Helping Your Daughter Feel Good About Her Body

We take part in the teaching of our daughters on how to feel about their bodies. Society plays a role; but our own insecurities can be transferred to these young women.

Thanks to Twitter, I’ve been able to connect with some amazing women who share my goal: To help women love and appreciate their bodies exactly as they are.

One of my new friends is Dara Chadwick, author of “You’d Be So Pretty If … Teaching our daughters to love their bodies- even when we don’t love our own.”

She kindly sent me a copy of her book and I devoured it with gusto. In fact, in a phone conversation we had, I told her that I wish that I had written this book because it’s all about what I try to teach mothers about raising their daughters to be whole, healthy and self-confident people. If you are a mother of one or more girls, you must buy this book and read it cover-to-cover. There is so much wisdom contained within.

Dara is the mother of a “tween” and shares hilarious and heart-rendering stories of how she is learning to change how she talks about her own body in front of her daughter, thus helping her feel good in her own skin. When I work with teens with disordered eating, I always bring mothers into therapy because, unfortunately, they are often teaching their daughter(s) (often unconsciously) to dislike the size and shape of their bodies. Upon further examination, I almost always discover that my client’s mother was taught to dislike her body by her own mother. Thus, the multigenerational transmission process continues down through generations of girls and women …

The good news is that it only takes one generation to change the pattern for good. By teaching mothers and daughters to stop waging war on their bodies, we can consciously create a whole new breed of empowered women who flourish in self-love and self-acceptance. We, as women, whether we are mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers or friends, have the power to stop deadly eating disorders in their tracks. This is no small feat. I’d like to leave you with some tips from Dara, which will get you started.

Five Ways to Boost Your Daughter’s Body Image

Adapted from “You’d Be So Pretty If … Teaching our daughters to love their bodies- even when we don’t love our own,” by Dara Chadwick

Here are five tips on how you can set a positive body example for your daughter — no matter how you may feel about the way you look:

  • Change your tune: If you’re usually harsh or critical about your appearance in front of your daughter, make sure she hears you say at least one positive thing about yourself each day. A simple, “I like the way my hair looks today” or “I like the cut of these pants” is a great first step toward creating a more positive body image.
  • Don’t do comedy: Humour can be a defense mechanism when you don’t feel good about yourself, but your jokes about your body aren’t fooling here. It’s OK to laugh together — even about your bodies, occasionally — but don’t make your butt the “butt” of every joke.
  • Corral your compliments: Resist the urge to focus on weight when doling out compliments to friends and family. Let your daughter hear you tell a friend she looks fantastic or healthy or happy without it being about having lost weight.
  • Examine your example: Don’t refuse to wear a bathing suit or dance at a wedding because you think you’re too big or don’t look right. You’ll be teaching her that only “perfect” people get to have fun in life. Do what you can to look your best, then forget it. Be bold when you need to, and show her that it’s good to speak your mind, take your place and be noticed.
  • Skip the mirror: No one’s advocating leaving the house without a glance at yourself. But once you’ve done it, resist the urge to constantly re-check your look in mirrors, store windows or any other reflective surface. You know you look fine, so just let the obsession go.

Our daughters can grow up with healthy self-talk and a healthy self-image, if we ourselves practice what we want them to learn and live.

Esther Kane, MSW, Registered Clinical Counselor, is the author the book and audio program, “It’s Not About the Food: A Woman’s Guide To Making Peace with Food and Our Bodies” (www.endyoureatingdisorder.com) and “Dump That Chump” (www.dumpthatchump.com), and “What Your Mama Can’t or Won’t Teach You” (www.guidebooktowomanhood.com). Sign up for her free monthly e-zine, Women’s Community Counsellor, to uplift and inspire women at: www.estherkane.com.

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