Mental health is important no matter what age, but for our daughters especially, they’re confronted with a constant barrage of images, messages, and impressions from media and the current state of our society.
Fortunately, we as parents are not powerless. There’s a lot we can do for our daughters at an early age and even as teens who may be struggling with depression or anxiety.
Mental Health Issues Linked to Body Image
A surprising amount of mental health issues that girls suffer from can be linked to poor body image. With so much constantly telling our girls that their entire sense of worth is dependent entirely on having the right body shape, it’s not surprising that our daughters let that affect them in adverse ways.
Here’s some of the best ways that we as parents can help them overcome these issues.
1. No body shaming.
Her body is her own, and though no one can run around naked all the time, my wife and I have worked hard to help our daughter understand that there is nothing shameful about her body.
2. A “perfect body” does not exist.
No matter what we’re told on TV, or movies, or magazines, there is no such thing as a perfect body. As long as she’s healthy, that’s all that matters.
3. Preparing her for puberty.
We’ve been working to prepare her for puberty since she was young enough to understand what we were talking about. By speaking openly and freely with her about these things, she knows that the natural functions of her body aren’t something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by.
4. She needs to care for herself.
As mentioned regarding body image, health matters more than appearance. Since she was little we’ve worked to instill a sense of pride in who she was, which means taking care of herself, both hygienically and mentally. It’s important to take care of the body as well as the mind.
5. Be encouraging.
In helping others, we learn about ourselves. We help her understand that by helping others, and to encourage other girls her age of their worth, she also learns to appreciate herself.
6. Help her analyze sexism in the media.
When you can see what’s happening, it helps stop the effects before they’ve taken hold. All facets of our media have subtle messages our girls pick up as they take it in. By pointing this out, it helps her realize she’s beautiful as she is, and that the images in media are fiction and not the standard.
The Link Between Body Image and Mental Health
The constant influx of body image pressures our daughters perceive through the media creates a self-objectification. This self-objectification leads to fragmented consciousness as part of her mind is constantly given to her appearance. This leaves fewer resources for other mental activities. Basically, when she’s so worried about how she looks, she doesn’t have time for anything else.
By helping our daughters be okay with who they are naturally, it frees up their time and attention for academic, artistic, or other physical pursuits, which all lead toward more confidence, a higher sense of self, and a greater sense of personal satisfaction.