Question: I have a 10 year old daughter and I want her to have a healthy body image. How do I help her have positive feelings about her body?
Response: What an amazing question! Developing and encouraging your daughter's positive body image and healthy self-esteem is one of the most important things a mother can do.
With all the negative messages out there about what her body should or shouldn't look like, it is important that you be actively promoting a positive and healthy outlook. This will help her with self-esteem, confidence, relationships, and intimacy down the line.
1) Model a body love and acceptance. Don't say things like "ugh I feel so fat" or "that pizza made me feel really fat." Rather, say things like "wow I felt really amazing after eating that awesome salmon." Take care of your body and she will learn to respect her body as well.
2) Stop Criticizing Others' Bodies. Children have a hard time understanding the difference between criticizing others and criticizing them. They tend to internalize the criticism. Model acceptance and compassion for the way others look and don't over-emphasize the importance of the way others look.
3) Encourage her to be physically active and to take care of her body. This will help her stay healthy and take care of her body.
4) Encourage family meals. Research shows that eating a variety of foods together teaches young women that it's okay to eat and models healthy mealtime. It also models that there's no shame in eating and is not something she should be self-conscious about. Offer a variety of food so she can practice making choices.
5) Compliment your daughter's effort and character rather than her looks. She can more easily control her effort and her actions than the way she looks throughout life. It is important to praise her actions and character rather than only how she looks.