natural part of the lifecycle. The weight will distribute as her body matures to an adult body. But that will take time to do. The body is fully matured at 25 years old, when the frontal lobe of the brain is fully formed. This is the rational part of the brain. A girl’s body shift happens from the shoulders to the thighs. This is the whole area that makes a woman a woman. It is important to discuss how these shifts are necessary to a happen to change from a little girl to a woman and all the beautiful gifts that it brings. It is important to watch the areas that you are criticizing because they are often the parts that make you a woman. This can send the message that these parts of her body are “bad” versus to be embraced.
- Focus on what her body does, not what it looks like. Comment on how strong her legs are, rather than how skinny they look in her shorts. Or how incredible her imagination is to create her artwork. This doesn’t mean all physical compliments stop. Just be aware of how much you use them versus compliments on what her body does. And remember this applies to you. Your body made and carried those beautiful babies. So be kind to yourself and your body.