As the pool party invites roll in, so too does the chance to check in with your kids about body confidence. With a steady stream of social media influence, young girls are particularly susceptible to comparing themselves against curated, bikini-clad Instagram feeds, according to Laurie Wolk, mother of three and author of Girls Just Want to Have Likes: How to Raise Confident Girls in the Face of Social Media Madness. “They”re never going to win if they let society’s values be their own values,” she says. Reorienting those values is no simple task; in talking body confidence, the key is making it timely and fun.
Dr. Jennifer Hagman, medical director of the Eating Disorder Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, agrees. “It’s about opening the door to conversations without assuming how they”re feeling,” Hagman says, whether your girls are trying on bikinis for the first time, or have been sporting the latest triangle trends for years.
Don’t Create Worry
When broaching the subject, less is more. Wolk suggests only bringing up the conversation if you have a reason: “If you start calling attention to it, then they”re going to start to think body image is something that they need to start worrying about.”
Be an Example
Instead of springing a lecture about self-confidence, parents should first take note of their own relationship with their body. Setting a positive example sends a message more powerful than words. “When you look in the mirror and say ‘Oh, I can’t pull off a bikini,” your girl is noticing that,” Wolk says. “She’s noticing you’re showing skin and your face doesn’t look quite happy.”
To better understand how your daughters perceive things, ask questions, says Wolk. This way you can gauge the relationship she already has with her body. “If she does mention something about body image, then that’s when you want to say, ‘Huh, tell me more,” and start to notice, unwind, and decode what she’s picked up from the outside world.”
Accentuate What’s Important
Humor can be the best vehicle to deliver your conversations and help redirect concerns back to core values. “Just poke fun at the ridiculousness of it,” Wolk says. “We”re putting value on a human being based on their body shape? That is ridiculous!” Instead, draw their attention to positive traits unrelated to the body, such as kindness, creativity, and determination.
Look to the Future
For young women with insecurities, Wolk recommends helping them understand that their current bodies are not their forever bodies. “Show them pictures of how your body or a celebrity’s has changed over the years.”
At the end of the day, swimsuits are another opportunity for self-expression. “Go pick out a bikini that is fun and bright, and make the occasion fun and bright, too,” Wolk says.