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Crap, it's begun. DD12 saying she's 'not skinny' and crying about swimwear - any advice?(19 Posts)
I find this unbelievably depressing but DD1 who is generally a healthy, happy 12YO who loves cooking and food, is an ideal weight for her age and height and, until recently, seemed very comfortable in her own skin, seems to be developing body image issues.
We went out to choose a swimsuit today for our holiday and she got really sad about the whole thing. She didn't like anything she saw and when I asked if she'd like to try a bikini (one of those sporty ones like a crop top and little shorts) she said they were for people who were skinny or didn't care what they looked like in bikinis and felt comfortable whatever. I'm, perhaps naively, quite shocked - I've never heard her say anything like that about herself and we've always been careful what we say about body size/shape around the kids, there's no talk of diets and we don't comment on people's body shape. I've noticed her talking a bit more about skinniness since she started secondary and saying there are girls there who talk a lot about diets etc but I didn't realise how much of an issue it had become. When we got home and she tried on the swimsuit we ended up buying, she got really teary and sad about the whole thing. I hate the thought of her not being able to just splash about and have fun in an unselfconscious way as she always has until now.
I've tried talking to her about it and asking what she means by skinny, who she is comparing herself with, reminded her that she is the right weight and size for her height and that swimwear is meant to fit her not vice versa, but nothing I say seems to make any difference.
WTF can I say to start addressing this and make her feel better? Would dearly love some advice
Poor thing - this is so hard. First of all I think you need to have a really earnest chat about bodies and self-esteem and point out all the people that your daughter knows and loves and how they come in a range of shapes and sizes. Also show her how pictures online and in magazines, even on social media are doctored to make the person look more attractive, which leads people to aspire to impossible levels of beauty. You could also find some self-esteem for teens books and encourage her to read them. It is a tough thing that so many young people and adults struggle with.
Oh my word, I started searching on instagram for body positive accounts for teens and the first thing that came up was some horrible semi self-harm account featuring virtually nude teens and a picture of one with a knife appearing to cut her tongue. Bloody hell. Fortunately DD isn't allowed instagram yet but no wonder so many teens have such rubbish body image.
If anyone does know of any good body positive websites for teens I'd be grateful for a recommendation
@AltheaVestr1t Thanks so much, that is helpful. We did a bit of the talking about people we care about etc And I got her a 'big life journal' recently that is all about positive self-talk but I maybe need to make sure she is actually doing the stuff it recommends
Not teen-specific, but there's some good stuff on the Dove campaign for real beauty pages.
Have you looked at swim suits on the boohoo website? They have started to promote positive body image with minimal airbrush. There are models on there of all sorts of shapes and sizes with even the smaller models showing stretchmarks, scars, cellulite etc.
Yes it's bloody depressing. I would steer her away from online if you can and just stick to positive honest conversations. I do always ensure I tell dd3 (13) that she looks nice, obvs not you look thin but stuff like that jumper brings out your eyes, I really like that top with the trousers etc. Stuff that makes them feel good about their choices without it being about their size.
It sounds like this is just the awareness they start to get about body image and it's really driven by peer interaction. Sometimes it tips into serious issues with food so just in case, a few things to be aware of - Keep an eye on her eating. You're looking for her restricting food first of all. They can be v. Cunning, if she goes to a friends and tells you she had tea there then check with the parents without telling her. Dd has a friend recovering from an eating disorder and she went right through the script, telling them she wasn't hungry at lunch, telling her parents she'd eaten at friends, telling us she'd eaten with parents and over exercising. It was actually easier for her to be treated than a 16 yr old, she's still a child and could be compelled to act in a certain way, once the extent of the issue was known. Over exercising is another thing to watch out for, easy to feel assured they are being active when actually they are eating as little as possible and doing twice as much. And finally watch out for long sleeve tops and no shorts. Body image and self harm go hand in hand. Lots of girls use cutting and you won't see it because they cover it with clothes. It's only when it's a blazing day and they won't take off their sweatshirt that people catch on.
Find the YouTube channel where people photo shop themselves, sit with her get her to see that normal is very different to photos.
@Lucky08 I think I must be looking at the wrong bit of the site?! Can't see anything for children/teens and all the pix seem totally airbrushed...
@pandafunfactory Thank you, that's helpful. Sorry about your DD's friend, that sounds awful.
Try @chachipowerproject on instagram and similar accounts.
Chachi has plenty of content for adults but links to specialists for children /teens
Thanks @palavah will take a look
Gosh it's scary isn't it. You know, I think what I would want to do first is just ask her all about it and offer absolutely zero advice or opinions or try to solve the problem. Because basically no matter what you do it's not going to be as powerful as those girls at school. See if she can open up to you about how she's feeling, where/who it comes from, what she thinks about that, what her other friends think, what she thinks about society etc. And just listen and validate. Eventually she might start to offer ideas herself about alternative perspectives and solutions but don't push it. Keep the lines of communication open and let her feel heard. Good luck x
Show her this. Sorry don't know how to do a fancy link!
I think a lot of the positive body image stuff is well meaning but concentrates on the wrong thing, it's still about looks. Does she do any sport? To counteract the obsession with image she needs to be thinking about her body as a machine or tool that does things. If she doesn't do sport could you go running with her or some other physical activity that gets her away from a screen and starting to use her body. If she's fit and strong that's far better than showing her images of women with stretch marks etc.
Thanks v much for all your messages, much appreciated and I missed when I last responded.
@palavah - yes, she loved that book as did other DD (we really liked the film too)
@CountFosco Yes, I take your point re the body image stuff. We do exercise, lots of long walks together at weekends and we've been doing Joe Wicks every weekday throughout lockdown. I'd say she is now pretty fit and strong but she sort of seems to have lost interest though and is a bit half-hearted about the whole thing. I used to do a lot of running until last year so might try getting back into it and taking her with me, could do couch to 5k with her. She's not great at stickability, gets a bit fed up when it gets harder and she's not much into team sports. I've always been pretty hopeless on that front too but I'd hoped when she got to secondary school that she might get into it there. She does a lot of music so that takes up a fair amount of her spare time.
@Thistly I will check out that book
@onesteptwosteps thank you, that's a very good point. I probably need to stop talking a bit and let her speak. She just seems very unhappy all of a sudden.
Thanks again to everyone who has posted.
Re unhappy. Hormones are a bugger. It is normal for teens to have ups and downs. You need to cuddle her through the downs and enjoy the ups.