3 Myths About Father-Daughter Relationships And Girls' Body Image

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3 Myths About Father-Daughter Relationships And Girls' Body Image
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As she grows up, your daughter will most likely face some body-image issues. How does a healthy father-daughter relationship help her confidence and self-esteem?

For moms, their role in the development of their daughter’s body image is often the subject of many articles and conversations. There's rarely any mention of dads' role.

But highlighting a father's contribution to his daughter's body image benefits everyone. 

RELATED: Why A Strong Father-Daughter Relationship Is So Important For Girls’ Self Esteem

Here are 3 myths about the connection between father-daughter relationships and girls' body image.

1. Dads don’t understand girls or women.

Ouch! Says who? Men are capable of understanding complexities about female humans, especially when given the information.

Socialization may distort their understanding of what women think and feel. In this case, recalibrating dads with accurate information is especially important and definitely possible.

Blaming everything on "culture" is easy and does a disservice to everyone. It justifies the way things are.

Besides, who and what makes up "culture"?

Each of us is part of the very "culture" that body dissatisfaction is blamed on. So, each of us can do something to change the way things are. It will take time, but may as well start now so future generations benefit.

2. Body image is just a female issue.

Nope. Anyone who has a body has a body image. Meaning, if you have a body, you have a relationship with your body.

Even if you don’t think you have a relationship with your body, that in and of itself is a type of relationship.

There's a truth to the claim that men and women experience their bodies differently. But, that does not mean men don’t have any concerns about their own bodies.

Body image is a person issue, regardless of sexual or gender identity.

Let’s look at the bigger picture: Men have generally been socialized to accept their bodies. Heck, some men even wear "Proud to have a dad bod" t-shirts, with their belly as a source of pride.

On the other hand, men increasingly report dissatisfaction with their (not big enough) muscle size, especially if they don’t have six-pack abs. Their focus tends to be more them needing to "bulk up."

Have you looked at superheroes lately? Hulk and Superman are now jacked up compared to their 1970s and 1990s version. Men’s body image may very well be negatively impacted.

Girls and women know what this feels like.

They are bombarded with the message that thinness equals attractiveness, that the size and shape of their body determine their worth and appeal, and that media ideals are the standard to strive toward — at least, appearance-wise.

So, it's not that dads can’t grasp what daughters are going through. Dads need to be provided information to understand the experience of growing up female and the impact of cultural pressures.

RELATED: 4 Common Hot-Button Triggers For Parents Of Struggling Teens

3. Dads just make life harder for teenage daughters.

Not intentionally, or even at all.

Ask teenage daughters if dad makes life harder, and they will more often than not say "yes." But then, many teenagers will chime in that mom makes life harder, too.

Parenting a teenager carries with it some unique challenges. Let’s start with the most fundamental challenge: puberty and adolescence.

Both stages often occur around the same time and bring a cascade of physical and hormonal changes. Your daughter’s moods, personality, and behaviors will be affected, which is an understatement.

At one moment, she's dramatic and in the next minute, she's sullen. This is normal.

Dads may not understand because they did not experience their own adolescence with the same kinds of physical and hormonal shifts. But dads with sisters may recognize their teenage daughter’s mood shifts.

Another reason why raising a teenager is challenging is because adolescence is typically when a normal developmental phase occurs called "separation and individuation."

This stage in life is when kids begin to distance themselves from their parents. They identify more with peers. Daughters may be on a mission to express their individuality or try on different identities.

Maybe she gets a cartilage piercing, experiments with alcohol or weed, or starts to swear.

Dads, you have a lot to navigate here. Your little girl now has breasts and hips — she looks more like a woman than a child. Other boys and men may notice her in a way that makes you uncomfortable.

So, how do you discern what is normal and what signals a problem?

In some cases, talking with your daughter about her life may help. Beware that you may get an eye roll. And definitely don’t enter the conversation with an "I am here to fix your problems" mentality.

Talk about your feelings or concerns with another trusted adult, whether that is your spouse, sibling, or close friend.

With your daughter, listen more and "fix" less. Spend more time listening than speaking. And by all means, don’t force it. Be patient, and in time, she will likely circle back.

When she does, you will have even more to be grateful for.

RELATED: A Therapist’s Guide To Overcoming The Anxiety Of Parenting Teens

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Dr. Elayne Daniels is a renowned psychologist who works with men and women on body image and sexuality. To contact her or to learn more about the services she offers, contact her on her website or send her an email.