Don’t know what a thigh gap is? Ask your daughter—she does. It’s a phrase that’s been coined for having thighs so slim that, even at their fullest point, they don’t meet when standing with your feet together. There’s a “gap.” No kidding. This is a real thing. Is it any wonder many of our daughters struggle with negative body image issues?
The problem? Only a few body types will naturally have this characteristic at a healthy weight. It’s fine if you have a long, lean build that looks this way. And it’s fine if you don’t. But this is not the message your daughter is getting from our culture.
How can a modern mom raise a confident girl who is health conscious, who strives to be her best, but has realistic and positive expectations of herself? It requires a lot of intentional talk from you about health and beauty and modeling those healthy attitudes in your own life. With a little wisdom, you can learn How to Raise Girls With a Healthy Body Image.
1. Get your own head straight.
Your own attitudes and talk about your body and appearance will be one of the single greatest influences on how your daughter feels about her own. Do you constantly lament aloud that you’re not as thin or as curvy as you’d like to be? If so, you daughter is picking up on it and will likely adopt a similar attitude—no matter what she looks like. Even moms need a little help in the body image department.
2. Make good health the goal, rather than beauty.
This is crucial for moms of daughters who may struggle with excess weight. And, in a nation where childhood obesity has been on the rise in recent years, that’s a considerable number of girls. Gear your language and encouragement for your daughter toward achieving good health, rather than achieving a certain appearance. Healthy bodies look a lot of different ways: some are more muscular and athletic, some are more lithe and willowy. Genetics will largely determine which look your daughter takes on at a healthy weight. By allowing her to set her sights on a particular “look,” she runs the risk of being dissatisfied even when she’s right on target in the ways that matter to strong women.
3. Help your daughter value what her body can do over what it looks like.
This is an area where sports can be your daughter’s ally. Thinking of her body as a machine capable of making the goal, clearing the hurdle or posting up under the hoop makes those thighs pretty amazing—gap or no gap. Help her train and achieve higher physical goals: running a 5K or making the volleyball team gives a girl a dose of the right kind of bodycentric self-esteem.
4. Teach her how to dress and accessorize for the body type she has.
Knowing how to shop for your physique is an awesome skill to acquire. Some clothes are just cut for your shape, drape well on your frame, and make you look and feel fantastic. No matter what body type a woman has, knowing how to wardrobe it is a skill worth learning. If this isn’t an area of expertise for you, consider booking a mother-daughter consult with a personal shopper at a department store or boutique. Their services are often free of charge, and they can help your daughter learn how to look beautiful in her own skin.
Let’s Talk: Does your daughter struggle to keep a healthy body image in the current media culture?
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.