She has the most beautiful blue eyes, the eyes I always wanted to have myself, but now love to look at on her. She has this long, wavy hair- the kind of hair that she doesn’t have to do a thing to. She never blows it dry, never puts product in it. Heck. she barely ever brushes it! But it’s got the perfect amount of wave and thickness. And it’s this sandy brown color that gets pretty blonde highlights in the summer.
My girl is strong, too. She’s the perfect combination of my husband and me, with strong, lean legs that scream for a soccer pitch. She doesn’t really love sports though, so I’m trying not to push that. (It’s killing me, you know!)
And her smile. I can’t describe her smile, but it makes me happy. I would give anything to see that smile more. Her smile lights up her whole face. It lights up my whole life.
I don’t really see that smile as much as I used to. It seems the days of sparkly dress shoes that help her twirl have been replaced by ratty old skateboard sneakers, and that her confident smile has been replaced by a tentative, questioning expression whenever she looks in the mirror.
What does she see? How does she not see what I see?
If your daughter is a tween or teen, like mine, then chances are strong that you’re asking yourself some of these same questions. Our confident little girls become more insecure about their bodies before we’re ready for it. A few quick stats for you:
* 81% of ten year olds are afraid of being fat.
* More than half of teenage girls are, or think they should be, on diets.
* Girls are THREE times more likely than boys to have a negative body image.
* More than 90% of 15-17 year old girls want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance.
So what’s a girl to do to have a positive body image? What’s a mom to do to promote a positive body image in her daughter? Let me offer you a few tips today
I think the first thing we moms need to do is take a good look at ourselves. If we start talking at our daughters in an attempt to promote a positive body image in them, but we ourselves have a negative one, well then we’re just asking to be called out on that. Our girls are smart. They can smell our hypocrisy a mile away, so don’t even try it.
Before we even consider approaching our girls about their body image, we need to get real about our own. Then and only then can we initiate genuine and honest conversation with our girls. I’m not saying we need to “fix our stuff” completely in order to approach our girls. I’m simply suggesting we get honest with ourselves, so that we can be honest with them.
This is not the time to start preaching at our girls. Sure, we’re older, wiser, and we’ve been around the body image block a few more times than they have. Yes, we know that the girls in the magazines are airbrushed, and that the average body is NOT a size zero. But if we start spewing off lectures and statistics, our girls are going to tune us out so fast, it will have our fact touting little heads spinning.
Instead, I would encourage you to just observe her. No, don’t stalk her. Just be aware. Notice if she lingers over that magazine ad of that supermodel. Notice if she frowns at the sight of herself in the mirror. Notice if she picks at her food, and starts dieting. And don’t jump at her if she does these things. For now, just become aware of what’s going on with your daughter.
It’s more important than ever now to watch the way you talk about your own body, and also about those around you. So skip the comment about how you look like a cow in those shorts. Skip the envious comment you make about that lady with the perfect body that you wish you had. Even if you’re trying not to say it in front of her, this is dangerous. First, because you need to skip the negative self talk anyway (see Number 1). And second, because if you get in the habit of talking like this, even if just when you’re alone, chances are you’ll make a comment or two like this when she’s around, and she’ll notice.
Instead, keep the body talk positive. Compliment women who are strong and beautiful. Comment on women who are beautiful in all shapes and sizes. Teach your daughter to see the beauty in all women.
And don’t forget yourself. According to Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, “a mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem.” So practice some positive body talk with the mirror. Be nice to yourself. Love yourself. Show her how it’s done.
These are just three simple ways to promote a positive body image in your teen girl. In addition, I’ve created a FREE WORKBOOK for you to learn even more simple but effective ways to do this.
The road to a positive body image is a long and windy one, filled with potholes, speed bumps, and a couple of major detours. I’m still traveling that road. I’m sure I’ll be on it for years to come. But my girl is starting the road now, and your girl is, too. So let’s extend our hands back, and guide them through it. If we can encourage our girls to walk the road with us, the views become even sweeter as we witness them together.
I hope that you found this blog post useful. Promoting a healthy body image in our daughters is a wonderful way to empower them, and to foster a close relationship with them through their challenging teen years. If you want to dive deeper with me on the topic of how to cultivate closeness with our teen daughters, and how to build a trusting relationship with them, I have a brand new course coming out very soon! It's called "Cultivating Closeness: Four Pillars To a Closer Relationship With Your Teen Daughter", and its goal is to help moms everywhere develop a trusting and close relationship with their teen daughters through some simple but powerful steps. If you want to be one of the first to know when this course comes out, be sure to get on my Cultivating Closeness Waitlist! There will be special bonuses and treats for my early bird registrants!