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Parenting

Helping Girls Get Active

active familyOne of the best ways to help your daughter have a positive image of her body is to encourage her to use that body — to get active, make a mess, learn a sport. This way, she can learn to see herself as strong, resilient and competent — not just as “thin” or “pretty.”

Get messy. 
By the time your daughter’s in preschool, while what she eats is important, how she plays will help her develop a healthy sense of her body. Catherine Steiner-Adair recommends that parents encourage little girls to get physical and do non-girly things. “You want her to learn to use her body and enjoy being physical, having fun — and even getting messy. Put your preschooler in the sandbox and let her get as dirty as the boys, encourage her to run around, treat her as indestructibly as you would your son.”

Get moving. 
It’s important to encourage even the most sedentary girls to move their bodies, as this helps them develop coordination, assertiveness, and the ability to take healthy physical risks. “In this way, they’ll develop a body image that’s about physicality and not society’s image of sexuality,” says Steiner-Adair. Activities such as bike riding, jumping on trampolines, or swinging on zip lines are terrific for girls who don’t like more competitive sports. Steiner-Adair also recommends summer camps as ways of encouraging girls to play all kinds of sports they may not be exposed to at home or at school.

Praise effort over outcome. 
Steiner-Adair advises parents to not pay too much attention to how well (or poorly) girls play or if the coach was unfair. “Instead, focus on their effort and whether they’ve had a good time playing. Sports is a great place girls can develop resilience and learn how to tolerate frustration and deal with disappointment. They learn to keep going even when the odds are against them, and to accept their mistakes and try again.” At the end of a practice or game, you might say, “What did you do today that you feel proud of?” or “What new thing did you try today?”

Acknowledge her for the person she is, not the sports she plays. 
Steiner-Adair also recommends that parents try not to identify their daughter with the sport she plays. “Don’t call her ‘my little soccer player’ or ‘my star tennis player,’ because this may pressure her to be something she is not. Unless she is exceptionally skilled, there will always be someone better than her, and labeling her can set her up for disappointment.” Steiner-Adair also warns parents against becoming obsessed soccer moms or dads, as that puts even more pressure on girls to perform.


  • danielle

    I’m trying to put together an important social event for young teens. I know from experience that 12 and 13 are very difficult times for every reason it seems. Anyhow I feel kids struggle a lot with self image and before you know it they are either depressed or feel confused and lost. I know its my calling to try and make a difference in as many kids as I can and I would sincerely appreciate any advice. S I’m not sure how often yet but im thinking to start of with a couple hrs. a week, during this time I want to focus on allowing them to really put them selves out there with either sports,singing,self image and well you get my point. When kids are put on the spot a lot of the time they pass the chance up in fear of rejection, a laugh anything , so I want to create an active open and knowledge for these kids to grab onto . I was even thinking that just for the fun of it having a day where they can try different images out just to get a feel for how they really feel verses from how they feel after they are judged. I have professional work time in the hair/makeup and fashion industry as well as with sports/dancing. I want to give tools and some skills that I have learned and share it with them and they can decide whether or not to use it. It beets not knowing how and confidence gets you that much more

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