Why is my 7 year old daughter worried about her body image?
Written by Dr Helen Wright on 28/06/2012
Q. I am severely concerned about my seven year old and her view of her body. We try to nurture a positive body image and she loves sport and understands the importance of a healthy diet but why on earth is a child so young aware of or worried about the size of her thighs, or think she is fat??? I have tried ignoring, I have tried discussing it but I am worried she is going to end up with an eating disorder and a contorted view of herself.
A. Sadly, it is not at all unusual for young girls to be so aware of their bodies and so critical of them. Unfortunately, even though we try to protect them, they are surrounded in the media, on tv, online and on advertising hoardings, by images of so-called ‘perfect’ female bodies, and this has led young – and very young – people to experience increasing levels of insecurity, feelings of inadequacy and a loss of body confidence. Your daughter is being bombarded by strong, subliminal messages about how she should appear, and she is reacting to these messages in a very predictable way.
You certainly mustn’t ignore what your daughter is saying, and yet you mustn’t despair either. It may seem an impossible task to face up to the overwhelming presence of these images, but people are beginning to wise up to their impact, and you will not be a lone voice. Keep telling your daughter how wonderful and unique she is, and how real beauty comes from within; remind her time and time again that it is who she is that really matters, not what she wears or how she appears. Download the new Parent Pack published by Mediasmart (http://www.mediasmart.org.uk/) which will help you enable her to understand what lies behind the images she sees around her.
A final word of warning: make sure that you are not unconsciously reinforcing the messages she is receiving from the world around her. If you are constantly focusing on your weight or appearance, or on the weight and appearance of others, she will follow your lead. Try your hardest not to do this, and you will set an excellent example for your daughter.
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