Good self-care begins early. From toddlerhood when we teach our little ones to brush their teeth and wash behind their ears, to later on in life when we build on the basics. This discipline behind a daily skin and body care routine is the foundation that can make or break our graceful transition to tween, teen and then adulthood.
Over the years we find comfort in self-care, granted some of the mundane everyday stuff can be a drag, but it doesn't have to be. Learn to enjoy it and teach your little ones how to enjoy it too. As a mom to two beautiful girls in different stages of life, I can't stress enough how vital instilling a healthy and body positive self-care routine is for their growth and development.
Let's Talk Tween
Tweendom is exactly what it's cracked up to be and then some. Your little girl is well ...becoming a little woman. As if your feelings about it aren't already hard to handle there is more that becomes evident. And it is crucial tackling it all with tact.
Along with the changes in her body like weight gain, curves, shapely additions to the anatomy and maybe a little chub here and there. There comes the 'tude. Don't let this intimidate you. They will sleep longer, eat more, seem gloomy at times and look for more reassurance than usual. This is the time to keep a watchful eye on your tween. Pay attention to her conversations with you and her silence.
You may read into these changes and rush to judgment that she is gaining unnecessary weight. The stats you read in magazines and watch in the news about childhood obesity pop up to alarm you. Push them away. This is not that.
While you go through the motions of adjusting to being a parent of a tween, remember that SHE too is seeing these changes and armed with far less knowledge and more peer pressure, causing her to jump to the wrong conclusion.
The Girl in the Mirror
Self-image is crafted in children from the time they begin to observe the world around them. My babies have always watched me like hawks and imitated me for fun down to annoyance at times. Our babies have been watching us and emulating us since birth. We define in a huge part their identities.
What is love, what is beauty and what is normal? We are as parents, by default given the power to mold their view of the world. It is up to us to teach them through examples. While it is never too early to begin, Tweens are ripe for a lesson in self-care and self-image. These two elements are inexplicably linked together.
What is Normal?
The transition from child to a little woman is hard work for the body, and the appetite increase is entirely reasonable in the process so is a little weight gain as the body prepares for the onset of puberty. Typically these changes begin around 9 to 13; a girl might gain approximately 15 to 20 % of body fat. The hormones are playing wild games inside their bodies and their minds. If you develop a few greys fighting battles with them, then count yourself lucky because that's normal too.
Like Mother Like Daughter
It's important to recognize that we have casual conversations with ourselves that become a revolving narrative to our daughters. Our self-image and unhealthy behavior however insignificant to us can become the pillar upon which their patterns are fashioned. No matter what we say to them, it is what we do that will impact their behavior the most. Do you hate pictures of yourself? Do you casually criticize yourself in conversation? She hears you. Do you choose not to go places or do things because of how you feel about your body? She sees you.
They have been watching us try new meal replacement shakes and smoothies or health detox juices and soups, the occasional guilt trip over that extra slice of cake or the wistful look in the mirror over those extra pounds. Whether it is slimming down after the gluttony of the holiday season or trying to fit into that swimsuit for that much awaited tropical vacay. Your daughter is watching and learning. Learning from you, the television, the glossy pages of magazines and fancy mannequins in department stores- that size matters even if we say otherwise.
The key is to bring home the awareness that size isn't the overall goal health is, and there are better and more efficient ways to reach the goals without depriving our bodies of food or embarking on some unhealthy eating habit.
Teach yourself how to get healthy the right way. And take your little girl on your journey of self-discovery with you.
What Should Mama Do?
We moms can make this time a special nurturing time for our girls by giving her plenty of support, encouragement and most of all practical information and some daily routines to help assuage anxiety and build self-confidence.
Meet her on the mat. Yoga is a conversation worth having. Many studies show that yoga lowers stress hormones and increases insulin sensitivity, signaling your body to burn food into fuel instead of storing it as fat. Incorporating yoga into your daughter's life establishes a go-to technique for her to stay healthy, build strength and use as a way to balance her mind and body.
Show Instead of Tell: Instead of discouraging eating, encourage they eat the right foods. Facilitate an environment for good eating by setting the best example you can. Nothing says it perfectly like eating well yourself and making available plenty of nutritious options for meal times. Fill the pantry and fridge with the right foods from all the food groups.
Finding Heroes: Reinforcing positive body image by setting good examples with those who live a healthy lifestyle is priceless. Give her people to look up to other than the obvious centerfold supermodels with unrealistic physical attributes. Smart, perceptive women who are shaping the world, not with their waistlines but their vision and intellect. Set the standards high, and they will learn not to settle for less than what they deserve.
There are so many to pick from but here are a few to start.
"We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced."
"Being confident and believing in your self-worth is necessary to achieving your potential."
"Beauty is perfect with its imperfections, so you have to go with the imperfections."
Diane Von Furstenberg
"We've begun to raise our daughters more like our sons ... but few dare to raise our sons more like our daughters".
Good Skin. Let it Sink In.
A good skin care regimen is a great way to introduce your tween to her next phase of growth. Along with hormonal changes come a significant change in skin and hair care health. Starting off with a line of safe and natural skin products to establish a base care routine for your girl is paramount. This is also a fun and effective way to bond with your girl. Nothing says mother-daughter bonding time like a good mani/pedi at the local spa or a trip to the Salt Cove for some Halotherapy. Both are my daughter's favorite mother-daughter day choices. We also slip in some boutique shopping and a healthy lunch while we are at it.
Teach her that her body is a temple and to respect it is to treat it well. This lesson won't just aid her in fostering good skin for life it will also teach her to respect it enough to make the right choices later in life. Self-worth taught with simple techniques like a salt soak, or an oil massage will travel to all aspects of her life slowly transforming her in every way. The narrative replacing fear and insecurity will be the resounding mantra. :
I am worthy
I am beautiful
I am capable
I am strong
After all isn't that what we want for all our girls?
We have the power to shape the world, through the dreams we see to fruition, through the simple choices we make every day and by raising responsible, sensible well-adjusted children who respect themselves and the world they live in. The power of One begins at home.
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