Parents of young girls and pre-teens face a tougher task than ever as they help their daughters develop a positive body image. The statistics show that more than half of the girls in the country – including pre-teens – are dissatisfied with their bodies, and the problem starts as young as age 6. The media contributes to the issue by bombarding these girls with images of super skinny and sexualized girls, leading to unrealistic expectations. Parents can encourage their girls to focus on a healthy lifestyle in the following ways.
Model Acceptance of the Female Body
Mothers and fathers alike can model acceptance of a healthy female body, focusing more on strength and overall health instead of on an unrealistic goal to be super skinny. When your daughter sees women accept their own shape and men who honor women instead of criticizing their weight, they will be more likely to develop a better self-image.
Have Hard Conversations
Discuss body image with your girl, including puberty, media influence, her own self-perception and what she sees on the Internet. Keep in mind that the comments from other teens on social media will affect her views, so talk about what she reads and posts there.
Support Positive Friends
Watch her interactions with other girls who respect their bodies and who focus on similar goals, including character development and academics.
Even a 20-minute walk every day can boost metabolism and help self-esteem. Suggest that your daughter participate in sports and enjoy physical activities with others. In addition to traditional school sports, consider dancing, martial arts, boxing or a membership at the gym.
Establish Healthy Food Choices
Keep fresh fruit and vegetables in the house and limit high-carb and high-sugar snacks. If they aren’t in the house, the family won’t be as tempted to eat them, which will promote overall health and good eating habits for everyone.
Encourage Character and Other Qualities above Physical Appearance
Emphasize her persistence, patience, discipline and kindness. Don’t focus on her weight or appearance unless you see a dangerous pattern taking place. Compliment her on reaching out to a bullied or overlooked child or on how well she expressed herself in an especially emotional situation.
Discuss Concerns with Your Family Doctor
If your daughter does need to lose a few pounds, meet together with your doctor for suggestions on how she can achieve a realistic weight and BMI based on her individual needs. If you think that she might struggle with an eating disorder, address this with your physician.
Choose Clothes Carefully
Instead of picking overly tight or sexualized clothing, focus on age-appropriate attire. Avoid clothes that send a sexual message, such as ‘juicy’ or those that use similar wording. Look for modest but attractive clothing that doesn’t detract from your daughter as a person.
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