We are with our bodies from the moment of our miraculous conception to the moment of our final breath. How we treat them influences how we feel about ourselves, and thus, how we experience the world. What more impactful gift could we offer our beloved daughters than to guide them into a loving and respectful lifelong relationship with their bodies? Every day, through our words, actions, and example we can do just that.
Here are 10 suggestions to get us started:
- Respect her body cues around food. When she says she is hungry or full, respect the cues of her body, regardless of how much has or has not been eaten. Offer her yummy, healthy foods, and model how eating is both pleasurable and nourishing.
- Support her Boundaries. Like us, children have their own intuition about what feels good and safe. When our daughters set a physical boundary, whether we understand their decision or not, offering our support communicates that her instincts are important, and that her body is her own.
- Accept her Feelings. Forcing her to smile for pictures when she is in a bad mood, banishing her to her room for displays of anger, or telling her to ‘stop crying’ when she is upset, sends the message that happiness is the only acceptable emotion. We allow her to honor her body by giving space to all of her emotions, and guiding her in their healthy expression.
- Protect her from the Media. It is difficult to accept your body just as it is while flipping through fashion magazines offering “495 Ways to Get Pretty By Summer.” Make a choice to not subject your daughter to ideals and images that will likely make her feel worse about herself, and ban fashion magazines from the home.
- Move Together. Exercise is a celebration of the body. While engaging in physical activity with your girl, focus on how great it feels to move and stretch, how invigorating it feels to breathe with fervor, and the calming affect exercise offers the mind.
- Dress for comfort. Many girls today are restricted by their clothing and footwear. Apparel that fits well and offers her body full range of movement with ease will allow her to honor her desires for activity.
- Teach her about her body. It is empowering to know the anatomical names for all of your body parts, how they work, and how to care for them. Let us offer this factual knowledge to our daughters without taboo.
- Embrace Female Body Functions. Menstruation and lactation are unique to women, and we honor our feminine temples by embracing and celebrating these distinctive experiences. Share with your girl the magic of being a woman.
- Value Her Genetic Blueprint. Our bodies are designed to survive and thrive. Our ancestors needed their unique body structure to complete the tasks of their time, and now, many generations later, she bares the proof. Researching her ancestors together could be a powerful step in honoring the body she inherited.
- Honor Your Body. Our daughters absorb how we regard our bodies, listen with vigor to comments made about others’ bodies, and dissect our behavior to determine what we value. It is wise to take any body issues we may have seriously and address them, getting support if necessary.
©photo by AdrianaAkrap is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Melia Keeton-Digby, M.Ed is a 30-something writer, speech-language pathologist, and founder of The Mother-Daughter Nest. A native Arkansan, she and her husband and their three fantastic children now call Athens, Georgia home. Her life is dedicated to children- understanding them, loving them, guiding them, and most of all- learning from them.