Body image lessons for my daughter

The full on modern world scares the hell out off me sometimes! My daughter Sofia is 7 years old but told me the other day she can’t wait to be a teenager (eeekkkk!). One of the things that plays on my mind is what this crazy mixed up world is telling my daughter about what is beautiful. Sofia is the essence of beautiful through and through. I want her to grow up really understanding and believing that.

body image

It’s easy to be horrified by the multimedia onslaught of sexy, stick thin and airbrushed perfection. I don’t show my daughter music videos anymore. Trying to explaining to Sofia as a toddler why Shakira was contorting naked in a cage (in the She Wolf video) made me think enough is enough! There are no circle of shame magazines in our house either.   She doesn’t watch too much non kids TV yet (apart from Strictly which we both love). I like her to dress like a 7 year old, not like a mini adult. Sofia loves clothes and I know there are some clothes related battles on the horizon.

I think I’m really lucky to have a pretty healthy body image. I can’t remember as a teenager aspiring to look too different than I did.  I was lucky that I was a healthy weight and fairly active. If pressed I might have said that would like to be a bit taller or have more impressive cleavage. I was a bit dismayed that my hair was mousey and wavy rather than sleek and straight like I wanted it to be (I so wanted to look like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction!). I was not the cutting edge of fashion but vaguely indie as a teenager. I had a tie dyed heart Tshirt and silver new balance trainers that I was particularly fond of. But overall I was pretty okay with what I looked like.

Maybe the media influences when I was a teenager were a bit less full on. I loved Blue Peter, Art Attack and Going Live – not exactly sexy TV! But if I really think about it the real reason is a bit closer to home.

I believe my mum gave me the gift of a healthy self image. I can’t remember any occasion from my childhood or teenage years when my mum talked dieting or being on a diet. Nothing was labelled as bad food. I never heard my mum say one critical word about how she looked. I was well into my 20s when my mum might have made any comment vaguely related to her needing to lose weight. Even then this was more with regards to her needing to keep an eye on her cholesterol levels.

I also can’t recall any time when my mum or dad have made a critical comment about a person’s weight, either someone we knew or someone on TV. I can think of times when they commented on people being scruffy (Bob Geldof needing a comb has definitely been said on more than one occasion) or badly dressed (my dad has told me many times that American men have very scruffy shirt collars).

Reflecting on the messages I got about appearance and weight it really strikes me that the most important influence for my daughter is not out there in magazines and music videos. May be it’s me! Is it more about her role modelling what she sees me saying and doing on a daily basis more than Shakira or Rhianna? I don’t know where the lines between external and home influences are, I guess they are different for everyone. There are also sure to be other contributing factors as well.  I have a sneaking feeling that I shouldn’t under estimate the lessons I’m teaching Sofia.

In one way this is quite empowering. What I say and do is obviously within my control. In another way it makes me scan back through what I might have said in front of Sofia already. It also makes me aspire to be like my mum. To resolve not to add to the critical and confusing messages that my daughter is bound to hear.
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18 thoughts on “Body image lessons for my daughter

  1. It sounds like your daughter is starting with a great foundation, I did have a little laugh about her impatience to be a teenager!!! Many members of my family have weight struggles and that’s what I grew up with. My Nana, bless her, gave me my first calorie-count book (no internet to count calories on then!) as a 17 year old. It’s hard work undoing that conditioning but I want my kids to grow up with a healthier mindset.
    Robyn recently posted…WORLD PREMATURITY DAY – 17 NOVEMBER 2015My Profile

    1. Thank you for you for stopping by and commenting. So not in a hurry to have a teenager just yet! I realise that there are a tonne of influences here but I’m going to try and be mindful of the messages I’m giving.

  2. I think you are doing a fab job 🙂 When kids are still so young it is a good idea to shelter them from certain tv shows / films / magazines etc, it is important that they keep their innocence as long as possible. Kids should be kids at the end of the day. Why are we all rushing to be older than we are, it is silly that children are wishing their childhood away, it is the best part of life!

    Gemma xx
    Gemma @ Confessions of a Nagging Mother recently posted…My Must Read Children’s BooksMy Profile

    1. Thank you – I guess the real challenges happen as our kids get older and their influences outside of the home and family get louder. I’m so enjoying the age my daughter is at just now where her favourite things are fairies and unicorns!

    1. Thank you Laura. I think a lot of my childhood was quite old fashioned but I can see a lot of good bits to it that might work now even though the world is a really different place.

    1. Thank you – maybe I’m being a bit niave or over simplifying something quite complicated but I’m going to try and give the same kind of message that I had growning up (and hope for the best!)

  3. It sounds like you’re doing everything you can to instil a healthy body image in Sofia. It’s something that I worry about, and I imagine it’s 10x worse if you have a daughter. I also try to avoid negatively commenting about my own or other people’s bodies in front of T, even though he’s so young, because I want him to grow up with a healthy body image. Great post, Sarah xx
    Helen | Wonderfully Average recently posted…Our favourite books in NovemberMy Profile

    1. Thank you – feel like the teenage years are likely to be a bit of a minefield in general, glad that it is a few years off yet.

  4. This is an important post! My daughter often comments on my weight sometimes positive, sometimes negative but never in a mean way. She often asks me to eat more healthy or tells me she loves me even though i’m fat. I know my weight ballooned when i went on steroid medication but i’m doing my best to get more healthy and to teach my daughter how to keep herself healthy- which is so important to me.

    Angela at Daysinbed recently posted…A Birthday Meal at the Norman Jepson BeefEaterMy Profile

    1. Thank you – I was a bit nervous posting this as it is quite a sensitive subject. I just wanted to share my thinking on what has influenced my thinking.

    1. Thank you – they copy us so easily don’t they! As I found when I commented on a cyclist who swerved in front of our car and my toddler repeated “get in your cycle lane!”

    1. Thank you! Sofia really does love to copy me so I’m thinking I want to be a positive influence. I’m going to use your line the prettiest thing that you can wear is a smile. xx

  5. What a great and honest post!! I like how you say the things how they are! You are definitely doing a great job already. This is a subject that concerns me too as Bella is 5 but she is starting to understand a lot of things already. Im always battling with my weight too and keep using the word fat which is not good. I will have to be more aware of this subject and be careful to not discuss it in front of my girls. Thanks for sharing this Sarah. 🙂 xx
    A Moment with Franca recently posted…Wicked Wednesday – Please mum let me work!My Profile

    1. Thank you! They pick up everything don’t they. Sofia told me yesterday that she always listens to what adults around her are saying to find out extra information.

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