38% of girls ages 8 to 12 told us they’re jealous of the way other girls look.
Here are some tips to help improve your body image — and your daughter’s.
During their tween years, many girls start to worry that they aren’t pretty enough or that their bodies just don’t look good enough. As your daughter’s mom, you have enormous influence on how she sees herself. In fact, a recent Discovery Girls magazine survey revealed that most tween girls get their ideas about the “right” body size from their parents and their friends. One of the most effective ways you can help her cultivate a healthy body image is to lead by example. In other words, every mother of a tween girl should ask herself, “How is my self-esteem?”—particularly in the area of looks and body image.
No one feels confident about everything, and many mothers are still struggling to achieve a positive body image themselves. So how can you teach your daughter to love her body when you’re still working on accepting your own? It may not be as difficult as you think. Here are some tips for helping improve your daughter’s self-esteem by changing the things you do and say.
1. Stand Up Straight
Ditch that slouching stance and stand up straight! Standing tall is a great way to show confidence. You’ll not only appear taller, you’ll also project maturity and strength. Also, keeping your shoulders back instead of bowed shows that you’re friendly and approachable.
2. Be Proud of Your Body
Modesty is one thing, but hiding your body from your daughter out of shame or embarrassment is definitely a sign of low self-confidence. Carry yourself with pride no matter what body type you have so that your daughter will learn to be comfortable in her own skin, too.
3. Model Healthy Relationships
When you’re trying to assess your self-esteem, assess your relationships. Do you have close friendships? Are you a good friend? Have you maintained a positive, long-term relationship with a spouse or partner? Have your relationships been healthy? Healthy relationships are a sign that you have high self-esteem. When you model healthy relationships for your daughter, she’ll learn to apply your healthy patterns to her own life.
4. Don’t Put Yourself Down
It’s important to assess the way you talk about yourself. If your daughter hears you talk negatively about your appearance, she’ll assume it’s okay to talk negatively about hers, too.
Dr. Phil McGraw, a television personality, author, and former psychologist—known as Dr. Phil—explains, “If she watches you looking in the mirror saying, ‘I look terrible. I look fat. I hate the way I look in this,’ and she watches how you cower from life and don’t carry yourself with dignity and pride and your head up, then she is going to learn and mimic those very things.” (Courtesy of www.drphil.com.)
5. Focus on Your Health, Not Your Weight
Talking about your wish to gain or lose weight sends the message that you’re preoccupied with your looks. If your weight is a health issue, focus on your desire to change your diet as a way to get healthier, not just to change your size or the way you look. Try not to focus too much on the scale—if you must weigh yourself frequently, do it when your daughter isn’t watching. Model an active lifestyle, and choose internal health over external looks.
6. Be Happy with Who You Are—Don’t Make Comparisons
Make an effort not to compare yourself to others in front of your daughter. Even if it’s not your intention, your daughter will get the message that it’s okay for her to compare herself to others. And she’s probably already doing plenty of that without your encouragement.
Changing long-ingrained habits is hard. If you haven’t always modeled the most positive body image for your daughter in the past, don’t beat yourself up over it—just vow to make changes starting now. You may not be able to change your habits and outlook overnight, but if you keep at it, you’ll gradually notice a change, not only in the way you see yourself but in the way your daughter sees herself. And as her body image improves, your daughter’s self-esteem will rise … and won’t that be worth all the effort?