It was about this time last year that I began the search for a special Valentine’s gift for our then 2-year-old daughter. I didn’t want anything kitschy and I didn’t want candy: I wanted something meaningful — something she’d keep for years as a message of our love for her.
I knew I’d found what I was looking for when I read about the new children’s book, Beautiful Girl: Celebrating the Wonders of Your Body, in one of Latham Thomas’s MamaGlow newsletters. Written by Christiane Northrop, MD, and Kristina Tracy, Beautiful Girl offers a positive and empowering message to help young girls develop healthy and loving relationships with their bodies. Although it may seem from the title that it’s about external beauty, it’s actually an introduction to all the amazing things that are happening within the body and that come with being born a girl. As Dr. Northrop writes in the forward:
“Most adult women have received some negative messages about their bodies, which can show up later in life as health problems or unhealthy behaviors. This needn’t be the case. When little girls grow up knowing that their bodies are perfect and miraculous, they are far more likely to grow into happy and healthy adult women.” [Hear more from Dr. Northrop about the book in the video embedded below.]
It was exactly the kind of body-image attitude I hoped to instill in our growing girl, and a topic I wanted to have open, honest conversations around in the coming years. I couldn’t wait to give it to her.
Well, Valentine’s Day came and my big girl opened her gift … and moved on. Such is the attention span of toddlers. I tried many times throughout the year to read Beautiful Girl to her, but was shut down over and over in favor of Curious George and Berenstein Bears. I knew, however, that someday she’d gravitate toward the book, initially for the art (French artist Aurelie Blanz’s illustrations are rich and vibrant) and then the words.
That someday was this past Sunday. As I popped my head in to her room to say good night, I was surprised to see her daddy reading the book. Yes, she chose it, he assured me. Then yesterday morning, she came padding down the stairs with Beautiful Girl in tow. “Can we read this, Mommy?” YES, yes, yes!
My big girl may not fully comprehend the deeper messages in this book quite yet, but I firmly believe the more often we talk positively and openly about our bodies now — about how they function, about respecting ours and others, about knowing how to discern what’s real in the images prevalent in our media-centric culture — the better off she’ll be. In the short and long term.
For parents looking for a good way to start these body conversations, I highly recommend Beautiful Girl, whether your daughter’s a toddler, tween, or full-on-hormonal teenager. The written and visual message come together for a reading experience that celebrates the beauty of being a girl.
TELL US: How do you encourage healthy body-image attitudes in your children — boys and/or girls? Leave a comment below, tweet us at @ExperienceLife, or tweet me at @JamieLMartin.