If you haven’t read Part I, please go back and take a peek. Maybe it will spark a question or comment you’d like to leave here.
So, seeing that we’ve sifted through Ways 1-5, lets start with 6.
6. Talk about food like it is the beautiful thing that it is.
Sometimes, the devil on my shoulder speaks hatefully to me about food. I am well acquainted with the voice that asserts, “Chips are bad” or “We do not drink sodas in this house” or “Oh, that ice cream is going to settle in and make a happy home right in those little fat pockets, right between where your backside used to end and your leg begins.”
Of course, I am an advocate of parents feeding their children a healthy, balanced diet. Food and drink choices affect our bodies and minds. But, when I suggest we avoid demonizing certain foods as bad or responsible for adding weight to our bumpy places, I’m keeping this in mind. Any adult I have met that wasn’t allowed to drink soda growing up never actually chose not to drink soda for their lifetime. Any adult I have met that wasn’t allowed to have Cheetos in middle school learned how to make a friend whose parents would let them eat Cheetos at her house (and they learned to keep it quiet, lie about it, and go over to her house a WHOLE LOT.) Consider that as you think through how you teach healthy, balanced food and drink choices in your home.
7. Encourage activity and exercise (DUH).
To be clear, encouraging exercise and physical activity for the sake of teaching our daughters to pursue a healthy lifestyle is what I’m advocating. Girls gain confidence in their body image when they see themselves as strong and capable.
Encouraging your daughter to excel in a certain sport/physical activity so that Mom gains glory for her daughter’s achievements is not what I’m promoting. Look for the fine line that separates these two worlds, Mom; it can be difficult to see without some serious soul searching.
8. Shop with expectations.
Shopping for clothes is something every parent must do with his/her daughter, whether she is 6 or 16. And our clothing choices do affect how we perceive and how the world interprets body image.
Go in with expectations of needs and wants, and agree on the list of articles that might be purchased and what the expectations will be for length, style, etc. Once she has already picked out the shorts that are way too short or the tight fitting shirt that doesn’t leave any details to the imagination, the only dialogue that happens in the store is an argument-ridden, and then, it is really too late to have a reasonable conversation.
Setting shopping expectations helps your daughter know what the parameters are so that she is more likely to make wise choices about clothing purchases. This helps Mom lead the way in the shopping experience so that the trip is less likely to spiral out of control.
9. Ask her about her fears.
We all have them. When the you and your daughter are alone, and it is appropriate for you to bring it up, ask her about what scares her. You might have to share yours as a lead in (of course, measure what she can handle since she is so much younger than you.)
When a trusted adult demonstrates they are a safe place for children/adolescents to have difficult conversations, only good things can happen for sharing hard things that will certainly arise in later years.
10. Be bold to defend your daughter!
If family members or close friends feel it is their duty to make comments on Susan’s weight, remember that Susan needs someone to stand in the gap for her until she learns to defend herself (which, of course, you have to teach her how to do). Your truthful response about what your family believes about identity and body image may need to be communicated to those who are closest to you.
It will be difficult and uncomfortable to stand up for your daughter as Aunt Sally comments that she noticed Susan has gained a little bit of weight since last year, but your defending her will communicate that comments about your daughter’s body image are not welcome unless you have asked for feedback in that specific area of childrearing.