I can wallpaper her room with inspiring quotes, I can constantly emphasize healthy bodies in the media and be proactive when I talk about how I feel about my own body...yeah, I can do all of those things, but they are a bit overt and when my seven-year-old hits the teen years, I fear she may tune out a bit.
One of the best pieces of advice I heard about teaching our girls to have a good healthy body image was a subtle one, a minor tweak to something that happens in conversation almost every day. It was this: whenever your child asks, "How do I look?", take a pause before you say anything. Instead of saying, "Oh you look great, honey!", you should say, "How do you think you look? How does you feel in that dress?". When she says, "I think I look great/pretty/like a princess!" then agree with her and affirm those confident feelings of herself.
I've done this tweak when chatting with my kiddo when she asks how she looks in whatever garb she's chosen for the day, and, I have to say, I think it works. I'm still saying she's pretty and giving my opinion, but in a way that buoys her own thoughts about herself. This little shift in answering her teaches her to trust her own feelings and to not rely on others' views on her looks to base her opinion.
But, this doesn't happen all of the time. So, what else can I do to keep surrounding my gal with good, positive thoughts without being totally freako mom and going overboard with "the message" (which totally backfires 99% of the time)?
I've also read that letting others do it for you is one key way. I've liked the Facebook pages of amightygirl.com and amysmartgirls.com (founded by Amy Poehler) that highlight great articles and ways to encourage our gals to be strong and confident beyond what they look like. They point out how we can opt for books with strong heroines like The Gallagher Girl series about a spy school for girls or Nancy Clancy, the older version of the Fancy Nancy series, as well as showing her flicks with tough little ladies doing amazing things, such as Akeelah and the Bee, Matilda, A League of Their Own, and Bend It like Beckham.
Share how you share a strong, positive attitude with your teens!