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Keys for Helping Girls Develop a Healthy Body Image

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Body image affects every area of life, and there is immense pressure on teenage girls to conform to an unrealistic, unattainable standard of beauty. The recent influx of “Pro-Ana” websites designed to encourage excessive dieting and “Am I Ugly?”

YouTube videos have left many parents feeling terrified about the effect societal messages are having on their daughters.

While you can’t lock your daughter in a cave to protect her from the dangerous messages society offers, there are many things you can do to counteract the negative images your daughter sees in the media and to encourage healthy body image.

Limit Media Consumption

In an era of constant media interruptions, it can be difficult to limit your child’s media consumption, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Studies have shown that the more commercials a child sees, the worse she feels about her physical appearance. Similarly, most teenagers report feeling dramatically worse about themselves after paging through a women’s magazine.

Place limits on the amount of television your daughter watches, and consider using a DVR to record programs so that the commercials — which are typically the most damaging portion of television in terms of self-esteem — can easily be skipped.

Model Positive Body Image

Children pick up on subtle messages conveyed by their parents, even if the parents never verbalize them. While you may have insecurities of your own in regard to your body, it’s vitally important that you don’t convey these to your child. Avoid criticizing yourself or obsessing over a new diet in front of her. Both of these practices normalize negative body image and can teach inappropriate lessons about the importance of appearance to your child.

Don’t Emphasize Being Pretty

Many parents, in an attempt to improve their children’s body image, frequently tell them that they’re pretty. While there’s no harm in occasionally paying your daughter a compliment, numerous studies have indicated that girls are complimented on their looks far more than anything else. As a result, they learn that their primary value springs from their physical appearance.

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I just shared a story about this on my blog too. A Vogue article recently discussed a 7-year-old's weight problem and it was so sad.


March 24, 2012 - 5:41pm
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