She’s a novelist, a freelance writer and a nutritionist. She’s also a runway model, culinary coach and fantastic blogger. She’s August McLaughlin, and many of you are familiar with her work with the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest.
Today, I get to interview August on Coach Daddy. I’m honored to call her a blogging friend. I had a few questions for August, a health and sexuality expert, as the dad of three girls.
Please welcome August, and be sure to check out her work.
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CD: First, I’ll call on your expertise in the field of health. My girls play soccer, and no other sports, other than running (for Marie, the 13-year-old). What would you suggest they do in the offseason to best take care of themselves?
AM: Great for them! Team sports are awesome for girls. In the offseason, I’d recommend engaging in an active, enjoyable lifestyle. They don’t need to be involved with sports continually to stay healthy and fit, and the break may do them well.
Less time in front of the TV and more time playing outside is a great way to promote fitness. Go on weekly family hikes or daily strolls around your neighborhood. Throw a frisbee or football at a local park. Engage the whole family in a healthy lifestyle. The same goes for healthy eating. When the entire family eats well (mostly whole foods, balanced meals, etc.) and stays generally active, everyone benefits and the habits are likely to stick long-term.
CD: Have things changed for girls since you were little? I mean, in the expectations for everything from what they should play with to how they should look to how they should dream?
AM: On one hand, there are continually more opportunities for girls. On the other, there’s more pressure and expectation to do it all, have it all (materially) and look a certain, typically unrealistic way. Research from 2012 shows that 80 percent of 10-year-old girls have dieted, a path that worsens body image and contributes to stress, anxiety, depression, poor academic performance and obesity. Since I was a teen in the 90s, eating diagnoses have doubled from 2 to 5 percent of Americans; girls are particularly susceptible.
While we can’t change what girls see in society, we can work to create uplifting home environments, devoid of negative influences, such as magazines that promote harsh ideals and dieting. Serving as positive role models and having conversations also makes a huge, positive difference.
CD: At what age should girls learn about their sexuality?
AM: All children should learn about their sexuality from a very young age. Ideally, they learn from toddler-hood on – but it’s never too late to start! It’s important to use correct terms for their sexual anatomy – i.e., vagina, versus “privates.” Sometime between grades 2 and 4, kids tend to start asking where babies come from. Dr. Laura Berman recommends responding to these questions with the simple, honest answers based on your value system.
When a second-grader asks where babies come from, for example, you could say, “From the uterus, a special place in a mom’s tummy.” When they ask how the baby gets there, briefly explain intercourse.
Adolescent girls should learn about their capacity for sexual pleasure during adolescence and self-stimulation—topics often lacking from sex ed. And all children should learn the difference between healthy versus unhealthy touch.
For more on talking to kids about sex, you can read my article on the National Eating Disorders Association blog: Boosting Children’s Body Image and Emotional Wellbeing By Taking the Taboo Out of Sex-Talk.
CD: If I had boys, I’d be the one to have ‘the talk’ with my sons. My girls have a smart and loving mother to handle things like that. What role should a dad play after the fact?
AM: Dads tend not to discuss sexuality with their daughters, but doing so can really help! It makes helps girls understand what boys and men experience sex-wise and makes it easier for them to discuss sex with partners. I’d avoid negative stereotypes, however. An acquaintance recently told me that he told his daughter that boys “only have one thing on their mind, and that’s sex.” Girls and boys experience hormonal shifts and intense sexual desire at varying degrees throughout their youth, and sexual desire varies significantly among individuals. They should learn to embrace their sexuality, not ignore it.
Letting girls know that they can talk to you and ask questions about sex without judgment can go a long way. If you don’t know the answers, seek them from qualified sources. Learning together can be a beautiful thing.
CD: I tell my girls they’re good, gritty, skilled soccer players. I also tell them they’re beautiful. I want them to have a healthy body image, too. What can I do ?
AM: Good for you! Telling girls they’re beautiful as is can enhance their body image, as long as their physical appearance is not overly emphasized. Focusing more on skills, personalities and interests than aesthetics is vital key for promoting positive body image. Setting a positive example by not shunning your own or others’ bodies also helps, along with respecting women overall.
CD: Lastly, what advice do you have for a dad like me?
AM: Stay awesome! From the sounds of it, you are a wonderful father who genuinely cares for his girls’ wellbeing. I wish more dads asked the types of questions you have.
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August McLaughlin is an award-winning health and sexuality writer and creator of the empowering female sexuality brand Girl Boner. Her work has been featured by LIVESTRONG.com, Healthy Aging magazine, the Nest Woman, DAME Magazine and more. As a certified nutritionist with specializations in eating disorders and sports nutrition, August has taught the importance of healthy lifestyle habits, positive body image and self-acceptance to women of all ages for over eight years. She is represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and loves connecting with readers throughout social media. www.augustmclaughlin.com