Moms, This Is How You're (Unknowingly) Influencing Your Daughter's Self-Image

Updated 06/22/17
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This week marks the official start of summer, meaning the next couple of months ahead will be punctuated by long weekends, backyard barbecues, well-deserved vacations, and beach days. This summer pastime is usually paired with a certain anxiety about suiting up for the occasion. Swimsuit season can be a trying time for all women, and as much as we love our time at the beach spent with friends in family, it's almost inevitable that the experience lends itself to self-derogatory comments about our own bodies.

"It is important for moms to be aware that our self-derogatory comments are not just hurting ourselves but our daughters as well," says Laura Choate, licensed professional counselor and author of Swimming Upstream: Parenting Girls for Resilience in a Toxic Culture. "It is damaging to girls when they hear their moms criticize their own bodies." In fact, Choate notes that one of the strongest predictors for whether a girl will have a negative body image is if her own mother has a negative body image. It also reinforces the toxic message pervasive in our society that physical appearance is the most important aspect of identity for girls and women.

"Moms have to take an intentional stand to make sure that this cultural message isn't perpetuated in our homes," asserts Choate.

To instill positive self-esteem and a healthy self-image in our daughters, Choate recommends keeping in mind that mothers are the mirrors for how their daughters see themselves. Celebrate your body in whichever shape, size, and variance it comes in and be sure to underscore how individuals are more multifaceted than just their appearance. Avoid complaining about how you look in a swimsuit or in any other clothing, and don't criticize other women because of their appearance. "It may always be a struggle to accept ourselves as we are, but we have to take care when our daughters are watching and listening to our comments about ourselves and about others," Choate concludes.

"We can't change the media, pop culture, or fashion industry, but we can change what we say and do to protect our daughters' self-esteem and resilience."

Next up, read more tips on how to give your kids a positive body image.

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