New year, New Leaf: Setting a Good Body Image Example…

One of the earliest signs of summer appeared in camp families’ mailboxes earlier this month: The camp uniform catalog from Clöz!

Lake Bryn Mawr Camp is, and always has been, a uniform camp. The reasons are many and varied, but at the end of the day, they really boil down to one fact: A uniform is a great equalizer. No matter where campers come from, the uniform takes the focus off what they have and how they look and emphasizes what really matters: who they are.

As parents, we want our children to feel good about who they are. But as human beings, it can be hard to set a good example, especially early in the year when we are focused on New Year’s resolutions, which often have to do with eating better, working out more, and losing weight.

It’s important that we set a healthy example for our daughters. And that means it’s also important that we show our daughters that being healthy means not obsessing about how we look.

Everywhere they turn, our daughters are inundated with messages that tell them appearance matters. Advertising, magazines, websites, music videos, TV shows… they all work together to give our daughters the impression that being good-looking is the most important quality they have to offer. We know that our daughters are intelligent, kind, athletic, and/or a million other wonderful things that are more important than looking like models in magazine ads. But how do we make sure they know it?

This CNN report, http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/09/living/parents-teens-healthy-living-body-image/, shares some great tips for parents who want to encourage their daughters toward a healthy self-image. These include:

• Promote a healthy lifestyle for the sake of being healthy and active — not to look good or fit into a smaller dress size.

• Talk honestly with your daughter about the fact that healthy bodies come in lots of shapes and sizes.

• Set a good example. When you make comments about your own appearance (“I’m getting so fat,” “I need to lose 10 pounds”), your daughter hears and internalizes those remarks, and she’ll be more likely to adopt a similar mindset in regard to her own appearance.

This article from Our Bodies, Our Selves, http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book/companion.asp?id=1&compID=5, includes some good tips about making your home a “safe haven” for your daughter — a place where she can feel shielded from pressure to look a certain way — as does this Huffington Post article, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kari-kubiszyn-kampakis/raising-a-kind-daughter_b_4661700.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false, on raising a kind daughter.

If you’re looking for more resources for your daughter and/or yourself, check out this list, http://www.hlntv.com/article/2014/01/15/self-esteem-self-image-young-girls-10-helpful-books, compiled by A Mighty Girl. It includes recommended reading for girls of all ages, as well as parents.

Here’s some good news about body image: We’re starting to see it gain traction as a topic of public discussion. Young people and adults alike are talking about unrealistic portrayals of beauty in the media and pressuring advertisers and magazines to depict more realistic images of women. As attitudes evolve, we can help encourage positive self image in our daughters by making safe places, like home and camp, where they can feel comfortable being who they are — no matter what they look like.

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