Friday, August 19, 2011

Dealing With Kids Who Have a Negative Body Image

I always say that as the years go on, kids are getting meaner and meaner.  My children have come home with some really bad stories of some really rotten things kids have said to them and/or to other kids.  One of the things that make me cringe the most is when boys call girls "fat."  I remember my own experience with this, and I know firsthand that it is absolutely terrible. It's one of my biggest pet peeves and when I hear my own boys say it to their sister or about other people, I get infuriated!

I was a large baby when I was born, 9 lbs. and 2 oz. to be exact, but I was always a small child.  I remember growing up, I was always the smallest one in my class so I always got chosen to do the things that they needed smaller kids to do.  I stayed that way for as long as I can remember. My 2 youngest sons, Joshua and Aiden, are both very small and petite just like I was. I remember starting the 7th grade and it was just an awkward time for me. Other girls had already hit puberty but I was still just a tiny little thing.  I remember the first time I wore a bra to school........I totally didn't need it and it was so tiny that the straps just looked like little pieces of thread so I earned the nickname "Strings."  But over the Summer, I caught up with the rest of the girls and when I came back to school in the 8th grade, I had went from "strings" to full "C's." And it was humiliating. Kids teased me and called me "tissues" and claimed that I stuffed my bra. But nothing was worse than when one of the boys called me FAT.  I will never forget that day. I wasn't fat. I was far from it. But it sent me into a bad bad time of just feeling horrible. I would skip meals to make sure I didn't gain weight and I often made myself vomit after eating. I was obsessed with weighing myself and I hid behind baggy clothes because I was ashamed of my body. And that negative self image followed me all the way through High School and into adulthood. It's something I almost just can't explain. I mean, who cares what other people think, right?! Why would I let someone like that rotten boy affect me for so many years?! I don't have the answer to that but now that I have a girl of my own, I worry for her.

Emma is just beautiful. She is my only girl and I adore her. But I know that she is already very self-conscious because of her size.  My husband's family has some tall women and Emma has definitely inherited those genes. She is several inches taller than Drew, even though he is older than her. At 8 years old, she wears a size 12-14. And when we go to the Doctor, they tell me not to worry because she is just "perfect." But she doesn't see herself that way. She is off the charts in both height and weight and I know she feels weird being only 8 years old and being much bigger than the rest of the girls in her grade.  She often talks about going on a diet so she can be skinny and little like her friends and I absolutely HATE it. She asked me the other day if she could take something so she could stop growing!!! I constantly tell her how beautiful she is and how perfect her body is and that she is exactly how God wanted her to be and she just let's it go in one ear and out the other. I don't know that I have ever seen girls so young with such a negative body image and I just wonder where it comes from.

And then I look around and I wonder if the person to blame is ME.  My daughter has witnessed me going on diet after diet and complaining constantly about my body.  I have led her into believing that the only way you can be beautiful is if you are thin.  And I feel terrible. And I wonder if it is reversible. If I stop being so negative about myself and start really building her up and make her realize that it is who she is on the inside that makes her who she is, I wonder if it would make a difference.

Have you ever had to experience any of this?  What's your advice?


  1. I haven't had this experience, but I think your idea is definitely worth doing. Whether it's kids or you or something else that's causing her to doubt herself, it can only be helpful to hear positive things as often as possible. I wish you the best with this; it's something I worry about for my own daughter, who is only 2 right now.

  2. I'm struggling with this too. I have always had a horrible body image issues and I still struggle with it. My daughter is 4 and I know she will start noticing my attitude soon if she hasn't already. I worry. I don't have any advice, but I have told my husband I will look at counseling for ME because I need it. If anything for my daughter.
    ((HUGS)) It's tough these days.

  3. I have struggled with body image ever since I was a kid. It got harder as I grew up and heard all of the negativity around me (kids really are mean) and felt the need to conform to societies parameters for normal. Needless to say just encourage your daughter to love herself and make sure you talk about how youd love her no matter what she looks like. Now that I have daughters I am hopeful that by providing positive role models and trying not to obsess over my body in front of them that it will help steer them away from all of the negativity. The thing that sucks is that I know they will see photos and hear from friends about how skinny this person is and how that person is overweight and all I can hope for is that in the end my voice will drown out the others in their heads.
    I think your daughter has a great start because you are aware of body image being a problem for girls and therefore you have a leg up (and so does your daughter) and all I can say is keep your head up because our kids listen to us more than we think lol. I also have teenagers and the one thing they told me is that despite all of the negative things they heard growing up from other kids and society that in the back of their minds they always heard my voice nagging them that its not about what others think its about what they believe about themselves because belief is a powerful thing.


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