teaching body image to young girls

Body image is an important influence on everyone, but especially for your girls. Santa Cruz psychologist Lucie Hemmen specializes in the psychology and well being of girls. She says young girls start to talk about their bodies, and become aware of the media’s unrealistic expectations surrounding weight and body image, as early as 3 or 4 years of age. Shocking but true! The best way to help your daughter get through these changes is by being in good communication with her. 

Hemmen is the author of “Parenting a Teen Girl: A Crash Course on Conflict, Communication and Connection with Your Teen Daughter” (New Harbinger; 2012). Here are her tips for inoculating young girls against a negative body image:

teaching body image to young girls

  1. Model a healthy attitude toward your own body. Take care of it. Avoid talks about weight and attractiveness. Instead, talk about your body in terms of health,vitality, and an active lifestyle to counteract the media’s message that your body is for attracting attention (namely, of men).
  2. Talk about clothes in terms of how they look (“I like that color, strap, ruffle”), how they feel on your body (kind of tight), and function (It’s pretty darn short. What do you think will happen when you bend down?).
  3. Talk about food in terms of how healthy and fresh and alive it is instead of calories or “good” and “bad” foods (What types of food make you feel energized?).
  4. Encourage healthy activities as a family — swim lessons, bike rides — and limit screen time and media exposure. The more media your daughter consumes, the more she develops unrealistic expectations about her body and overall negative body image. It’s hard to limit what she sees 24/7 so take the time to talk about media images and photo editing when she is old enough to understand.
  5. Be aware of what you say. Don’t make appearance-related comments about other people too often. Instead, talk about people in terms of their other qualities, like what they’re interested in, what activities they do, and what personality characteristics you admire about them.

Our body is the first thing others see and judge us upon but if you teach your daughter to see more than skin deep, you will have given her a priceless gift indeed! Go Luna Girl and be confident 🙂 

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