Re: How to Encourage Positive Body Image and Self Esteem?
This is one of the great questions of parenthood. The thing is, the answer is different for every child. And, even if you do everything right, there are still a large number outside influences that can sabatoge your efforts.
I would first like to make the distinction between positive body image and good self esteem. Postive body image is about the body and how it looks. Good self esteem is about feeling good about your whole self.
As for positive body image, I am not so sure that I want "body image" to be all that important. I mean, I want my kids to believe their bodies are good enough, but I also don't want them to think that how their body looks matters all that much. So I have tired to lead by example in that. I don't wear make up, because my face is good enough the way it is, and I don't need to "paint over it" so to speak, and I have talked to my daughter about that. I didn't even let her wear make up until she was 13, and explained exactly why. I also didn't allow talk about weight or weight loss around her for a LONG time. My mom is a little bit overweight, and has been on a constant quest to lose weight, but with intermittent actual efforts. When my daughter was like 6ish, she spent the day with my mom who was gung ho into another attempt to lose weight, looking up weight watchers points, measuring food, etc. And my daughter was helping her cook. And came home talking about wanting to lose weight. Now because she was overweight, but because grandma was doing it so it must be something to do. I had a talk with my mom, and really watched what EVERYONE said about losing weight, etc. Losing weight is SUCH a big deal in today's society, so many girls grow up thinking they have to lose weight, just because everyone else is doing it. I really tried to minimize that influence, as much as I could. I often wonder how much of women's issues with thinking they weigh too much come from how much everyone and everything focuses on trying to lose weight, vs actually being small. (if that makes sense.)
As for good self esteem, I have always tried to encourage paying attention to the good things she does. You don't have to praise everything, just show attention and appreciation. Those things go a long way towards helping teens grow up feeling good about themselves.
Having said all that, my teen STILL has a self esteem problem. Mostly, it comes from kids at school. She's not all that popular, she's smarter than average, and having grown up as an only child for so long, having been the only grandchild for so long, she's much more mature than most kids her age. So she gets teased a lot and it's hard for kids to ignore that stuff. BUT, I am learning that as they grow and mature, they also grow into their self esteem. She's 17 now, and while she still struggles, she is learning to also be confident and realistic in her own strengths and weaknesses. I sometimes wonder if many kids HAVE to go through periods of low self esteem so that when they build it back up, it's so much more real and genuine.
I dunno...I only have one teen girl right now. So, what works for your kids might be different.