How parents can build young girls’ body confidence in sports
47% of teenage girls in Canada are quitting sports – and body dissatisfaction is the #1 reason. Discover how to build confidence in your daughter with our expert advice.
When puberty hits, girls experience significant changes to their bodies. These changes can make them feel self-conscious and less confident about their appearance. It can hold them back from participating in their friendship circles, their school lives, and even their favorite hobbies.
In sports environments both on and off the field, adolescent girls can often feel exposed and vulnerable to judgment and comparison, not only for what their bodies can and can’t do, but also for how they look. We’ve partnered with world-renowned academic experts at the Centre for Appearance Research for tips on building self-esteem in teenage girls, so they can continue taking part in the sports they love.
Create body talk-free zones
Girls often hear comments about their appearance, rather than their sporting ability, when they take part in sports. Instead, focus on enjoyment over appearance. Creating body talk-free zones can help with building self-esteem, encouraging you both to move away from discussing appearances, and instead focus on what your bodies can do. Remind her that sporting enjoyment is completely unrelated to her appearance. When you create an approachable space they can trust, they’ll feel safe enough to share what’s on their mind.
Shift the focus from appearance to abilities to tackle teasing and bullying
Our research found that 44% of girls that quit sports received negative comments about their appearance. Sadly, many experience teasing and bullying, and it’s common for girls to compare themselves to others – especially in changing room environments. Raising body confident daughters involves explaining why she should avoid judging herself or other girls’ appearances, and avoid negative comparisons. Shifting the focus to their abilities can help with building confidence in young athletes, so that they see each other not as competition, but as teammates.
Inspire her with role models of all body types
It’s common for teenage girls to feel that only specific body types are suitable for sports. Finding positive role models is a vital tool for building self-esteem in teenage girls, whether it’s an inspiring Olympian or a family member who understands the importance of body confidence in sports. 44% of girls quitting were told they don’t have the right body for sports. Seeing female athletes and women of all body types enjoying being active will help teach her that there is no right or wrong body type for sports.
Encourage her motivation with the right ‘why’
Sometimes, we simply lose motivation for sports. Your daughter may have lost sight of her ‘why’, or it might have become about changing her body and appearance and less about enjoying her sport. Focusing on the many long-term benefits of sports can help with how to instill confidence in your daughter and inspire her to keep playing. Encouraging her to take part for fun, friendships and personal achievements – rather than short-term ‘gains’ – can help with building self-esteem and motivation.
Talk about unwanted attention
Unwanted attention can be a distressing reality for girls. If your daughter is experiencing this, assure her that it’s never her fault and make her coach aware of any issues, so that they can watch out for her. It can be difficult to know how to help a girl with body image issues when unwanted attention makes her feel self-conscious. Reframing her focus to be on the achievements and capability of her body rather than being defined by appearance is particularly important for building self-esteem in teenage girls.
If you think your daughter’s coach would benefit from receiving more information about body confidence in sports, share the URL with them via text, email or social media to get started on the journey.