The following information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
Many moms have struggled with their own body image issues, both before and after going through pregnancy. But with the increase in media that showcases images of super thin women — many of them digitally manipulated to dimensions that are both unrealistic and unhealthy, our daughters may be under even greater pressure. How do you help your teen navigate this unsettling terrain?
Here, Circle of Moms members share wisdom on helping your teen daughter develop a positive body image, as well as ways to support her if you think she's already struggling with an eating disorder.
Help Your Teen Develop a Healthy Body Image
Circle of Moms member Sarah M. applauds the recent introduction of "Body Confidence" classes at her daughter's school. But she feels that moms themselves have a major influence on their teens' developing body images. First of all, she says, praise your daughter's strength and health. Of course you think your daughter is beautiful, but for this to have weight in her eyes, you need to back it up with specifics. (Praising your child for things she's actually done is much more effective as a self-esteem boost than, "You're beautiful," especially when she's not feeling beautiful.)
She and other moms also point to the importance of taking care of your own body. Your good role modeling will go a long way toward giving your teen ideas about what's possible as she enters adulthood. If she finds her mom confident and healthy, she will likely want to follow in those footsteps.
Eat and Exercise With Your Daughter
Debi is Circle of Moms member who has survived an eating disorder. It was the regular presence of a caring and devoted person that she credits for saving her life. Her eating disorder went undiagnosed throughout her high school years, and what finally broke her cycle was having a concerned adult eat and exercise with her daily.
While emphasizing how difficult this pervasive problem is to address, she suggests that moms take concrete steps, including keeping all diet pills and laxatives out of the house, and exercising with their daughters whenever possible.
Consult a Therapist or Nutritionist
Sandy's 13-year-old daughter has begun limiting her intake of food and constantly weighing herself, and her mom wants to know if it's a phase, or if she should intervene. Michelle is facing the same scenario with her 12-year-old; she wants to address the issue if it's a real problem, but she also doesn't want to over dramatize the situation if it will blow over on its own.
Circle of Moms members agree that this is a delicate balance. Still, as a mom named Hayley points out, it is worth risking over-dramatization to prevent a problem. One way to approach it is to talk to a therapist who specializes in eating disorders, without yet involving your child. She might be able to make some recommendations you can try at home before things get out of hand.
Another mom, Michelle, suggests getting a nutritionist involved. This way, the focus is on health and nutrition rather than on your teen's own distorted view of her body, which is more difficult to address directly.
Talk Openly About Eating Disorders
If your daughter, like Circle of Moms members Alycia's, already has signs of an eating disorder like bulimia, it's time to get serious. Cathie, a mom whose own eating disorder began at age 14 and continued until she got pregnant with her first child, advises addressing the problem directly with your daughter, taking special care to really listen to whatever she has to say. Keeping an open channel of communication — even if you're afraid or feel ill-equipped to deal with what comes up — is the most important thing you can offer.
She also believes that sharing your own struggles with body image or weight, however difficult, can help. If your daughter trusts that you have genuine empathy because you've been through something similar, she is more likely to take your offers of help, as well as your warnings about health risks, seriously.
How else can moms help their daughters with body image issues and eating disorders?
The preceding information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.