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Raising a Daughter with a Healthy Body Image

I was a girl who grew up too fast. 

Even typing these words, nearly 20 years after I lost my virginity, I can still feel the sense of shame, the guilt, the ruin of my innocence, and the realization that I could never get that back. Tried as I may to hide it, cover it, and pretend it never happened, it lurked in my subconscious always resurfacing during times of self-doubt or depression until I finally gave into the narrative that I was now and forever damaged goods. 

This narrative continued through high school and college, and let me to always choose men who I felt were less than me, those I could control and stay distant from so they would never know the shame I felt inside. The loss of my virginity at a young age defined me. I viewed it as an indelible mark that meant I never was and never would never be worthy. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy that resulted in failed relationships, risky sexual behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, and lashing out at friends and family who loved me most.

It was a self-fulfilling prophecy that resulted in failed relationships, risky sexual behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, and lashing out at friends and family who loved me most.

Through years of therapy, I finally allowed myself to simply let go. I realized I’m not defined by my past, but only choices I make for my future. I also mourned those lost years. I so wish I could curl up next to that lonely girl and tell her that her future was so bright and beautiful. I wish I could tell her that she was made for more. I wish I viewed my younger years as a time of growth and wonder, instead of one of shame, guilt, and self-loathing. 

While I can’t change the past, I can change what’s ahead. I am married now, with 5 beautiful, precocious little ones. I can’t rewrite my story, but I can help shape theirs, in particular my two daughters, by showing them what it means to recover and to find strength, beauty, and self love. Because I have learned from my past, my failures and choices, I can help them understand that mistakes are just a different way of doing things. 

Because I have learned from my past, my failures and choices, I can help them understand that mistakes are just a different way of doing things. 

The number one question I receive in the Girlhood, Cultivated community is “how do I keep my girls from losing their innocence/keep their purity?” And the fact is… 

You can’t. 

Your daughters will make choices. Your daughters will have feelings, fall in love, be curious, and have a sex drive (you’ll be happy for it later when she gives you beautiful grand babies!). All you can do is be her mom and love her, regardless of her choices. And if those choices turn out to be wrong, thank God she is still young so she can safely land in your nest. 

However, for some practical advice on how to connect with your daughter, here are some tips below. 

The number one question I hear is, "How can I keep my girls from losing their innocence?" The fact is...you can't!

1. Be honest with your story, but first, be at peace with your story

Forgive yourself for mistakes you made, and give yourself grace for making those choices. Mistakes are key in life. We learn how to grow, what to do, what not to do, and most importantly how to have compassion for those who are where we once were. Memories still creep in my mind of my dark days, so I remember to tell myself that I am forgiven and it’s been forgotten. When the time is right, speak to your daughters about your experiences and lessons you learned. My daughters are 6 and 7, but they already know their mommy dated a bad guy who was very mean to her, and as a bonus, they have a wonderful father who shows them exactly the type of man to be with. It’s ok to save the sex, drugs, and rock and roll until later years, but know that your story has the power to heal, and it begins at home. 

2. Unconditional love is key

It is without doubt that we all love our children more than life itself, and I believe daughters take up an extra special place in our hearts. We know that we love her unconditionally, but do we treat always her like it? Do we ever ice her out when she makes a mistake? Punish her when she tells the truth? We have made it a rule in our home that our children are never punished when they tell the truth. While I understand we are still in the easy years of this (lying about hitting or playing with another’s toy), those little things matter because they will trust us with the big things. Setting a firm foundation that your love is unconditional upon her choices or behavior sets the tone for whether she comes to you willingly with her problem or hides it hoping you don’t find out. 

3. Spend time with her

I have 5 children, so one-on-one time is hard to come by, but I do my best to employ others around me (my sister and my mom) to help shower my girls with “special” time. Take her to coffee, shopping, play a soccer game, get on the floor and play with dolls. Anything to let her know that you love her and value her company enough to give her quality time. 

4. Show a good marriage

If you made a good choice in a mate, this is easy. If you made a bad choice, you need to pray. Making the right choice in the man who you will raise children with is essential, as he is her role model for who she will choose. I’ll admit, the Freudian term “girls marry their fathers” used to weird me out. But when I see my husband and dad together… it resonates AND weirds me out. If you married a good man, show it. Hold his hand, hug and kiss him, tell your daughters what a wonderful father they have. Your children will emulate your marriage or fight against becoming it their entire life, and it is truly your choice. 

5. Be a strong woman

One of my favorite verses in the Bible (and regardless of religious background or preference, this holds true) is “She is clothed in strength and dignity and can laugh without fear of the future.” Being a strong woman means having a solid sense of self, knowledge of your inherent dignity, and most importantly, the capacity to choose joy. When your daughter sees a mother that knows her true worth, who doesn’t cast her pearls before swine (another one of my favorites), and who spends her days bathed in gratitude and joy, she has a strong foundation to build on as she finds her own sense of self.

My goal for my daughters is to cultivate a culture of forgiveness, hope, innocence and wonder for them in a world which constantly pushes them to grow up too fast. 

My goal for my daughters is to cultivate a culture of forgiveness, hope, innocence and wonder for them in a world which constantly pushes them to grow up too fast. I can celebrate their triumphs and joys, hold their hand in times of sadness and heartbreak, and guide them to forgiveness and growth when they do make a mistake. 

I started Girlhood, Cultivated from this story. I have transformed from a girl who grew up too soon to a woman who desires to keep her little girls, just a little while longer. Thank you for visiting my website, and joining this movement, to celebrate the joy, innocence and wonder of girlhood… and to rediscover your own joy in motherhood.

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