How to Help Our Girls Have Healthy Body Image: 6 Tips

Mother and teenage daughter hugging.

It is challenging today and it has been challenging for many generations of girls to develop a strong and healthy body image in our society. The challenges exist, are real, and can be highly detrimental to our girls as they become young women. Our society distorts the images we see in the media and the messages young girls often hear can have negative lasting implications that can hurt self esteem, self value, and overall sense of self. From print images to TV and movie actresses, to news anchors and athletes, the images portrayed as well as the blatant and subtle messages expressed, should be discussed within the smaller community and family systems to help girls learn how to integrate a concept of a strong, healthy, and assertive woman.

What to do and not do when talking to young girls:

1) Be aware of the language you use in discussing women’s bodies. Do not use terms like skinny vs. fat. It would be better to communicate and accept the reality that all humans are different shapes and sizes and these are not good or bad and right and wrong. Our shape and size will be determined by genetic factors and lifestyle choices.

2) Being healthy role models as parents is imperative. As a mother, do not criticize your own body parts. In fact, do not objectify yourself by making negative comments about certain body parts. We are not body parts. We are whole beings. We are whole people with hearts, minds, and passions about others, the world, and important causes. As a father, always speak respectfully about women. It is how your daughters will come to expect to be treated themselves.

3) Talk about your body and children’s bodies in terms of strength and health. Say things like “Look what your body can do!” “You are so strong!”

4) Model healthy lifestyles by having healthy food options and activities available that the whole family can enjoy. Discuss the importance of eating healthy nutrient rich foods because they make us strong. It is just as important to not diet or overly restrict yourself as it is to not model unhealthy choices with disregard to the long lasting impact on your health.  Balance is key.  Get help if your own issues with food, appearance, and health are getting in the way of making better parenting choices.

5) Don’t ever criticize or shame your child’s body. If your child approaches you because she has some concerns about appearance whether it is weight, skin, or anything else, talk to her respectfully, while validating her feelings, about ideas and options for how to improve her health.

6) When you hear negative comments in the media, movies, or news talk about how that made you and your child feel and what you believe are healthier alternative to beliefs and thoughts about women using fair, appropriate, and respectful language.

Negative body image and self esteem issues can worsen depression and anxiety in girls and women. If you would like to speak to a psychologist further, please schedule an initial phone consultation by clicking “Book Online Now” below.

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