Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA
A girl’s belief about her body is influenced by many factors, including media, peers, fashion trends, impression management, and so on.
The media has been known to target young females. Insecure girls are more likely to try to attain the ideal body or obtain beauty products and clothes to help them achieve the desired body shape. According to the Canadian Women’s Health Network, even girls as young as 5 or 6 years old are attempting to control their weight.
Overall, media messages about thinness and ideal beauty tell girls they are continually in need of changing their appearance and perfecting their body. It is clear that intervention is necessary.
What Can Mom’s Do?
There is much research to suggest that mothers have strong influence over their daughters’ beliefs about their bodies. More importantly moms can act as a buffer when giving support and encouragement to her girls.
While it is impossible to shield girls from the media messages, peer influence and other external pressures, moms have complete control over what is discussed in the home, her attitude towards her own body, and what magazines and TV shows are considered appropriate.
It is important to understand that daughters are fully aware of what moms say, do, and believe. When it comes to body image and body dissatisfaction, a daughter will often criticize herself in a similar way to how her mother criticizes her own body. Mom’s continuous concern regarding her body shape can and will teach her daughter it is a valid concern. In addition, if mom focuses on a certain personal ‘flaw’, she tends to comment on the same physical flaw in her daughter.
The most important thing a mom can do to teach her daughter to accept herself as is, is to start accept herself. Mom's insecurities are often be copied by her daughter and accepted as a way of life. As such, it is up to moms to choose what example they wish to set for their daughters.
Here are a few tips to help your daughter overcome negative thoughts about her body.
1. If daughters copy the bad habits, it means they will also copy the good ones. Practice being a confident woman who respect's herself. This way you teach your daughter to focus on her strenghts.
2. Teach your daughter to be media literate. Teach her to question what she sees and hears on TV and what she reads in magazines.
3. Teach your daughter to appreciate physical health.
4. Teach your daughter she is worth more than just her appearance.
5. Do not criticize your body in front of your daughter. Provide her with a good example by appreciating your body.
6. Speak positively about food, fitness, and the natural body shape.
7. Be size positive. Let you daughter know that people naturally come in all sizes and body builds.
8. Practice self-care. Teach your daughter to practice self-care every day. This can be through personal time, listening to music, hygiene practices, or doing some stretches. Whatever promotes her psychological and physical well-being.
9. Encourage your daughter to be active and to enjoy what her body can do.
10. Praise your daughter’s accomplishments and personal values.
11. Discuss family values.
12. Share at least 1 family meal a day. Studies show that children who are a part of family meals are less likely to develop an eating disorder.
13. Initiate communication with your daughter frequently. Let her know you are her support.
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto