As your daughter moves into and through the teenaged years you worry that she'll fall into a trap that is alarmingly common amongst teenaged girls- hating their bodies before they have a chance to grow into them.
You want to stop this train before it derails. You know what it’s like to spend years consumed with and tortured by body loathing. You want your daughter to have a positive body and self image. And, you want to stop any chance of disordered eating before it has the chance to start.
What do you do?
Teach your daughter about her body. How and why it functions the way it does. Why she is experiencing changes and growth. Teach her the beauty that is inherent in the female body, regardless of its size and shape.
Never comment on weight lost or weight gained. Instead, compliment her character- the way she makes people feel, the way she glows when she smiles, her uncanny ability to make people laugh and your admiration of her curiosity and bravery. Shift the focus away from her appearance to the qualities that take root in her heart.
Avoid speaking negatively about your own appearance. At all costs.
Stop dieting in front of your daughter. Instead, help her learn how to feel and tend to her hunger. Teach her how to take care of herself when she is feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Remove dieting language from your repertoire. Nothing positive comes from believing in the dangers of carbs and worrying that dessert is going straight to her thighs.
Expose her to all types of women. Tall women, short women, women in small bodies and women in larger bodies. Help her recognize how these women are beautiful beyond their shape and size. Introduce her to women who inspire you and women who inspire the world. Revel in the beauty of their minds and their souls.
Teach your daughter the joy of movement. Encourage her to join a sports team because it will teach her the value in teamwork and leadership skills. Encourage her to dance because it makes her feel alive and free. Encourage her to walk and run because it helps to relieve stress. Help her see how movement and being IN her body is empowering.
Help your daughter love food. Teach her how to roast brussel sprouts, the art of making a big ass salad and how to create your mother’s legendary triple layer chocolate cake. Allow her to experience using food as fuel, celebration, tradition or anything it needs to be. Help her understand how food makes her feel, instead of how to control her feelings with (or without) food.
Show your daughter how to speak to and about herself with compassion and kindness. Have her practice speaking to herself the way she would her best friend (a perfect opportunity for you to practice this too!).
Shower her with praise when she pushes herself outside of her comfort zone. Tell her that she is worthy of anything she desires because of who she is. Because she is strong, she is resilient, she is intelligent. Not because of how her body looks.
Be aware of negative body comments and challenge them in the moment. Teach her how to work through her thought processes so that she can cope with and move through them throughout her life.
Help your daughter see and embrace the best part of her body: that it houses the entire person she is.