Your daughter may be young now but eventually she'll hit puberty. And while puberty is a time for development and evolvement, it's also a time for major low self-esteem and negative body image for a majority of girls, according to experts.
In fact, according to a 2000 study commissioned by Harvard University, how young girls view themselves while in their developmental stages is quite alarming. The survey, which followed a group of pre-pubescent girls into their late teens, found that at age 12 two-thirds of underweight girls already considered themselves too fat; At age 13 half of the surveyed girls were unsatisfied with their appearance; At age 14 complaints shifted specifically to hips and thighs; And by age seventeen 8 out of 10 girls already tried dieting at least once.
But having a negative body image can lead to more severe conditions such as developing an eating disorder, depression or even worse—suicide. That's why it's so important that you as a parent begin to instill the ideas of having a positive body image into your child as young as possible. To learn a few tips on how to do this, continue reading below.
1. Focus on Health, Not Diet. When trying to get your child to eat better, it's important that you explain that you're offering a variety of fresh fruits and veggies to encourage your child to be "healthier"— it's not so much about losing weight. Healthy eating means that the body will function better and thus your child will feel better too. So unless otherwise suggested by a physician, don't reduce your child's caloric intake and deprive them of all "treats." Instead, cook healthier meals and try to incorporate a variety of good-for-you alternatives. It's also important that you talk about the dangers of emotional eating (eating when you're bored, stressed and or upset). You should encourage your child to try to only eat when they're hungry. But you can't be a hypocrite. You have to eat healthy foods too. You lead by example, which leads us to the next tip—
2. Be Positive about Own Body Image. It’s crucial that you refrain from making comments about your own body in a negative light. For example, don't get caught staring at your reflection and saying, "my butt is too big," "my breasts are too small," or "my nose is huge." If your child sees you in action, she might just develop the same negative sentiments about her own body.
3. Give a Scientific Approach. Often times your child's size/frame is out of their control—genetics pays a huge role in someone's shape and physical features. Make sure your child knows this.
4. Scrutinize The Media. "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all." This classic fairytale idiom might have been uttered from the lips of a wicked queen, but young girls still strangely find themselves staring in the mirror trying to compete with the modern day Snow Whites of this generation—the Kim Kardashians, Blake Livelys and Mila Kunises just to name a few. But it's important that you teach your children that these celebrities have a team of expensive beauty experts that help them look the way that they do on a daily basis— we're talking on-site makeup artists, hair stylists, fashion stylists, estheticians, personal fitness trainers and dieticians. And without their team of image-perfecting professionals, most of them look like just like you and me—check out a picture of a makeup-less Eva Longoria here.
Not to mention that just about every cover girl is photoshopped and airbrushed—she can appear thinner and in some cases tanner or even more fair skinned. In other words, what your child sees on magazine covers and on television is fake and altered to sell products—thus trying to achieve the "celebrity look" is an unrealistic goal. Instead, you need to teach your child that women come in all shapes and sizes and that eating healthy and being active can help preserve their own body.
5. Grow Thick Skin. Lastly, you need to teach your child how to handle teasing and dismiss a bully's negative comments. Kids are cruel and may very well pick on your child, but you need to teach her how to overcome this negativity while giving reassurance that you love and are proud of your child just the way that she is. You also need to teach your child that being a bully is not the route to take either.
Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.