Being a parent is not for the faint of heart, and getting through puberty and the teen years with kids takes a special kind of mettle. Dads of daughters will find themselves entrenched in a battle against body image that they aren’t prepared for and really have no way of understanding before it hits them square between the eyes.

Boys, too, struggle with the changes that take place around puberty, but this article isn’t about them. It’s about handling girls who are suddenly unhappy with the way they look and don’t have a lot of support outside their home when it comes to self-acceptance and love.

Dr. Erika Doukas, a clinical psychologist specializing in parenting issues and treating eating disorders, has some advice if you’re not sure where to start.

“What’s important for fathers to understand is that they are the template, really, for their daughters in terms of the daughter’s future relationships with men. How they interact with their daughters will affect how they feel about themselves, and how they feel about themselves in relation to other men.”

She also puts her thoughts and advice into 5 (not easy, but simple) tips on how to guide your baby girl into a confident, happy young woman.

#5. When you talk to your daughter about the things that make her special, leave her looks out of it completely.

It’s hard to avoid telling our kiddos how adorable we think they are, but as they approach puberty, it’s important for them to know the reasons we love them run much deeper. Choose her intelligence, wit, kindness, compassion, warmth, or something along those lines instead.

#4. Avoid talking badly about your own body.

That kind of thing soaks in and can’t be wrung free in a day or two – or even with a lifetime of therapy.

#3. Talk about health as a family, not about weight.

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JUST KEEP GOING! 👊✨ 196 days ago I made the choice to start running. I signed up for all my races (5k, 10k, half marathon, and a full marathon) and I had it in my head that I probably would give up at some point and not follow through with this whole thing, like I used to always do. Little did I know how much it would impact my life. Something that started because I wanted to lose weight morphed into something so much stronger and so much deeper. I’ve never felt more connected with my body. I’ve never been so disciplined. I’m 68 days out from my half marathon and 124 days out from my marathon (HOLY SHIT) I never thought I would make it this far. I am forever humbled by this sport. It tears you down and builds you back up OVER AND OVER and you keep coming back for more. 💖

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Healthy diets and exercise are great, but you don’t want to discuss them in connection with weight loss or how we look. Likewise, try to avoid assigning moral values to foods – they’re not “good” or “bad;” even unhealthy foods have their place in our lives as long as we learn moderation.

Food is fuel, not calories that make us fat.

#2. Changes during puberty are normal.

All bodily changes should be discussed, and that might include weight gain. Help her focus on how she feels and choosing foods that help her feel her best self instead of gauging happiness and fitness based on a number on a scale.

#1. Remind them what they see on screens isn’t real.

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REAL TALK…How many of us sit at home and think we don't measure up in today's society? Whether it's at home trying to be the perfect mom, or your thoughts about yourself when you look in the mirror. – A recent study shows that 69% of women and 65% of girls feel pressured to attain an unrealistic standard of "beauty". Crazy, right? – I've seen some of the most strongest women crumble under the pressure of thinking they don't "measure up" in all areas of life. LADIES..STOP THIS MESS! We are all special and unique, with different gifts to offer. Trying to become like others or to measure up to others' standards can be exhausting and make us feel inadequate. *DON'T beat yourself up. *DON'T compare yourself to other people *AVOID perfectionism *DEVELOP a healthier relationship with your body. – We all want to be better in our own way. The ONLY person you should be comparing yourself to is who you were yesterday! Once you get that mindset and close out all of societies outside noise, you'll start to see a better you! Change only happens when you do boo! #teamgemfitgirls . . . . . . #tuesday #thoughts #unique #beyou #realtalk #bodypositive #loveyourself #beauty #selfie #me #icanhelp #goodvibes #trusttheprocess #progressnotperfection #instalove #fitmom #momlife #empoweringwomen #instagram #instapic

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The women on Instagram, in the movies, and in advertisements are literally photoshopped and often project an unhealthy body type or lifestyle. Help them seek out healthy, body-positive role models – they’re out there for every body type.

 

Start with love and keep going.

Good luck out there.