"I'm fat!" "I'm ugly!" "I have nothing to wear that doesn't make me look gross!"
Despite all your pep talks and positive reinforcement, you can't seem to get through to your daughter. She's unhappy with her appearance and convinced that everyone else is looking at her with judgment. You're sad that she's so one, too focused on her physical appearance and second, doesn't appreciate her unique beauty. How do you help your daughter develop a healthy body image?
Healthy self esteem comes from the inside. As much as we would like to be able to pour it into our kids like a bucket, it isn't that simple. However, there ARE ways we as parents can help:
Studies show that girls who play sports have a more positive body image than girls who don't. It's important for girls to play sports or do some kind of challenging physical activity so that they learn to appreciate their bodies for what they can DO instead of only what they look like. This is very important. If your daughter isn't into soccer or tennis, how about martial arts, ballet or dance? Learning to carry oneself with pride and a growing sense of accomplishment as one meets challenges is how self esteem is built.
Try a reality check. Look at fashion magazines with your daughter and talk about how the photos are airbrushed and how the models are made-up by a team of experts. The reality is, no fashion model or actress actually looks like that when she wakes up in the morning! Help her understand that these images are not "real". You may want to place a limit on how many of these magazines you allow your daughter to read. They can have a negative impact on a young woman's self image.
Emphasize good health over looks. Not every body type has the genetics to be a size 2, but you can be healthy and feel great at a size 12. Taking good care of our skin and hair helps us glow from the inside. Girls need to find their comfortable weight and love themselves for who they are instead of comparing themselves to others. Emphasizing nutrition and exercise will help your daughter maximize her natural assets. Healthy and happy is always in style.
Help her pick out clothing that is flattering to her body. Girls want to wear what everyone else is wearing. Unfortunately not all cuts are becoming to all body sizes and shapes. Find some good books at the library that show you how to dress for your body shape. Wearing the right colors for your skin tone, hair and eye color also helps you look your best.
While you are working toward building your daughter's image, remind her siblings and father that teasing, name calling and rude comments about their sister's looks will not be tolerated. Avoid watching TV programs and movies that emphasize physical beauty too much or that promote a disrespectful attitude towards women and their bodies.
Finally, if your teen is overweight, institute an exercise / healthy eating program as a family. Start going for walks or runs with her, begin a sport together, join a ladies only gym. Getting active and exercising regularly boosts the mood and encourages more activity even before the weight starts to come off, creating a positive cycle. An overweight teen is going to have a low self image in our thin obsessed society. Work together as a family – it will go a long way in helping your teen daughter develop a healthy body image.
Need More Help?
Here are two guides to help you reconnect with your teen, so you can help them with the rocky road of being a teenager.
1. Real Life Guidance to Understanding Your Teen shows you how to accept what you can and cannot control in your teen's life, how to cope with mood swings, keeping the lines of communication open.
2. Real Life Guidance to Helping Your Teen in High School includes practical suggestions to help your child find his/her identity, avoid bullies, handle peer pressure and more.
Grab them both to be armed with the easy-to-follow advice at your fingertips. They're available for instant download, which means you can get the help you need any day of the week, even if it's the middle of the night.