A few handy things to remember about your daughter
When it comes to parenting a lot of the focus can often be on the mothers’ side, but fathers are also a huge influence in a child’s life and we need to start recognising them equally as a parent. As one of the most prominent male figures within a daughter’s life, it’s important to understand how much dads can play a role in shaping their views and opinions.
Most significantly, fathers can positively impact the way their daughters perceive themselves, along with contribute to their understanding of the opposite sex.
For those that are fortunate enough to have a dad, it’s often apparent how much they’re loved and appreciated in their daughter’s world.
For the dads who aren’t already all over it, while growing up there’s a few things all fathers should be mindful of when it comes to their daughter.
Young girls feel a lot of pressure about their appearance
It’s incredible how much emphasis is placed on appearance, be it through TV, magazines, or outdoor advertising, there’s a constant barrage of images and inferred expectations of a constructed and construed ideal of what is beautiful.
It’s something that can often slip our minds as an adult, as we’re so used to it and with maturity we know how to differentiate between what’s realistic, meaningful and important. So we need to make sure that we always remember how susceptible and impressionable young girls can be. This includes being aware of how much pressure they can feel towards their appearance, along with the associations they can form at that age, with being female.
One way that fathers can reinforce positive body image and negate any undesirable external influences is to focus on acceptance.Letting your daughter feel valued and recognised for their personality and abilities goes so much further in encouraging and fostering their self-worth, than focusing on their outer appearance.
As a father there’s ways that you can powerfully impact and shift ideas surrounding body image
We need to step away from old fashioned stereotypes and words, that we commonly fall into the habit of using for specific genders.
Some of the most obvious words are brave and strong. These are character and confidence building adjectives that should be used for girls just as much as they’re used with boys. There’s no reason why words and phrases related to one’s abilities need to be gender specific.
Also try to avoid language that implies that girls have inferior abilities to boys. For example, avoid language that implies that girls are not as fast, tough or athletic, as boys are.
Genuine quality time and attention is a no brainer
Young girls who are trying to be independent and ‘grown up’ might try to shrug off their dad, but there’s no doubt that they want you to be there for them. To do things with, talk to and be listened to, and to be there as a pillar of support. You’d be surprised that some of the smallest things can make a daughter feel validated, respected and loved.
The quick act of just showing an interest in what they’re doing and acknowledging their positive qualities can be so enriching to a young girl’s self-belief.
Your daughter looks up to you
Fathers are a huge part of the dialogue that goes on at home, and it’s remarkable how much young girls can understand and absorb what is being said around them.
What they hear directed to their mother, and to or about other women can directly affect the way they think about themselves. This also extends to fathers themselves. Although you may not be of the same gender, negative self-talk can also rub off on young minds.
Daughters can often look to their dads as an example and as a role model of the male gender. So be aware that how you behave in terms of both actions and language, may communicate what is considered okay and what’s not.As a dad, if you treat all women how you would love for your daughter to be treated, this is a great standard that you can set in the eyes of your daughter.
– Merissa Forsyth is the Founder of Pretty Foundation, a not-for-profit designed to promote positive body image for girls aged 2-6.