The weekend just gone, while we searched for autumn colours and crunchy leaves, we also found a fabulous playground as well. The kid played ofr a long time, hopping too and fro from one piece of eqoipment to the next. Swinging, hanging, balancing and jumping. What she likes to call ‘getting strong’.

Recently (while practicing the splits) she ernestly told me that she wanted to be a ‘skinny girl’. I think my jaw hit the ground and I looked so shocked she thought I was cross.
I wasnt. Not at all. But I was concerned and saddened that at 5 year old and not yet in school, the concept of body image was already a part of her life.

We talked about it. The use of terms like ‘thin’ and ‘skinny’. How in this family we prefer not to use them. Of what we want for ourselves and our bodies. The idea that we want to be strong and fit. Flexible and energetic.

I’m not sure if any of it sunk in. Or if I made a bigger deal out of it than was necessary. Do you tackle it head on, guns blazing. Or just accept its something they hear, repeat but dont really understand. Should I have just ignored it completely and changed the subject?

How do I raise my daughter to be strong, both physically and mentally? To be driven but not overly competitive. To take care of herself and her body, but not to be obsessed with self image? I want her to enjoy playing and climbing and using her scooter and bike in activities for themselves. Not toward an end goal.

In the end I think all I can do is to instil a sense of worth that is not tied to physical looks or capabilities. A unshakable sense of self esteem and confidence in themselves.

user Homelife

3 Replies

  1. maybe on cartoons? i mean, there are some cartoons talking about image, who knows…
    here, the concept skinny’s something (i think) unknown for her, though she often talks about her “fat cousin” or like the other day she said to milo “oh, i see you’ve eaten a lot today” (poor milo, he didn’t know what to answer!). wendie’s hyper athletic, thanks to a good genetics (from dad, of course, i didn’t have that chance), and i hope she’ll always find she’s a beautiful body. in the end the most important is to have a healthy body, and i always talk her about it (this or that’s good for the skin, or because it has vitamines, etc). xx

  2. Oh gosh I would have been shocked too. It seems like you handled it beautifully. My daughter is just 18 months and I am already thinking about the way we/I speak about my body/diet in front of her. It is so good to see a real life example of a healthy discussion about the subject. What a gorgeous and happy girl in the photos.

  3. This is such a difficult issue. We’ve kind of managed to avoid it generally, and hopefully the girls (and boys too) all enjoy an active, outdoor life and have sports they like too which I could see them enjoying into later life. And Harry and I are excellent role models when it comes to not giving a toss what we look like or what anyone else thinks/says about what we look like! Having said that Theo has hit puberty (with an unpleasant and lingering aftershock!) and has more hair ‘product’ now than either Harry or I have ever owned! Plus for the first time ever there’s now a hair dryer in the house! He’s far too bothered about his appearance these days! I was also really shocked a few weeks back when another Mum asked me if Venetia had ever talked about ‘thigh gaps’! Her little girl (a friend of V’s) had come home worrying that she didn’t have a thigh gap like Venetia’s! It was so unexpected and crazy that it was kind of laughable! Apparently another girl, with an older sister (clearly with quite a few body insecurities – chins came out as another concern as we delved deeper) had commented to Venetia’s friend about the thigh gap issue. Venetia had never heard the term before (it wasn’t one I’d ever really heard before or paid attention to either) and didn’t really understand what it was all about. So i probably ended up making more of it than I needed to, but we did have a really good conversation about the whole issue and how happy and healthy were the important things and how some people let their appearance and how they feel about their appearance affect their life in a detrimental way, sometimes with just really simple little things like never swimming because they’re worried about how they look in a swimming costume. It was a good conversation to have. And I think sometimes we’re too wary, as parents, about getting things out in the open, we sometimes think it’s better not to draw attention to things or put ideas in their heads – but our children are surrounded by so many outside influences which are hard to avoid these days (unless you live a very secluded and unconnected life) so ideas will be planted at some point, and may grow and fester on their own without us realising it, they may already be there, much better to get things out in the open and make communication about such things a habit and a norm before the terrors of puberty! Sorry, super long comment, but this is an area which I do feel very strongly about! I could go on more – really scary how much sport drops off when girls hit their teenage years for instance…

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