Girls in elementary school lunchrooms across the nation once chatted about the math test they just took or their favorite television show, but now they compare diets or counting calories together. Common Sense Media reports that 25 percent of girls as young as 7 years old have tried dieting, and girls as young as 5 choose an ideal body size that is smaller than what they perceive their own size to be.
6 Keys to Improving Body Image
As parents, you wonder the best ways to counter these negative messages. These six key steps can help you build your daughter’s confidence in a world of body image problems:
- Make physical activity purposeful and fun. Your daughter will have more confidence in her body if she feels comfortable in her own skin. Give family members water guns and chase each other around the yard to work on speed. Play a game of freeze tag to help your daughter with her agility. Have a digging challenge to get flowerbeds ready for planting to work on her strength. Make exercise a natural and fun part of every day.
- Emphasize healthy eating instead of dieting. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the past 30 years the rate of childhood obesity has doubled, and the rate of adolescent obesity has quadrupled. As our daughters become less healthy, families must make changes to their menus to include more nutritious meals. Involve your daughter in the process of choosing healthy foods by teaching her about appropriate serving sizes, nutritional requirements and food variety.
- Include the entire family. To make changes to your daughter’s diet or exercise routines, involve the whole family. Instead of restricting her caloric intake, choose more salads and fewer hamburgers for everyone. Require all family members to get 30 minutes of exercise before they can open their electronics. If everyone makes better choices, your daughter won’t feel singled out.
- Educate her about Photoshop. One of the most important ways to protect your daughter from a body image problem is to head over to YouTube and watch the before and after Photoshop pictures of celebrities. Help your daughter understand that magazine covers and billboards don’t show real people.
- Advocate for change. If your daughter has to weigh herself in front of classmates during FitnessGram testing or school projects about the moon’s gravity, petition the administration for a policy change that respects student privacy. Make sure that your child isn’t shamed for being over or under weight.
- Focus on character attributes, such as a random act of kindness, polite words to an elderly person or persevering in a difficult situation.
While your daughter might seem to reject your encouragement, continue to reassure her that she can make the most of her body by taking care of herself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Your opinion carries a lot more weight than you might think, and she will eventually take your words to heart.
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