Very few things are more painful as a parent than when your child puts themselves down. Watching a child that you find beautiful and perfect insult themselves or criticize the way they look can be difficult. And this can be especially likely to happen if you have a daughter, who is growing up in a world that teaches her that her body is never good enough. But there are things to say to your daughter when she insults her body to help her through the struggle.
Even if you struggle with loving your own body, the path to accepting yourself for who you are is one you can venture down with your daughter. Your job as a parent is not to tell her that she’s wrong, but to validate how she feels and help her come to a place where those feelings can change. When your daughter says she thinks she’s fat or that she thinks she’s ugly, the way you respond can make a huge difference in determining where she goes from there. Here are 11 things you can say to your daughter when she tells you she’s unhappy with her looks or body to cultivate a culture of body-positivity in your home, though these responses are also great for kids of any gender.
1. "Why Do You Feel That Way?”
This question is opened ended, and lets your daughter talk to you about how she’s feeling and why. It’s not judgmental or invalidating, and shows her that it’s OK to talk about the feelings she’s having. This will give you information that will help you decide what to say next.
2. “It’s OK To Have Those Feelings.”
Validate, validate, validate. Telling her it’s OK to feel how she’s feeling reminds her that she isn’t broken or wrong. This eliminates any shame, and hopefully encourages her to come to you with feelings of inadequacy in the future, too.
3. “What Do You Think Would Happen If You Looked The Way You Want To?”
Depending on how old your daughter is, this question might be complex. But the crux of what you’re trying to get at is why she wants to look different than she does, why she hates her body, why her belly isn’t good enough just the way it is. This question gets at the heart of your child’s ideal self, and from there, you can help bridge the gap between that and her actual self. Maybe she thinks that being taller or blonder will make people like her more. Maybe she thinks that losing 10 pounds will make her happier. This is important information to have so you can begin to challenge the inaccurate conclusions she’s drawn.
4. “What’s A Part Of Your Body That You Really Like?”
After validating your daughter’s negative feelings about her body, focusing on things about her body that she likes can help make her feel better about it. It’s not all bad, see?
5. “Is There Something About Your Body You Love?”
Helping her zero in on one part of her body that she loves, even if it’s as small as her eyelashes, offers a counterpoint to parts of her body that she hates. And both those realities can coexist, and maybe even shift.
6. “What Are Some Awesome Things Your Body Can Do?”
Often, our culture is so focused on how bodies look that we forget to emphasize what bodies can do. And, just like every body looks different, every body has different abilities, too. Ask your daughter to name some great things her body is capable of, whether it’s playing soccer, jumping high, or tasting yummy foods.
7. “Let’s Recite An Affirmation Together.”
Positive affirmations always feel cheesy as hell, but they can really make a difference. It’s also good practice for you, momma! Pick an affirmation like, “I love myself,” or “My body is awesome because it is mine,” and recite it together with your daughter in front of a mirror. Suggest she say one every morning.
8. “I’ve Felt That Way About My Body, Too.”
This statement lets your daughter know that she’s not alone. And, even more helpfully, if you can talk about how you started to shake those feelings of hating parts of your body to find a sort of acceptance or love. If you’re not there yet, tell her how you’re working on it, and suggest you work on it together.
9. “I Think Your Body Is Wonderful.”
The word “wonderful” does not place value on looks like “beautiful” does. And it affirms your daughter, even if she’s having trouble affirming herself.
10. “ALL Bodies Are Wonderful.”
This message is a broader one, that helps let her know that, while all bodies are different in size, color, and ability, all of them have value and none of them need to be changed.