“Do you think I’m fat?”
This question strikes fear in the hearts of men. Answering this question is fraught with danger. It’s also a bit heartbreaking when the person asking is your 12-year old daughter.
“Why are you asking me that question,” I asked.
“I dunno know,” she said. “I was just curious.”
As I delved deeper, I discovered that several of her friends were already dieting and sharing weight loss tips. One of her friends even wakes up early every morning to do 1,000 crunches before school. None of these girls are overweight, but they’ve already internalized the message of “Thin is in.”
After talking to my daughter, I had to examine myself to figure out if I’ve unintentionally sent her mixed messages about body image. The things I say and do can have a huge impact on how my daughter sees herself.
As her father, it’s my job to build up her confidence and self-image by setting a good example, help her to identify and combat negative images and mindsets, and teach her that beauty is more than skin deep.
But all of these things are easier said than done. If your daughter is dealing with body image issues, here are six things that you can do to help her:
Make sure that you are comfortable in your own skin
Our children take cues from us. If we are constantly taking about weight or comparing ourselves to others, it’s hard for us to tell our kids not to do it. Learn to accept yourself. Deal with any emotion or physical issues that you may have in a positive way. Teach your daughter that your imperfects are what make you unique.
Don’t emphasize weight
Even when I found myself 25 pounds overweight, I didn’t talk about. I simply changed my diet and became more active. If you notice your daughter gaining a few pounds, don’t make a big deal about it. A person’s weight doesn’t define her. Instead, continue to model a healthy lifestyle and encourage her to do the same.
Discuss images in media
I spent several years as a professional photographer and I’m well versed in photoshop manipulations. My daughter was shocked when I showed her how I could give a person a total makeover. She never viewed TV, movies, and magazines the same way.
Tell your daughter she is beautiful. These words will make her feel special. But don’t emphasize her physical appearance. Compliment her artistic talents, her hard work, her athletic abilities, her academic achievements. Your encouragement will make her feel special.
Tell her you love her
Say the words. Your daughter needs to hear them.
I’ve noticed that some dads start to withhold affection from their daughters when they become teenagers. These are the years that they need your affection the most. They are insecure, unsure of themselves, and seeking approval. Your hugs and kisses can go a long way towards boosting your daughter’s self-esteem.