How many times has your daughter heard you complain about your body, its size, weight and shape? Is she a witness to you struggling with unrealistic diet or exercise regimes? Has she ever heard you say that you hate some part of your body? Has she ever heard you say that you are comfortable with yourself and the skin you are in?
All of this observing is shaping your daughter’s own body image and self-esteem. We have a powerful effect on the relationship our daughters develop with their own bodies and a wonderful opportunity to help it become a strong, healthy and positive one. (Dads, there is an extra tip for you, too!)
1. Lead by example. The best thing you can do to ensure a healthy, happy body image for your daughter is to work on creating one for yourself!
2. Stop using negative and disparaging language toward your body or when talking about your body.
3. Encourage your daughter to be grateful to her body for all of its parts and the functions they play in her life. For example, encourage her to be grateful for her legs because they allow her to skate. With younger children, you can do a bedtime routine of thanking your bodies for all the hard work they did today and give some examples. You might thank your arms for being able to hug your children and then see where it goes. This is a great exercise for all children - not just girls.
4. Make any talk of diet or exercise about health and vitality rather than about weight and image.
5. Encourage children to think critically about the media images they see.
6. Allow her to witness you living a full life, uninhibited by body hang-ups.
7. Teach her that healthy and fit bodies come in many different shapes and sizes.
8. Take a long hard look at the importance you place on your daughter’s appearance.
9. Reach out for help if you think your daughter is struggling with her body image and
10. Help her to identify with her strengths and goodness as a human being rather than as an ‘object.’
And one more tip (especially for dad!): You also have a powerful role in your daughter’s self-esteem and body image! Make a special point of praising and complimenting your daughter for the way she thinks and for her accomplishments. Rather than her just being ‘daddy’s pretty little girl,’ you are acknowledging her mind and spirit and this is very empowering when it comes from dad!
Imagine if all of our daughters could grow up to be comfortable and happy in their own skin! Then, imagine if they passed this on to their own children. Is it possible that one little girl at a time, we might change the way women have been taught to look at themselves? I believe it is.
Deborah is a self-esteem and weight loss specialist helping women deal with food and eating issues and feel good in their own skin. As a certified counsellor, she shares her knowledge and experience with women who desire true change from the inside out. For more information, visit www.deborahmorganconsulting.com.
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