At some point girls start to compare their bodies to others. The texture of their hair. The size of their nose. The roundness of their bellies. The size of their thighs. Is your daughter part of the 42% of first-third graders who want to be thinner? A staggering statistic but nonetheless, the truth. And this doesn't mean that 42% of girls are being put down about their bodies, this is just how they feel.
You may be wondering, if no one is making negative comments to her about her body, why does she feel this way? This answer is simple, it surrounds her. It is on TV, social media, magazines, books, she may hear girls and women talk about the parts of their body they don't like...How many times a day do you hear a woman compliment herself? Or maybe more commonly a woman receive a compliment and then promptly put herself down? As women, we do not do the best job we can to model for our girls how to love our bodies AND how to accept compliments. Let's get to work on helping our girls avoid the struggle that most of us have lived through, here's how:
Embrace all kinds of bodies that you see. What would happen if we treated every body with respect and let go of judgement based on size? Show appreciation and respect for all body types. Smile, hold the door, compliment, and otherwise outwardly model acceptance for your daughter. I'v adapted the blanket phrase "That is just their body, remember all bodies are different" to answer most questions my daughter has about people's bodies.
Being free of bad body image begins with knowing your body isn't bad. I love to talk with girls about what their body provides for them - fun, life, energy, creativity, expression, power, strength, talent. Point out how your daughter's body is critical to her reaching her goals.
Be your number one fan. Pay attention to your self-talk the next time you check your outfit in the mirror. Are you putting down your own body or hair color? Your daughter is watching and thinking about the parts of you that she carries. Instead practice your own self-love by saying out loud what you appreciate about what you see in the mirror. Throw out and end subscriptions to all the body shaming magazines out there. Process what your daughter is watching and which stars she is comparing herself to.
Surround her with confident women who have positive relationships with their bodies. At the same time process any negative comments she may hear women around her say. I grew up with her mother who NEVER said a negative word about her body or mine. BUT I spent a lot of time with a grandmother who would criticize her own body (which I felt looked like mine) for as long as I can remember. Who do you think had a bigger impact on my developing relationship with my body? The positive comments about self-image will always be needed to outweigh the bad.
Want more body positivity in your life? Here are some great resources to explore yourself and share with the girl in your life: Teen Breathe Magazine - if you've been in our waiting room, you've seen this dreamy mag on our shelves. The content and exercises are well worth the subscription. Rookie - an online magazine for girls Body Positivity Beauty Redefined - helping girls and parents recognize harmful messages and redefine beauty Young Women's Health - a website from Boston Children's Hospital that is committed to educating teen girls and young women with carefully researched health information. Watch Shrill on Hulu - for older teens/adults (who doesn't love Aidy Bryant?)
Get your daughter connected to these gems on Insta: @jennakutcher @homebodytherapy @yes.womencan