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Dove Self-Esteem project: 9 ways parents help build a girls’ body confidence

The mission of the Dove Self-Esteem Project is helping young people all around the world build positive body confidence and self-esteem. Download “A parent’s guide to building girls’ body confidence

I used to have beauty anxiety when I was a young child up to my early teens. My uncles would often tease how dark I looked. Perhaps the teasing came about because my mother was fair-skinned. I grew up feeling ugly until I reached 14 years old . Looking at the mirror, I smiled at my image said to myself, “I am beautiful” . Well, I looked more beautiful if I smiled because my non-smiling face makes me look angry. The facts and figures surrounding beauty anxiety in young girls and the pressure to squeeze into rigid definitions is a cause of concern. It affects their self-esteem . I should know. During my elementary years, my grades were below average even failing Filipino or Sewing class. It was only in High School that I realized I was smart after all.

My mother didn’t know better and allowed her brothers to tease me.  As a parent, it’s natural to want the best for your child – for them to be happy, healthy and confident individuals. I also failed in this aspect as I didn’t know any better. Thankfully, there are so many resources for parents to consider.

How do you help your daughter or son maintain a positive body image and find their sense of self when their world is filled with unrealistic images of physical ideals; one dimensional, ‘flawless’ beauty, and narrow messages about the ‘perfect’ lifestyle?

How do you help her deal with the pitfalls of teenage life such as appearance related bullying or keep them eating healthily and enjoying exercise (without getting hang-ups about food and body shape)?

Sometimes all these tip are easier said than done, especially during the teen and pre-teen years when their bodies are changing, their self-confidence is fragile and they are trying to make that tricky transition out of childhood.

Because daughters often mirror their mothers’ actions, moms wield the power to mold their children into confident, empowered women. I asked myself if I had somehow mirrored some of my actions to my daughters. Only my daughters can affirm this because I know I made mistakes that I have passed on to them.

But young parents can learn from all the resources available out there and from stories of other parents.

The Dove Self-Esteem Project created Uniquely Me and the expert articles available on our parent’s online hub,  to create a resource for parents that is focused on advice and action. (Download “A parent’s guide to building girls’ body confidence“)

There are nine modules. You need to download the guide since each module details action points. Here is a summary of each module.

1. Learning to love yourself
Lead by example – techniques to cut out the self-criticism and feel better about yourself. This is the most important lesson to pass on.

Self-criticism is common among teenage girls – how often have you urged your daughter not to put herself down? But sometimes we have low self-esteem, too, and it’s possible that you could be teaching her bad habits through the example you set by criticising yourself. Have you ever found yourself looking in the mirror and frowning, or moaning about how you look? You may not even realise you’re doing it, but your daughter probably will.

2. Body Talk: Use the power of your words to feel great
Do away with ‘fat talk’ and start a more positive conversation

Talking about our bodies is like an unwritten rule in female friendship – we do it constantly and automatically. You know how it goes: “I feel fat in these jeans”, “I’ve put on so much weight” or “Gosh, my skin looks awful today”. I say this a lot and I am guilty of passing this insecurity to my girls.

3. Is your daughter’s perception of beauty distorted by the media?
Show your daughter the truth behind magazine images

In the world of Instagram, images of women are manipulated so dramatically these days that it can feel like ‘beauty’ is less and less attainable. Help your daughter resist media influence and see the real picture.

4. The Real Me: An activity to celebrate your daughter’s inner beauty
Get creative with this great confidence-boosting activity

I encouraged my girls to hone their talents like singing and writing. Negative body talk can make it feel like it’s not polite to accept a compliment, or that talking about what we’re good at will be seen as boasting or vanity. But recognising your talents and allowing yourself to value these characteristics is important to developing positive self-esteem.

5. Bullying: Is your daughter being teased about her looks?
Help your daughter deal with hurtful teasing and bullying from peers

Bullies are rarely original when it comes to their insults. What were the most common teases or taunts when you were young? Mine was from my crush “thick lips” .

First, we need to understand what we mean by bullying. Girls and boys disagree, fight, tease and banter with their friends.  Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”

If the bullying gets worse, know there is an  Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 (Republic Act 10627) especially if the bullying is inside the school premises. This law states that all elementary and high school principals and administrators must craft and adopt policies against bullying and must ensure that they are implemented.

6. Teasing at Home: When does family banter become family bullying?
Watch out for well-meant teasing within the family – it can still hurt

As your daughter becomes a teenager, she will naturally become more sensitive to comments about the way she looks and family members may not realise the impact of their words. Of course, robust discussions and gentle teasing are a part of being a family and can help girls develop and explore their opinions and build resilience to the criticisms that are a part of everyday life. However, it’s worth thinking twice about what builds character – and what diminishes confidence.

7. The Parent Translator: How to improve communication between
parents and daughters
This mini guide will help your teen decode your next communication breakdown

Do you and your daughter seem to argue over the smallest thing? Communicating should be easy. But miscommunication is even easier. You make a simple comment about what your daughter’s wearing and she storms off, slamming the door. You ask what she had for lunch and she assumes it’s an attack about her diet.

8. Attitude to Food: How to encourage your daughter to enjoy
a healthy balanced diet
Foster a healthy relationship with food

The most crucial thing when it comes to our diet is eating a balance of all foods,” explains eating disorder expert and leading UK psychotherapist Dr Susie Orbach. “Getting hung up on labelling certain foods as ‘good’ and others as ‘bad’ isn’t helpful – it creates too many rules that dictate your relationship with food and encourage disordered eating. It’s also usually wrong. Low-fat foods can be loaded with sugar and fillers to give taste when a normal fat version would be nutritionally better.”

9. Show your daughter the benefits of physical activity
Encourage your daughter to move her body and discover the feel-good factor

She doesn’t have to be the sports captain or prima ballerina to feel the benefits of being active; she just needs to find an activity she enjoys that gets her body moving. If she’s physically active regularly, she’s likely to feel better about herself and her body, regardless of whether the physical activity is dramatically changing her shape. The link between physical activity .

The nine tips are useful to any parent. As Lee Haney said “Parents must lead by example. Don’t use the cliche; do as I say and not as I do. We are our children’s first and most important role models.” If there is a beauty legacy I want to impart, it is that I want my daughters to love themselves first. To love yourself, you first need to know yourself, to realize and appreciate your unique, individual ways. A discovery late in life taught me that a loving relationship with myself works because it leads to a loving relationship with others . Loving yourself will eventually show in every action one takes. When we believe in ourselves, we shine with the confidence and vibe we exude.

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