How to Talk to Pre-Teens About Having a Healthy Body Image


How to Talk to Pre-Teens About Having a Healthy Body Image

momanddaughterDuring the preteen years, your child’s body is growing and changing in ways that can make her feel uncomfortable in her own skin. Puberty can leave kids a bit heavier than they were before and can wreak havoc with their already-delicate self-esteem until their body image is skewed to an unhealthy point. Talking to your preteen about anything can be a bit difficult, as she is learning to navigate the world of adult social interactions while wrestling with the physical and hormonal changes that accompany the onset of puberty. Still, talking to your daughter about healthy body image is essential.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Media

Even if you’re committed to limiting the amount of time your child spends in front of the television and monitoring the type of content she has access to, the grip of the media and the power pop culture has over girls’ body image can’t be denied. It’s important that you realize that any degree of exposure to the media, the sexualization of women’s bodies and the incessant emphasis placed on the value of attractiveness will affect the way your child views her own body. Take the time to discuss the media’s depiction of appropriate size and narrow definition of beauty with your daughter, rather than trying to shield her from those images altogether. You will not be able to keep every trace of this influence from her, and attempting to do so at the expense of having real conversations on the subject deprives her of the sane, reasonable voice she needs to manage the way she accepts those images.

Be Supportive

While your preteen is busy slamming doors and dealing with the emotional turbulence that is part and parcel of early puberty, it may not seem like she wants or needs your support. Regardless of how she may act, that simply isn’t true. Your tween is still looking to you for support and for advice, even when she doesn’t seem to be absorbing it. Make sure that you work hard to foster an open, accepting relationship with your preteen so that she can come to you when she’s feeling down on herself and so the two of you can talk about those feelings in a productive, helpful way.

Model a Healthy Body Image

You can’t expect your child to be the poster child for healthy acceptance of her body if all she hears from you is constant bashing of your body. Even if you don’t feel particularly confident in the way your body looks and aren’t sure that your own body image is particularly healthy, it’s essential that you try to model those behaviors for your child. Along the way, you may even gain the healthy and confident perspective that you’re working so hard to exhibit, which is a good thing!

Take Opportunities When They Arise

When preteens are dealing with the throes of puberty and trying to navigate the social structure of her world outside of the house, it may not feel like there are many opportunities for the heart-to-heart talks you shared when she was younger. It becomes important at this stage to seize those opportunities as they come, because your daughter does still need to talk things out with you, even if she seems too busy to sit down for a long talk.

Compliment Her on More Than Her Appearance

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that in order to foster a healthy sense of self-esteem and a great body image, you should compliment your preteen’s appearance. In fact, you’ll want to make the effort to praise more than her appearance so that she understands that her value lies in more than the way she looks. When girls are constantly complimented on their looks to the exclusion of all else, they grow to believe that their only value is aesthetic. The pressure of maintaining the appearance that they believe is their only worth can be devastating, actually damaging her confidence and sense of self-worth in the long run.

Explain That Puberty is an Inherently Awkward Time

Your child might be getting older, but she still carries the self-absorption inherent to childhood and, as such, may have a difficult time understanding that puberty is difficult for everyone. You may even have to share a few embarrassing stories about your own struggles with coming of age to help her understand that most people don’t feel their best about their bodies during this phase of development, but that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and should be appreciated for their strength and health above all else.

Thanks to Paul Taylor, Babysitting Jobs



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