If you are the parent of a daughter, it’s very important to pass along these 5 things our daughters need to hear about their bodies.
Guest Post by Dena Norton of Back to the Book Nutrition
Do you remember the first time you hated your body?
I do. I was 6 years old – the same age my daughter is now.
My mom had taken me shopping for new clothes and had to search high and low to find the size “6X” I needed. No one explained to me what “6X” meant, and I certainly don’t remember hearing anyone saying anything derogatory about my body that day. But they didn’t need to. I got the message – I was too big for the clothes that normal 6-year-old girls wore.
A years-long conversation had just begun. A conversation that called into question whether my body – and, by implication, whether I – was enough. Thin enough, pretty enough, good enough, and every other kind of enough I longed to be.
I see the same conversation beginning for my daughter…and probably for yours too, whether you realize it or not.
Our girls are struggling more than ever, at younger ages than ever, to accept and appreciate their bodies. The facts are sobering:
- Nearly half of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
- 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.
- Half of 9- to 11-year-olds are on diets, and 80% of their families are on diets.
The odds are, our girls are already engaged in the battle at some level, and they desperately need us fighting alongside them.
So what’s a momma to do?
Especially if she herself still hears a voice inside that says she’s not enough?
As a dietitian, a former disordered eater, and a fellow mom, my encouragement to you – and to myself – is this: “ENOUGH!”
Haven’t we had enough?
For our sake and for the sake of the next generation of God’s daughters, don’t we know yet that we are enough?
No matter where you are in your own journey of body acceptance, NOW is when your daughter needs you. She needs you to give words to the conversation already happening in her head, and here are five things she needs to hear you say.
5 Things Our Daughters Need To Hear About Their Bodies
1. You are loved.
Our daughters (and our sons!) need to hear that they are loved by their Creator and by us as their parents, just because of who they are. My husband and I tell our kids stories of how much we loved them from the moment they were born, even before they could do anything to earn our love. We tell them how thankful we are that God put them in our family, and we tell them that, no matter what they do, where they go, or how old they are, they can never escape God’s love or ours.
Love won’t shield my daughter from questioning her physical appearance. But it will give a context of security and unconditional acceptance for her to fall back on when the questions come.
2. You are beautiful.
Fearing an overemphasis on physical appearance, some people neglect to comment on their daughters’ beauty altogether. But I believe the desire for beauty and love are God-given, and we frequently and affirm both our daughter’s physical beauty and the beauty of her character.
When parents – especially daddies – tell a little girl she’s beautiful and special, they help define how she views herself, how she views men, and even how she views God. If dads don’t affirm their daughter’s beauty and value, she will seek that affirmation from other men. (Source)
3. The most beautiful things about you aren’t seen with the eyes.
Young children think and reason concretely – it’s just the way God made them. So, while they may accept abstract ideas as true, they probably won’t fully understand them until age 10-12 (Source).
Since they’re prone to look outwardly to help them reason, our young girls need to hear often from us that there is a deeper beauty on the inside that determines how we think, speak, and act, and that this beauty far exceeds anything that can be seen with the eyes.
I try to point out to my daughter the character traits that are shown when she or others speak or act in a certain way, and we discuss how those things – not appearances – reveal who we truly are and help us meaningfully relate to one another.
4. Your body is wonderfully made.
From a very early age, I’ve tried to build into my daughter a gratitude and awe for how God created our bodies. I look for opportunities to tell her about how her body heals its own cuts and scrapes, allows her to run and play, and turns food into fuel.
Understanding and thanking God for the ways our bodies work to keep us alive and healthy each day helps children understand there’s much more to their bodies than just their height and the color of their hair.
5. You are not in competition with other girls.
Our self-saturated culture tells our kids they can do more and have more, even if that comes at the expense of others. Ironically, I believe self-acceptance is strongly related to the ability to accept, even celebrate, others.
When my daughter tells me that another girl has a physical trait or material possession that she’d like to have, we talk about how wonderful it is that God gave those things to that little girl. We also discuss the ways my daughter can love and serve others with what God has given her.
Being genuinely happy for another child and thankful for how God has uniquely gifted her helps diffuse her natural desire to compare or compete.
Assurance and affirmation
As moms, it’s tempting to want to shield our girls from the struggles of life, especially if we’ve experienced them ourselves. But, many of us would agree that those very struggles are what God has used to define who we are today.
So let’s welcome every opportunity we have to speak into our daughters’ lives, assuring them of our love, affirming their inner and outer beauty, and helping them use what God has entrusted to them in order to love and serve others!
What kind of things do you think our daughters need to hear about their bodies?
Dena Norton is a registered dietitian turned stay-at-home-mom. She and her husband, Rick, have two precious children, ages 5 and 2. She is the author of Nutrition By The Book: Where Food and Faith Intersect. Dena blogs at Back To The Book Nutrition, where she inspires others to celebrate God’s gifts of food and health. Subscribe to Dena’s blog or join her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!