The following article is cross-posted by Kendra Sebelius, VoiceInRecovery Founder and Warrior. Visit her site for more incredible and inspiring articles.
BE MINDFUL of how you model to your daughter
- Ban FAT TALK now! Avoid weight-related discussions at home, such as talking about your own weight and encouraging their children to diet, as well as any form of weight-teasing. Talking about weight loss may have harmful consequences for your daughter’s health and self body image
- Stop diet talk and diet behavior! Girls with dieting moms are associated with greater use of unhealthy and extreme weight control behaviors
EDUCATE your children on overall health, nutrition and fitness
- Remember that health includes body, mind and spirit.
- Take a nutrition class together, or find a nutrition coach to help incorporate healthy eating habits, based on moderation, balance, and research intuitive eating (Recommended reading: Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD).
- Discuss fitness, exercise, and learn what your daughter enjoys doing. Fitness can be fun, and whether she enjoys team sports, or individual activities, help support your daughter in her fitness goals
- Unattainable perfection: Start talking about magazines, limited ideal body types, lack of diversity, and discuss how this makes your daughter feel
- Talk about music, T.V., movie and pop “stars” and discuss the messages they present to society, and how they feel about it
- Talk about what a role-model is to your daughter: Who is their role model? Why? What characteristics does she feel is important in order to be a role model?
- Find a local Dove Self-Esteem workshop to also encourage more dialogues with their peers
- Discuss Health at Every Size (HAES) with your daughter. Talk about diverse body types, and how weight alone isn’t a valid indicator of health. Promote size acceptance, and talk about judgments and stigma placed on people simply based on their “looks.”
- Discuss Operation Beautiful and its message of changing the way we seed each-other one post-it at a time.
COMMUNICATE, Communicate, Communicate
- Take the time to talk to your daughter, without disruptions
- Family meal times are really important.
- Encourage time off from always being connected via cell phone, Facebook, Blackberry time.
- Discuss having Facebook pages, who their friends are, what information they share. Monitoring and having an open line of conversation about their activity online is extremely important.
COMPLIMENT your daughters strengths
- Remind girls of their strengths, which are unrelated to their body image.
- Express how proud you are of their achievements in school, sports, friendships, reading, writing, etc.
SUPPORT critical thinking
- Bullying: communicate with your daughters about bullying; that which includes abusive friends, acquaintances in both verbal and physical manifestations, cyber-bullying, and even close friendships that look ok at the surface, but have the potential to have gone bad. Look into Rachel Simmons workshop for parents.
- Help girls come up with how to approach feelings, handle conflict, and come up with a plan of action in how to approach the situation/conflict
- Boundaries: Discuss boundaries, and how they are important for healthy relationships
- Be observant if your daughter withdraws, changes food habits, has drastic mood changes, changes how she dresses, because these could be manifestations of struggles. It is important to recognize how your daughter responds/reacts to struggles. Encourage a discussion.
FEELINGS are healthy
- Girls need to be shown it is OK to have feelings, from sadness, to happiness, to numbness, to anger. No feeling is better or worse than another, the key is to make it acceptable and normal to feel; that with acceptance, they can work on how to express, process, and move through such feelings.
- Be observant of eating in response to feelings. Often people will overeat, restrict, diet, and practice disordered eating behaviors as a response to feelings, and situations they feel they have no control over. Be mindful if you do this as a parent, the words you use.
OBSERVE and respond
- If you notice your daughter withdrawing, or experiencing extreme changes in moods and behaviors, act NOW. Do not wait until you SEE a problem
- Eating disorders, substance abuse, mood disorders, self harm, etc. are dangerous because they like to HIDE in plain sight.
- If you are concerned your daughter has an eating disorder, reach out for information, resources, and signs sooner, rather than later: the National Eating Disorder Association is a great place to start for resources
- Discuss eating disorder, mental health, and self harm with your girl: There are a LOT of myths in the media about eating disorders, that anorexia and bulimia are the only ones girls may struggle with, however disordered eating is very prevalent in this society, and often girls will be in “normal” weight range, and will be able to hide all behaviors
CREATE an open environment
- Don’t be afraid to discuss your struggles with your daughter
- Discuss body image, your own issues, both current and in the past, and be willing to work on creating a positive self image together.
- Discuss eating disorders, mood disorders, substance abuse, self harm, etc. Has she seen anyone struggle with any of these? How do these issues make her feel? What does she know about them? Educate yourself and your daughter.
EMPOWER your daughter!
- Be a cheerleader in your daughters’ life!
- Communicate love, acceptance and support through all she will go through in the coming years.
- Communicate “I hear you” and “how can I help”. Showing empathy is important!
- Resist jumping to “fix” things for them; empower your daughter to discuss struggles, and problem solve; show her you believe she has the ability to handle her life; discuss ways to approach struggles, and ask what you can do to help support her through the process
© Voice in Recovery™ 2011