Blog Parenting

Raising A Tween Girl

This week, we had some challenging conversations centred around body image, hygiene, health, and fostering a positive relationship with our bodies. You might be wondering why these discussions were tough. Well, it all began with Miss 10 excitedly unveiling a bag of new activewear. I had come across an adorable activewear set on sale at Target, and seeing that she had outgrown her previous activewear, I was easily convinced to purchase it.

After trying it on, she called me into her room, exclaiming, “Mum, I love it, but look at my stomach! Mum, I hate my stomach; I want to chop it off. I’ve been exercising for a week now, and I can’t get rid of it.” This deeply saddened me. While she adored the set and wished to wear it as it was, without a t-shirt, I could sense that it made her uncomfortable. At that moment, I didn’t know how to respond. I suggested she could wear a t-shirt over the sports crop, but I could see the disappointment in her eyes, realising it wasn’t the right thing to say.

Later, I sat down with her on her bed and began to explain, “Look, you’re growing, and your body will go through numerous changes over the next few years. It’s completely normal.” Our family hasn’t always had the healthiest eating habits, but we’re actively working on improving them. I proposed we evaluate our food choices and make some positive changes. Additionally, I emphasised the importance of loving the body we’re in, which involves taking care of it through healthy habits like exercise and being mindful of our eating habits.

For a 10-year-old girl, having a lunch filled with just snacks and sweets might seem ideal, but we discussed how a balanced and nourishing meal is a more loving choice for our bodies.

Sitting on the edge of her bed, we delved into the concept of self-love and how it reflects in our attitudes toward our bodies. Our conversation covered a wide range of topics, leaving no aspect of self-acceptance untouched.

Parenting a tween girl can be both rewarding and challenging, especially when it comes to addressing body image issues. As they transition from childhood to adolescence, many tween girls may experience feelings of self-doubt and dissatisfaction with their bodies. The influence of social media, societal standards, and peer pressure can exacerbate these concerns, leading to long-lasting effects on their self-esteem and mental well-being. As parents, it is crucial to create a supportive environment that fosters a positive body image. Let’s explore effective parenting strategies to help your tween embrace their uniqueness, build self-confidence, and develop a healthy relationship with their body.

The foundation of any strong parent-child relationship is open communication. Create a safe space for your tween to express thoughts and feelings about their body without judgment. Encourage her to share her insecurities and concerns, and actively listen to what she has to say. Avoid dismissing her feelings or comparing her to others, as this can further damage her self-esteem. Instead, validate her emotions and let her know that you understand and support her through her journey.

As a parent, your actions speak louder than words. Be mindful of how you talk about your own body and appearance. Recently my daughter overheard me talking to my partner about losing the baby weight that I gained during my pregnancy with her younger sister.  Avoid negative self-talk or making disparaging remarks about your looks. Instead, focus on promoting body positivity and self-acceptance, sure you can think these things and tell your partner what you’re thinking but be mindful of how you’re saying it around your tween. Celebrate the things your body can do and emphasise the importance of overall health and well-being over appearance. This is where we talked about true beauty and the meaning of where true beauty lies.

Help your tween daughter develop critical thinking skills to decipher the unrealistic beauty standards often perpetuated by the media. Expose her to diverse body shapes, sizes, and backgrounds in various forms of media. Discuss the use of editing and filters in social media platforms, and highlight the difference between reality and what is often presented online. By teaching media literacy, you empower her to view herself and others with a more balanced and compassionate perspective.

Rather than focusing on exercise as a means to change her body, encourage physical activities that promote joy and well-being. Participate in fun activities together, such as dancing, hiking, or playing sports. This can help shift the focus from appearance to the positive feelings that come from being active and healthy. Recently we started training for tennis season together and she has even suggested going on girl walks together, which I love.

Teach your tween girl about balanced nutrition, emphasising the importance of nourishing her body with wholesome foods. Avoid labelling foods as “good” or “bad,” as this can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, promote moderation and mindful eating habits. Encourage her to listen to her body’s hunger and fullness cues, and never enforce restrictive diets or eating behaviours. This is an area we have focussed on due to excess eating because of boredom. At times she’s eating for the sake of something to do and not because she’s hungry.

Help your daughter develop positive self-talk by guiding her to recognise and challenge negative thoughts. Teach her to reframe negative statements into more positive and constructive ones. For instance, if she says, “I hate my body,” encourage her to rephrase it as “I am learning to love and appreciate my body for all it does for me.”

While compliments on appearance may seem harmless, placing too much emphasis on external beauty can inadvertently reinforce the idea that appearance is the most crucial aspect of self-worth. Instead, focus on complimenting your daughter’s inner qualities, such as her kindness, intelligence, creativity, or perseverance. This helps her understand that her value extends far beyond her physical appearance.

If your tween girl’s body image issues are causing significant distress or affecting her daily life, consider seeking professional help. A qualified therapist or counsellor can provide valuable support and guidance in navigating these challenges and building a healthier body image.

As parents, it’s essential to be a positive influence in our tween girls’ lives. By fostering open communication, leading by example, promoting media literacy, and encouraging self-acceptance, we can help them develop a healthy body image and resilient self-confidence. By providing unconditional love and support, we empower our daughters to embrace their uniqueness and appreciate their bodies for the incredible vessels they are. Remember that this journey may take time, but with patience and dedication, you can help your tween girl grow into a confident and self-assured young woman.

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