A recent KidsHealth poll of 2,400 moms and 11,500 daughters found that only 41 percent of girls think they're pretty, and that 58 percent of girls worry about their weight. Fifty-three percent of girls said they think about their looks "almost all the time" or "many times a day." Forty percent of moms don't think they're beautiful and 55 percent of moms complain about the way they look, often in front of the daughters. When the girls were asked about their moms, however, 91 percent of them said that their moms were beautiful.
Those figures show an unsettling difference between the daughters' and moms' opinions. Most of the moms said they didn't like the way they looked, yet the girls said they thought their moms were beautiful and that they pay a lot of attention to their own looks. The way that mothers talk about their own body images directly affects their daughters' ways of thinking about their own body images.
"A mother's self-image greatly influences how her daughter views herself," says D'Arcy Lyness, PhD, a child and adolescent psychologist and behavioral health editor at KidsHealth.
Looking to help improve your daughter's self esteem? Try these ten tips:
Talk about it. Discussing the pressures of being thin and beautiful can help her realize she's not alone. If there are physical things you or she would like to improve, find healthy ways of doing so, like exercising together. For a list of fun mother-daughter dates, click here.
Take pride in your appearance. But not too much! Lead by example and show your daughter how to appreciate her looks and body. Be careful not to be vain, though, and to emphasize the deeper qualities of a person.
Don't make negative comments. Can you think of a time your own mother verbally cut through you with a snarky or even innocent comment about your appearance? Hearing negative comments from you, as a role model (even if those comments are directed at yourself), can impact your daughter's self esteem more than you know.
Tell her she's beautiful AND talented. Don't get so caught up in the physical aspect of improving her self esteem that you forget about the mental and emotional sides. Compliment and encourage her in things she enjoys doing, like playing an instrument or a sport. Build her confidence in more than just her physical appearance.
Make her media literate. Watch TV with your daughter and discuss what you see. Maybe you're watching an ad showing stick-thin, barely-clad women. Help her develop an eye for filtering mixed messages delivered by the media.
Don't raise her as a "pleaser." Make sure that she stands up for what she believes in. Ask what she wants and let her make her own choices.
Start team sports early. Research shows that girls who play team sports develop high self esteem because they are looking to other girls for value, and not looking for affirmation from boys.
Don't borrow her clothes. Let her develop her own sense of style. It's important that she feel independent and unique, especially if you are thinner or more beautiful by society's standards.
Be careful of what magazines you leave laying around the house. Fashion magazines are great for fashion, but terrible for a developing girl's self esteem. After reading magazines like that for a while, your daughter's curiosity turns to comparison.
Make sure that she knows you love her no matter what. No matter how many physical, mental or emotional changes your daughter might go through, she needs to know that you will love her though all of that. That will encourage her to develop her personality and truly be herself.