Parenting Lessons: Step Two: Learning self-love so that you can model it


Don't be secretive about your intention to change your relationship with your body. Your daughter should be the first to know. She needs to hear you state what you've been doing wrong. Thinking out loud - or processing with your daughter - is a good idea. Here's an example of what you might say: "Honey, I just realized that I've been spending too much time putting my body down and not enough time congratulating it. Even though I weigh more than I wish I did, I eat healthy food and exercise regularly. I'm in good shape. What do you think?" Ask her to point out times when she hears you criticizing your body (She'll love this), and the two of you can learn to instead express some gratitude for your bodies. For instance, you might notice a new stretch mark on your thigh. Sure, you'd probably rather not have a new one--and you can say that too. But you might also want to point out that since stretch marks are connected to all that hormonal activity going on in your body, they're one sure sign that your hormonal system is taking care of business-the business of keeping your body in top form.

Once you are on the road to self-love, you can begin to examine thoughts about your daughter's body in connection to your own. Although maintaining a strong parent-child connection is crucial in helping your daughter love herself, it's also possible to be too close to her. This situation occurs when a parent unconsciously views a child as an extension of herself, rather than as a separate and unique individual. Even when it's a well-meaning parent trying to give a daughter everything the parent never had -- including a slim body -- the child's life can be negatively impacted. Keep in mind that studies suggest that when a child feels overly controlled she is more likely to overeat or undereat-- because feeding herself may be the one area in which she feels that she calls the shots. That's why it's so important to be mindful of the fact that you and your daughter are two separate people. This will help prevent you from projecting onto your daughter any negative image you may have had of yourself as a child, and perhaps continue to have to this day. It will also help release you from the urge to overly control your daughter - from what she eats to what she wears to how she spends her time. Weaning your daughter from your control is extremely important if you want her to be able to make healthy choices concerning her body.

Since you can only give your daughter emotional freedom when you take responsibility for your own issues, we have included an exercise that will help you truly see yourself as a separate human being from your daughter. It won't change your behavior overnight, but keep at it, and she'll be all the better for it:

On a large piece of paper, draw two ovals about a foot high, making certain the edges of the two circles don't touch. Within one oval, record some of your opinions, interests, preferences for clothing and entertainment, and other characteristics that make you unique from your daughter. In the second circle, fill in some details about your daughter.

Now, close your eyes and imagine these ovals floating off the page, as one surrounds you, and the other surrounds your daughter. See the two of you standing a few inches apart, each of you encased in a bubble that makes you a unique and separate individual. Do this exercise every time you feel yourself obsessing over the way your daughter looks. Remind yourself that when you control or criticize her, it's as if you are pricking the "bubble" of well-being that surrounds her


Move on to the next step and learn how we can lessen the impact of media images on our girls. Can we teach them to love their own unique physiques-- rather than the computer manipulated images they see on magazine and CD covers, on billboards, TV, and the big screen? Yes!

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