By Harper Steele
Raising confident and self-assured girls in an era dominated by social media filters, beauty standards, and unattainable expectations is no easy feat. But by fostering a body positive environment, we can equip our girls with the confidence and resilience they need to thrive.
Here are some expert tips to help you create such a haven for your little ones.
1. Embrace Diversity at Home
While the media may frequently project a singular ideal of beauty, the world is brimming with diversity. Make sure your home mirrors this. Include books, dolls, and art that represent various body shapes, sizes, and skin tones. Renowned child psychologist Dr. Anne Walker says, “When children see diversity celebrated, they internalise the message that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to look.”
2. Choose Words Wisely
Our language shapes the way our kids see themselves. Dr. Emily Roberts, a leading psychotherapist, advises avoiding any negative body talk in front of the children. This includes comments about our own bodies, others, or even seemingly innocent jokes. Focus on positive words that reflect health, strength, and capability rather than appearance.
3. Celebrate Non-Physical Achievements
Highlighting achievements not tied to appearance can make a significant difference. Did your daughter score a goal in football? Solve a challenging maths problem? Show her that her value isn’t limited to her looks. “We need to praise our children for their talents, skills, and kindness as much as, if not more than, their beauty,” says Dr. Roberts.
4. Educate About Media Literacy
The digital age means our girls are constantly bombarded with manipulated images. Sit down with your child and discuss how photos, particularly in advertisements and social media, are often retouched. Child and adolescent therapist Lucy Davis suggests, “Show them the behind-the-scenes of photo editing apps. The more they understand, the less likely they’ll compare themselves unfavourably.”
5. Lead by Example
You are your daughter’s first role model. Embrace your own body with love and kindness. Avoid the trap of body-shaming yourself, especially in front of her. Parenting coach Sarah Mitchell says, “Our children are always watching, and they often emulate our behaviours. Show them what body love looks like in real-time.”
6. Encourage Activities that Celebrate the Body’s Functionality
Enrolling your child in activities that allow her to appreciate what her body can do rather than how it looks can be a game-changer. Think dance, sports, yoga, or even nature hikes. “When children engage in activities they love, they build a connection with their bodies that’s based on gratitude and functionality,” says Dr. Walker.
7. Open the Lines of Communication
Ensure that your home is a safe space for your child to express her feelings and concerns. If she does voice insecurities, validate her feelings without minimising them. Work together to build strategies for combating negative self-talk.
8. Promote a Healthy Relationship with Food
Diet culture can be pervasive, but at home, food should be celebrated as nourishment. Introduce a diverse range of foods and involve your child in cooking. Nutritionist Claire Benson shares, “Teaching kids that food is fuel and that all foods fit in moderation can prevent the cycle of guilt and restriction.”
9. Surround Them with Positive Influences
Children aren’t just influenced by their immediate family; friends, teachers, and coaches play a role too. Surround your child with positive role models who affirm diverse beauty standards and body types.
10. Seek Professional Support if Needed
Lastly, if you notice persistent body dissatisfaction or negative self-talk in your child, it may be beneficial to seek guidance from a child therapist or counsellor who specialises in body image issues.
While the journey to fostering a body-positive environment might be riddled with challenges, the rewards are invaluable. By instilling these values in our girls, we’re setting them up for a lifetime of self-worth and resilience. As parents and caregivers, let’s ensure that our girls grow up knowing that beauty is diverse, and it’s what’s inside that truly counts.
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