Your Daughter's Body Image: How Does She See Herself?

How would your daughter rate her looks? Does she hate how she looks? Are there things she'd like to change? Is she in love with herself?

Body image is based on perception. And as girls head towards adolescence, their feelings about who they are naturally get cloaked in how they look. Between pencil-thin models on Project Runway, guilt-inducing diet ads, and extreme makeovers, it's no wonder girls often feel they can't measure up. Who could?

What You Can Do

As a parent, you can counter the high-pressure messages your daughter is faced with. Here are tips for promoting a positive perception of body:

Above all, keep the lines of communication open and nurture your relationship with your daughter. Solid relationships with parents, Girl Scout volunteers, and other significant adults go a long way towards safeguarding a girl's compromised sense of self.

Keeping a Watchful Eye
While you want to avoid power struggles with your daughter over what and how much she eats, you do want to keep an eye on her. Is she skipping meals? Have her eating habits changed? Is she secretive or defensive about dieting? Though these behaviors are not proof that your daughter has an eating disorder, she may be having issues around food and their presence can represent the onset of an eating disorder.

One way to observe her is to schedule family meals as often as you can. With the current trend of teens and other family members eating away from home so much, the family meal may not happen without a conscious effort. At meal times, you'll learn about what's going on in her world as well as observe her as she eats. If you are concerned that she diets obsessively, exercises compulsively, shows extreme weight loss, or exhibits other symptoms of an eating disorder, seek professional help early.

On the flip side, if you think your daughter has a weight problem, visit her pediatrician to determine if she is overweight. The doctor can review your daughter's history, growth pattern, and development. Then he or she can recommend a strategy for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.