In a media-obsessed society, a variety of toxic messages are presented that dictate how girls should look, think, and act to be considered beautiful. Bombarded with unrealistic images of perfection, a child’s view of self-worth can become easily jaded. Coupled with images posted on social media, TV, and other advertisements, are the underlying messages that children are exposed to from their parents. If a mother is dissatisfied with her body, her maladaptive relationship with food and patterns of negative self-talk become normalized. Follow these guidelines to help your daughter cultivate a healthy sense of self.
Here are some helpful strategies to help your daughter debunk negative perceptions of self:
- Redefine “healthy”: Discuss healthy expectations for weight and physicality. Being healthy doesn’t mean skipping meals, wearing tiny clothing sizes, or dieting. Healthy means eating balanced meals encompassing all food groups, eating when hungry, not eating when not hungry, and living an active lifestyle. Consult with your pediatrician to help outline appropriate guidelines for weight and body mass index.
- Highlight non-physical attributes to define self: Help your child focus on her strengths and other positive aspects to garner self-value. Instead of fixating on physical appearance, have your child identify several unique qualities that make her special. Encourage your child when she looks at herself in the mirror to recite at least 5 qualities that she is proud of to help facilitate positive self-talk and connect the physical appearance with intrinsic traits.
- Balance images of success: It would be nearly impossible and certainly unrealistic to turn off your child’s exposure to the images presented in the media for perfection. But, balancing out this representation can be beneficial when crafting a positive self-image. Provide your child with other famous figures that embody other powerful traits. Learning about other successful individuals based on humility, intelligence, philanthropy, etc. can help your child feel proud of her own accomplishments and enhance her self-image.
- Be a role model. Be aware of how you interact with food, comment about weight, and if you unknowingly expresses self-criticizing statements. Your child is watching. Practice self-appreciating commentary, balanced meals and reduce emphasis on outward appearance in favor of nurturing underlying core qualities (reading, journaling, hiking/outdoors activities, painting, etc.).
Start early with helping your daughter define a healthy sense of self through implementing these tactics. It’s never too early to teach positive self-talk and perception of self. All bodies come in different shapes and sizes and because of this, it is valuable to highlight more meaningful intrinsic qualities. Check out Amanda’s Big Dream by Judith Matz, LCSW as a great resource to help cultivate a healthy body-image.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!