For Fathers with Daughters who have Eating Disorders
10 Tips for Dads with Daughters By Joe Kelly, DADS Executive Director
Dads and Daughters at www.dadsanddaughters.org
1) Listen to girls. Focus on what is really important--what my daughter thinks, believes, feels, dreams and does--rather than how she looks. I have a profound influence on how my daughter views herself. When I value my daughter for her true self, I give her confidence to use her talents in the world.
2) Encourage her strength and celebrate her savvy. Help my daughter learn to recognize, resist and overcome barriers. Help her develop her strengths to achieve her goals. Help her be what Girls Incorporated calls Strong, Smart and Bold!
3) Urge her to love her body & discourage dieting. Growing girls need to eat often and healthy. Dieting increases the risk of eating disorders. Advertisers spend billions to convince my daughter she doesn’t look "right." I won’t buy into it. I’ll tell my daughter that I love her for who she is, not for how she looks.
4) Respect her uniqueness. See my daughter as a whole person, capable of anything—and make sure she knows that’s how I see her. My daughter is likely to choose a life partner who acts like me and has my values. So, treat her and those she loves with respect. That will help my daughter choose someone who respects and nourishes her long after she’s left my home.
5) Get physically active with her. Play catch, tag, jump rope, basketball, Frisbee, hockey, soccer, or just take walks…you name it! Help her learn all the great things her body can do. Physically active girls are less likely to get pregnant, drop out of school, or put up with an abusive partner. Studies show that the most physically active girls have fathers who are active with them. Being physically active with her is a great investment!
6) Get involved in your daughter’s school. Volunteer, chaperone, read to her class. Ask tough questions, like: Does the school have and use an eating disorder prevention or body image awareness program? Does it tolerate sexual harassment of boys or girls? Do more boys take advanced math and science classes and if so, why? (California teacher Doug Kirkpatrick’s girl students weren’t interested in science, so he changed his methods and their scores soared!) Are at least half the student leaders girls?
7) Get involved in your daughter’s activities. Volunteer to drive, coach, direct a play, teach a class—anything! Demand equality. Texas mortgage officer and volunteer basketball coach Dave Chapman was so appalled by the gym his 9-year-old daughter’s team had to use, he fought to open the modern "boys'" gym to the girls’ team. He succeeded. Dads make a difference!
8) Help make the world better for girls. This world does hold dangers for our daughters. But over-protection doesn’t work, and it tells my daughter that I don’t trust her and her abilities! I can work with other parents to demand an end to violence against females, media sexualization of girls, pornography, advertisers making billions feeding on our daughters’ insecurities, and all "boys are more important than girls" attitudes.
9) Take your daughter to work. Participate in every April’s official Take Our Daughters to Work® Day and make sure my business participates. Show her how I pay the bills and manage my money. My daughter will have a job some day, so I need to introduce her to the world of work and finances!
10) Join with other fathers. When I share my commitment to make the world respect and nurture our daughters, I’ll be amazed at how many other fathers agree. We can learn a lot from each other. And we can have a lot of influence when we work together by becoming a member of (or renewing a membership in) Dads and Daughters. Encourage other fathers to join, too.Ten Things Every Father Should Know
Our body size is a given, like our height or hair color. Yet, by middle school, 30-50 percent of American girls say they feel too fat and 20-40 percent are dieting; many beginning before age 10. By high school, 40-60 percent of girls feel overweight and try to lose weight.
Young girls say that they are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of cancer, nuclear war, or losing their parents.
Today, the average fashion model weighs 23 percent less than the average woman.
The average age for onset of eating disorders is during adolescence. While self-esteem for both girls and boys is strong as children and drops for both in adolescence, the drop is much steeper for girls, beginning at around age of 12.
In a survey of working-class 5th to 12th grade suburban girls, 69 percent reported that magazine pictures influence their idea of the perfect body shape; 47 percent reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
Before puberty there is no difference in depression rates between boys and girls. By age 15, girls are twice as likely to be depressed and 10 times as likely to develop an eating disorder than their male peers. Girls are more likely to attempt suicide than boys are, but boys are more likely to succeed.
Clinique Laboratories, Inc. surveyed 500 moms of teen daughters and found their number one New Year’s Resolutions was "lose weight/eat less". Yet 22% of these same mothers list the fear of their daughter developing an eating disorder among their top concerns. Only 16 percent of the 500 teens in the same survey worried about developing an eating disorder.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that comments by male family members trigger dieting, and teasing is associated with weight-control attempts in adolescence.
According to data presented to the National Institutes of Health, 33-40 percent of adult women are trying to lose weight at any given time –fueled by a cultural perception of a feminine "ideal" that is much too thin for good health.
Girls with active and hardworking dads are more ambitious, more successful in school, attend college more frequently, and are more likely to attain careers of their own. They are less dependent, more self-protective, and less likely to date or marry abusive partners.
Sources: Dads and Daughters, 1999. Michael Levine, Prevention of Eating Problems with Elementary Children, USA Today, July 98, Special K report, Business Wire, 1998, Jo Sullivan-Lyons, The Psychologist, American Academy of Advertising, Pediatrics, March 99, American Psychological Assn. congressional briefing.