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'I think girls of a certain age will always have body hang-ups'

Andy Smith is a father of three girls, aged 14, 10 and 4. He explains about their different body image concerns, the impact of female role models in the media and how the Dove Self-Esteem Project has helped his family in overcoming challenging situations.

My two eldest daughters are different in so many ways. Louise is 14 and Alice is 10. Louise is a spender, Alice a saver. Louise is dramatic, Alice is conservative. Louise prides herself in doing her best but won’t admit it. Alice excels but constantly feels she’s under pressure.

But there is one area in which they are similar: they both have body image concerns.

Louise worries about her spots and her figure. She suffers from alopecia – which can come and go without warning – but dealing with this has made her a stronger person. Alice is sporty but, like her sister, also worries about her figure.

Louise is 100% affected by women in the media. She has multiple social media accounts and watches Keeping Up with the Kardashians. She loves the opulence but acknowledges it is frivolous. We need to remember that while it may be entertainment, a show like this is sending messages about women and power.

‘There is something positive about seeing strong, successful female role models’

She also admires Meghan Markle. In the TV show Suits, Meghan plays a character born into wealth who chooses to break into a law firm from the bottom. Louise now wants to be involved in law herself. Kim Kardashian doesn’t necessarily inspire her and she can spot that. We talked about this after she had a session at school from the Dove Self-Esteem Project, and that has allowed her to voice some strong views. Although different, they are both driven individuals and I think there is something really positive about seeing strong, successful female role models in the media.

Alice’s role models are sports people – Olympians like Jessica Ennis-Hill and Adam Peaty. She knows that they put in hard work to be successful, which is what she admires. But Alice has body image worries too. She wants to eat more because she thinks she’s too thin but she also wants to retain her ‘six-pack’. Although different from her sister, she is still impacted by images of women in the media.

I think girls of a certain age will always have body hang-ups, and there are different role models that they compare themselves to. As parents, we try to make sure they remain critical of what they see on TV, in magazines and on social media. The Dove resources cover different areas, from the distortion of beauty to healthy eating, which is useful – for both girls and boys alike. It helps parents who may not be aware of all the challenges that self-esteem issues present.  

‘Knowing the Dove Self-Esteem resources are there gives us peace of mind’

For Louise, her friends’ opinions are more important than mine. My wife and I always try to find other ways to stay involved whilst trying not to be judgemental. She loves YouTube make-up tutorials and we try to encourage her when she experiments. My wife will tell Louise she is far better at make-up than she was at the same age, which is a great tip for keeping dialogue about appearance open and relatable.

Read more about the power of positive words here.

Having good communication with your kids is crucial to helping them with their self-esteem. Louise’s school has used the Dove resources and she talks to us about things she has covered in it, especially the parts about body image.

We know Alice will face many new challenges and, for us as parents, knowing the Dove Self-Esteem Project resources are there to help her gives us some peace of mind.

For advice on how fathers can help their daughters’ self-esteem, click here.

Register for FREE teaching resources to deliver the single session 45-minute workshop in your school.

For parents

Download the free Uniquely Me parent guide to hand out to your pupils and parents.

This contains expert advice from Dove Self-Esteem Project global experts from the fields of psychology, body image, self-esteem, eating disorders and media representation to create a resource for parents that is focused on advice and action.

Parent Zone is working with the Dove Self-Esteem Project to help boost UK pupils' body confidence through its PSHE Association-approved in-school workshops. Find out more about the full programme here.