Women have long been pressured to look a certain way, a societal tension that begins at a young age for most girls. Even cartoons can give children a skewed view of their own bodies. This highly-edited body image landscape only increases as girls grow into adolescents, watch television, and use social media. It is crucial to be open with your daughter about her body, how she feels about it, and how to handle pressure from society and the media.
Body Image Pressure
Body image is how someone thinks or feels about their body, which can affect their behaviors, relationships, and mental health. The term can be misleading, as body image has little to do with one’s size, shape, or look. Positive body image is about accepting and appreciating your body for what it is, how it works, and how it looks.
According to experts in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, girls as young as ten years old have a “Fear of negative evaluation by peers [that] is related positively to body image discrepancy.” This early childhood worry is not something that passes with age but can grow worse with time and prolonged exposure to skewed images of women’s bodies.
Having a positive body image is easier said than done. To encourage this, parents should promote a healthy lifestyle without restricting foods, forcing exercise, or favoring a certain body type. Encouraging a child’s self-esteem around their intelligence, skill, or even sense of humor rather than their looks is an ideal way to build their confidence. Making living a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle fun also inspires your daughter to care for her body rather than feel shame around it.
When a teenage girl has a poor body image — as, sadly, many do — it can affect not only her physical health but mental and social health as well. Viewing one’s body negatively, especially at a vulnerable age when one is going through so many changes, can lead to issues such as eating disorders, depression, or anxiety, which in turn lead to poor relationships, social function, and mood. These things together mean poor body image may require professional help to ease mental, emotional, and physical symptoms.
How to Discuss Body Image With Your Daughter
Discussing body image can be awkward and even bring up your own insecurities, but avoiding the subject with your daughter will only make it worse. Hiding the fact that such pressures and issues exist can lead to shame surrounding these feelings and can push your daughter further into anxiety and isolation.
Even though it may not be a fun conversation, opening the door to body image discussions and working on it together is an essential part of your daughter’s self-esteem, confidence, and growth into a capable young woman.
A great deal of setting a good example for a healthy body image is to work on your own self-esteem. Try not to fall into bad habits like being ashamed of eating certain foods or skipping a day at the gym. Instead of referring to your looks negatively, be open with your daughter about more important aspects of yourself and others.
We can all find ourselves judging others or mentally commenting on others’ appearances. These small patterns must be broken to restore positive body image and set an example for your daughter. Rather than telling your daughter she is beautiful or perfect the way she is, talk to her about how and why she feels the way she does about herself. Work together to find ways to overcome the opinions of others and focus on the good your bodies do for you.
Encourage her to follow positive accounts on social media and avoid or at least be aware of editing, posing, and other forms of body distortion that can lead to warped body image. Let her know she is not strange or wrong for feeling unsure about her appearance, but that, ultimately, this is not what defines her.
Body positivity will not arise after one conversation. Rather, it is an ongoing journey of growth with ebbs and flows that need to be addressed with support and understanding.
Things to Be Aware Of
If your daughter is struggling severely with body image, there are some important signs to look out for that may require intervention from a family doctor or therapist. You can always talk to your daughter about such behaviors, but getting a professional involved may have a more effective impact.
If you’re worried your daughter is having body image issues, look for the following behaviors:
- Excessive exercising
- Eating smaller meals or skipping meals altogether
- Withdrawing from activities or social events
- Being upset after school or when using social media
- Excessive focus on thinness or appearance
- Wearing clothes that are extremely baggy or too tight
- Avoiding eating in front of others
- Excessive photo editing to change her appearance online
Remember that your teenager is going through a strange and vulnerable time in her life and body image issues often come with that. Keeping the lines of communication open and remaining nonjudgmental are key aspects of supporting your daughter through these difficult times.
At Havenwood Academy, we know that teen girls are not simply angsty or moody, but have real problems that we can help them heal from. We focus on trauma-informed treatment and care for each girl in our program uniquely. We get to know each and every girl so that her treatment plan works for her. Body image makes a significant impact on teenagers’ confidence and behaviors. Often, poor body image can lead to other mental health struggles, but addressing such issues can help get to the core of the problem so that your teen can recover. We are here to work with you and your daughter on all aspects of her well-being so you can see her thrive and your relationship prosper. Call us at (435) 586-2500 today to see how we can help you and your family heal together.
Think Havenwood Might Be For You?
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