Achieving positive body image doesn’t happen overnight. As girls head into their teen years it’s important to help them navigate the changes they will experience with a positive outlook. As their bodies grow and change it’s easy for their self image to take a hit if they’re hearing all the messages the media throws at them focusing on fake ideals and photoshopped images.
Now is the time, while your daughter is still a tween, to encourage positive body image more than ever. But how do we get that message through? How do we help our daughters feel happy about their looks and not let their self worth depend on their body shape or size?
Here are 5 things you can do now to help your tween have a positive body image that can carry her through her teen years.
Be a Role Model
Your tween is paying more attention then you give her credit for — she might still forget to rinse her dishes no matter how many times you’ve reminded her, but she is listening. So if she’s listening, what is she hearing? Do you talk about how eating that extra slice of cake will make you fat? Does she hear you complain about how your jeans fit?
Negatively talking about our own body can come so naturally that we don’t even realize it, so pay attention to your words. Girls model a lot of how they feel about their bodies and themselves at this age by watching their mothers. Be a role model of being comfortable in your own body and appreciating all the things your body allows you to do.
Is your lifestyle, eating habits and self image what you would want your daughter to have? Start today making any changes for yourself to better love and accept the body you have and to improve the areas you want to work on in a positive way.
Make Good Health a Family Affair
Teach your daughter that healthy eating and exercise is about being strong and healthy, not skinny or sexy. Even better, make these good eating habits and self care a part of your family culture.
Studies have shown that teens have better body image regardless of their weight when they participate in regular exercise. Find something she loves to do to stay active and support and encourage her to continue that activity, or find ways to do it as a family! Physical activity shows your daughter that she is strong and helps her appreciate that her body is something to be appreciated and taken care of.
Continue modeling positive body image by exercising with her and set goals and habits together to get moving in fun ways. Believe it or not, even eating one meal together has shown to help teenagers to be better adjusted and less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Start now by making sure your family enjoys at least one sit-down meal together each day and eat healthy food that teaches your daughter how to make good food choices for fuel for her body.
Exercise and eating right starts at home, so create an environment where your tween is encouraged, supported and cheered on for all of her good health choices.
Compliment More Than Looks (Enlist Dad)
The easiest compliments are usually “You look nice today,” or “I like that sweater on you,” but while those compliments are nice, they can put all the focus on your daughters outward appearance so make sure they aren’t the only ones you share. While we all like to hear about our good hair day, try thinking a little deeper before you drop your next compliment.
Your daughter will remember the beautiful things you say about her so give her positive feedback. Compliment her talents, her kindness and praise what you love about her and get dad on board too! Remind your husband that hearing uplifting, complimentary things from their dad is a great way for him to show her how beautiful she is, inside and out.
On the flip side, never let your daughter hear you say critical remarks about her body. If she is dealing with acne, greasy hair or weight gain then odds are good she’s aware of it. Your comments could discourage her and feed the negative thoughts she’s already battling. Compliment your teen, work together to come up with positive solutions for any self image issues that come up and your relationship will grow at the same time.
It’s good for your daughter to know you were a tween and a teen once too. You had the same problems and issues she is facing so talk to her about how you overcame them. Be a listening ear and don’t try to brush it off with a cliche “It’s what’s on the inside that counts!”
Listen to her concerns, acknowledge those feelings and talk about your experiences with your self esteem and body image. Help your daughter see that acne and body types don’t stop a woman from becoming who she wants to be and going after all that she wants to accomplish.
Talk about Media
Make sure your daughter knows that what she sees online isn’t always real. Talk to her about the reality of photoshopped images and how they aren’t showing reality in every single ad and celebrity image she is bound to see. Help her to avoid getting caught in the trap of comparing herself to a photoshopped image of someone else.
Many tweens today have their own cell phones or easy access to the internet, make sure that the access isn’t unfettered. Know who her favorite YouTube stars are and watch them with her, set limits on internet use and have open conversations about appropriate videos, websites and media.
While the internet can be the best place to learn how to french braid your hair or how to create a cute craft, it’s also a place of endless opportunity for comparison. Be honest and upfront with your tween about social comparison and the real world vs what happens online.
Your daughter IS beautiful inside and out, help her to see that and encourage it everyday with your compliments, empathy, your role model, your family habits and your media use and she will develop a healthy body image.