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Role Modeling Body Positivity for Young Girls

negative body image in girls

As young girls begin to go through puberty, they begin to be more aware of how they view their body and how their body is perceived in society. The relationship young girls develop with their body and their self-esteem depends on the messages they receive from friends, family, and the media. Even if you focus on your daughter’s individual strengths and remind her that she is a beautiful and powerful young girl, research suggests that what they internalize is related more to social learning than conversation. Rather than focusing on complimenting your daughter and praising her accomplishments, role modeling body positivity builds young girls’ self-esteem. This confidence can help improve her mood, show compassion in relationships, and find activities she is passionate about. Negative self-image is related to disordered eating, bullying, anxiety, and depression. 

How Young Girls Learn to Talk About Their Bodies

According to the study, one of the biggest predictors of body dissatisfaction in young girls is listening to the way their parents talk about themselves and their bodies. While you may good them healthy food, they pay attention to what you are or are not eating. You may encourage them to pick out their own clothes and wear whatever makes them feel confident but stare at a mirror for hours worried that nothing looks the way you want it to. You may remind them that every body is beautiful and explain how most beauty standards are the result of photoshop or self-destruction, but give into fad diets in an attempt to change your body’s shape. Although you may not think they are listening to you or that they can’t understand your body image issues, parents’ attitudes make a strong impression on the beliefs young girls adopt.

In the study, young girls and their mothers stand in front of a mirror and talk about their bodies. One group of women had to say only negative things and the other had to say only positive things. Researchers found that there was not a single child who did not change their response after hearing their mother say something, either positive or negative. 

Alternative Ways to Talk About Body Positivity For Young Girls

Teach her that positive body image is related to your mindset and relationship with yourself rather than the way you look. This can take a lifetime of unlearning, especially as young girls today are exposed to negative body messages at a younger age than older generations. However, it is not as black and white as it sounds. There is no such thing as a good body or a bad body but there is a difference between feeling good about yourself and feeling bad about yourself. Self-esteem is often influenced by body image but it is also influenced by pride in your accomplishments and close connections with friends. 

Remind her that it is not her job to be beautiful. Our society often recognizes physical appearance before praising people’s other positive qualities. Instead of complimenting her beauty-inside and out-explain what you mean when you call her beautiful. Call her strong, smart, resilient, caring, or funny. Remind her that these qualities are more permanent than her appearance, which changes all the time.

Role model intuitive eating and a healthy relationship with food. Preparing healthy foods helps girls learn more about nutrition and may encourage them to help you cook. While eating is often seeing as a rewarding experience, shifting the narrative towards nourishing your brain and body so that you can be fully present in other areas of your life helps develop a healthier mindset towards food. Eating meals together is a great way for families to bond and talk about their days rather than focusing on the food.

Introduce her to fun physical activities that help her become more aware of her body’s needs and encourage her to appreciate what her body can do. Rather than focusing on weight loss, semi-organized activities like hiking, basketball, volleyball, yoga and swimming empower can empower her to discover joy and inner strength associated with spending time playing outside. Healthier lifestyles have a significant effect on reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. 

Asheville Academy for Girls Can Help 

Asheville Academy for Girls is an accredited Therapeutic Boarding School for girls 10-14 that is all about relationships. Our students commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, and low-self esteem. Our small classrooms encourage teamwork and collaboration with additional support for girls struggling with academic skills. As a relationship based program, mentors role model positive attitudes and behaviors for young girls, who learn to role model these behaviors for their peers. This program is focused on emotion regulation and building confidence, communication skills, and social skills that will help students transition back into their home and school life. We can help your family today!

For more information about helping your daughter with low self-esteem and body image issues at Asheville Academy, call 800-264-8709 today.

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