Parenting a child in the modern world, where media is saturated with the images of a society pressuring us to be perfect, is a challenge to say the least.
This is especially true for the mothers of daughters, who without meaning to are often negatively influencing their child’s body confidence and self image.
Now, don’t get us wrong. We aren’t blaming mums here. It’s a hard journey being a mum, and for most women body image is something that we develop over our lives, due to our own individual influences. Our own mother might have had a hand in our negative body image, but so could magazines, our friends and our personal beliefs. We aren’t saying that you are to blame. Instead, we want to provide a few dos and don’ts for you to consider as your daughter’s body image is in development.
Don’t Talk About Your Negative Body Image Around Her
Girls believe their mothers are beautiful. Why wouldn’t they? Girls look up to their mothers, in some cases listen to their fathers call their mother’s gorgeous and wonderful. It’s a great personal image, the kind of foundation that a positive body image is built on. So imagine how that changes when you harshly critique yourself, as women often do. Your daughter absorbs what you say, so when you call yourself ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ she sees herself in the same light.
Do Encourage Discussion On The Other Parts Of Your Self
There’s so much more to people than how they look, but in our society we have a very obsessive preoccupation with what’s on the outside. Don’t let your daughter fall into the same trap. Many girls are constantly measured by how pretty they are, and how much they fit into the pattern of a perfect girl. Move away from this mindset by encouraging your daughter to value other parts of herself as well. She should value her intellect, her athletic nature, her health, her creativity and her personality. Focus on these when providing positive feedback, instead of falling back on ‘pretty’.
Don’t Let Her See You Restricting Food
We all know that children are mimics, but that behaviour can have a very negative impact when it revolves around eating. If your daughter sees you dieting heavily, or restricting your food intake in order to look and feel better, she’s likely to assume she needs to do the same to be satisfied as an adult. This leads to unhealthy attitudes about eating, which can be difficult to shake and in young people can put them at risk of suffering from an eating disorder.
Do Be A Healthy Balanced Eater
Feeling good about yourself starts on the inside. By eating regularly and consuming a balanced diet of healthy foods with occasional treats, you can teach your daughter how to achieve the balance. Encourage her to eat fruits and vegetables when she’s hungry, instead of falling back on junk foods and feeling bad about it. But also make sure she knows that treats are ok, as long as they’re in moderation. Focusing on healthy eating habits and healthy activities like regular exercise are much better than focusing on diets.
Don’t Be Critical Of Her Body Image
It’s easy to fall back on old habits when it comes to opening your mouth and saying something to your daughter about her body image. After all, our mothers were fond of reminding us on occasion. But do you remember how it made you feel? Criticism from mothers about how much is appropriate to eat or what we should wear makes if difficult to separate body image from self worth. We feel bad when we’re critiqued, and good when we’re praised, so it’s easy to slip into the mindset that
Do Fake It Until You Make It
Changing your body image is not a matter of flicking a switch and moving on with your life. For most women, body image is something that they have struggled with their entire lives and will likely continue to struggle with. However, when it comes to your daughter it might help to just imagine that you have no body image issues. Fake it. Tell yourself that you believe you are beautiful, that you’re happy in your skin and that you want to enjoy yourself and your life. Live those affirmations, and your daughter will too.
It is a real struggle to balance your own self image issues as a mother with the fragile and developing self image of your daughter, and we commend the women who manage to walk that line with ease.
For everyone else, struggle on, because those positive changes can make such a difference in your daughter’s life.