A 2015 study by Common Sense Media revealed that children as young as five are unhappy with their bodies.
As a mother of three young daughters, one of my greatest concerns is that they’ll struggle with body image and self-esteem throughout their lives. I know what it’s like to grow up and feel uncomfortable in my own skin, and I don’t want that experience for my girls.
One thing I’ve noticed through my research is that I hold the key to the early development of my children’s self-esteem and body image. The way that I talk about my body, the things I focus on, and the language that I use will directly impact my own children’s views of themselves.
Here are just a few unique and practical ways that you can work on building self confidence, and encourage and develop positive self-esteem with your young girls.
1. Buy her a toolbox, and teach her how to use it.
I love spreading the message that we don’t need to wait until Daddy is home to hang a picture, of fix something that needs fixing.
There’s something unique and empowering when you wield a hammer or accomplish a task that society says women aren’t capable of. By teaching your children to safely use their own tools you are offering them confidence and a lifelong skill. When you show them that you are independent it will also result in their own craving for independence.
2. Encourage her entrepreneurial spirit.
There are many age-appropriate businesses that children can participate in, from lemonade stands for the younger crew, to a creative Etsy shop for a teen.
Helping children to be innovative at a young age teaches them to enjoy risk taking and creativity. The reward they receive when they are able to sell something they made offers a boost to their self-esteem and confidence in their abilities.
3. Tell her stories about the powerful women who came before her.
One of the ways that our children can learn to accept and love themselves is by telling them stories about the women who they come from.
I remember growing in my love and admiration for my grandmother when I heard stories about her toughness and can-do attitude. She inspired me and encouraged me to fight for myself, and I plan to pass along the stories of fierce women in our family to my own daughters.
4. Compliment her (but not her body).
There are so many things your children can be praised for beyond their cute dress and pretty hair.
Remember that whatever you praise or point out will become a hyper focus for your child. Give your daughter many compliments, and focus on her character, her personality, the things you love about her, and her accomplishments. This is a perfect list to give you some ideas of powerful statements you can make to build up your child’s self-esteem.
5. Encourage her to do something nice for someone else.
I think one of the best things we can teach our children is that life isn’t always about them. When they shift their focus beyond themselves I believe that reflects in a positive self-image.
By encouraging your child to do something for someone else you are teaching them that their actions can cause a positive experience for someone. It’s impossible not to feel good after doing good. Try baking cookies together for a school fundraiser, dropping of a meal for a sick friend, or picking out an outfit for a new baby.
6. Introduce her to body positive role models and mentors.
It’s impossible to ignore the impact that social media and celebrity culture will eventually have on your daughter. You may be their first role model, but you’ll never be their only role model.
It’s important to accept that our kids will eventually become influenced by others, and that will include negative influences. One important action we can take is surrounding our daughters with body positive role models and mentors in their lives. This may include encouraging them to follow body positive social media accounts, or keeping friends with strong women who will positively influence your kids.
7. Encourage her to stay active.
According to this article only 4% of girls are getting enough daily physical activity. These statistics are alarming, especially because we know that developing a skill in sports directly impacts your self-esteem.
Not everyone is destined to be a hockey player or basketball player, and not all families have the means to fund these expensive activities. But there are so many ways to get active and engaged in a athletic community, whether its joining a hiking club, becoming a lifeguard, long distance running, or any other activity that peaks her interest.
8. Discuss the messages she’s hearing outside the home, and clarify.
Some of the best moments that I’ve had with my child include conversations about poor messages she’s heard through television or classmates. These conversations lead to powerful moments where we get to discuss and challenge the narrative being spoken, and shift our minds to a more positive and empowering message.
Children at all ages will come across many different scenarios that will hurt their self-image, and it’s important that parents keep an open discussion and an active role in challenging these harmful messages.
9. Write down positive mantras and put them around your house.
One of my favourite ways to keep our home a haven of positivity and encouragement is by surrounding it with words of affirmation. Whether its a simple post-it note on the bathroom mirror that says “you are loved”, or a beautiful print you buy and frame, there are many ways to incorporate positive messages within your home.
If you know your child is having a hard day you can even sneak special notes in their lunch or coat pocket for them to find when they’re away from the comfort of home.
As you work to affirm and encourage your child through positive messages and empowering activities, don’t forget to speak these words to yourself too. An empowered mother empowers her children.
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