My 6.5 year old dd was brushing her hair after her bath and while looking in the mirror she said, "I wish I was thinner" while sucking in her stomach. She is all of 40 lbs and skin and bone. She eats great and I can't imagine her changing that. In every other way she is a typical little girl so I'm trying hard not to worry but it still bugs me a lot. I don't remember ever thinking I wanted to be thinner at that age. She is very much into looking at her reflection and is extremely perceptive. I have tried really hard to shield her from certain media and toys but obviously that wasn't good enough. Do you think this is normal and nothing too serious? She has also started sucking in her stomach every time she gets dressed (I asked why and she said because it was funny) so I am getting more worried. We told her it doesn't look healthy and that she's beautiful the way she is...I don't know what else to do!
worried and disturbed
First, don't panic. Chances are good she is parroting something she watched other girls do, and I wouldn't assume it means much of anything. My girls are 5 and 7, and are just starting to notice (meaning point out) differences in body type, and how *they* are-- fat? thin? strong? Also, they stick their bellies out to see what they look like if they were fat.
I would ask her if another friend thinks the same thing. Carefully word the question so she is less likely to suggest you think something is wrong.
Listen to yourself, especially when you are on the phone, or chatting with your friend or sister. What do you say about yourself? What do you do when you get dressed in the morning? Sometimes we miss the little self-depracating comments we make out of habit.
We do talk about body type in our house as the topic arises. I am chubbier than is healthy. But also chubby does not necessarily equal weak. And thin does not mean strong and healthy. Go ahead and talk about body type in a healthy way. People are shaped differently, and it may or may not have to do with health.
It almost seems like body weight/type/health is almost as difficult a subject to talk about as sexuality, but it needs to happen. And their curiosity about body shape and what it means is just as innocent usually as their questions about the other.
I have always tried very hard to not let my kids hear me say anything bad about myself. They do have some old barbies and princess movies that I really don't want to give up, partly because they love them and partly because I do too! I don't really feel that they are to blame anyway but I know some people out there think it does damage. I know just living in society will cause these issues to arise as well so I can't completely protect them no matter what I do.
Also, though, a simple awareness of what one's own body looks like, and how others look like, and we we compare to others starts about now. Not necessarily the comment your daughter made, but a simple body awareness, as well as peer awareness-- what other people are doing and are they like her or are they different?
So I think there is more than one thing here, possibly--a natural, budding interest in her own body, and how it compares to others, and, secondly, the value judgments come with it. These *can* be helpful-- we learn what is healthy, what is strong, what makes us fat or thin, why people are the way they are. Kids become self-aware, self-reflective, and the things they noticed before but never gave much thought to are very much in their mind.
Sorry to cut this off. Bedtime--gotta go.
first of all dont panic. this is normal. v. normal. this is kids reflecting our society. it is everywhere so you cant keep your kids away from it.
dont throw their barbies and dolls away. i am guessing they have nothing to do with this.
it has everything to do with peer.
it is also the beginning of more and more self awareness.
my dd also went through this at 7. she has the opposite problem. she is tall and buxom. she would suck her tummy in and try all sorts of things. we finally talked and i asked her what she sees herself as. is she satisfied with that? i showed her historically what the signs of beauty were and what does she think of todays themes. these were not forced conversations but just casual i wonder kinds.
you have to be careful and not make too big a deal about it.
i used to make jokes when dd would say something. in your case i'd say something like - what? thinner than you already are. be careful. if you get any more thinner i might have to tie a string around you so you dont fly away.
i have found that dd sometimes gets the 'idea' through jokes than serious conversation.
i've had 'mama am i thin' and i'd go over what thin was and that no i didnt think she was thin, neither did i think she was fat either. she was chubby or buxom.
today at almost 10 that hasnt come up lately.
however we have looked at the dove campaign. and what is considered beautiful today.
bottom line - for my dd what really helped her was making up her mind what she thought of herself. and was there a good or bad about it.
please do not throw out the stuff- the plastic doll haters think there is something to it- fact is eating disorders have been happening prior to the invention of Barbie and mass media, so don't start removing things-think what message that would send to her if you did so
as others have said, I'm sure someone planted this idea and she is just acting on it- making a big deal about it is the last thing you want to do, don't go over board and starting having to do something drastic, you said nothing about eating patterns changing with her (that's good)- start by being casual, continue good eating habits and don't draw overt attention that dominants every conversation, listen and it this point don't panic and don't make a daily conversation that draws overbearing condemnation into the picture-key factor is to just be there, have open conversations and good listening skills on your end-set positive examples on what is healthy not just pretty, this can often be done without saying a word-actions speak louder!
Yeah, if her eating habits aren't changing, she is probably just self-awareness, curiosity, and peer-awareness. Just the cue to open dialogue and listen,and not overreact. By "open dialogue" I don't necessarily mean about eating disorders, whatever, but kids this age are curious and don't always ask the questions they are thinking. "Am I thin or fat? Why is that lady (or in this house, me!) fat? What makes me strong? Why does my sister have bigger feet than me, even though I'm older? Is my friend right when she says _______?" And onward.
Just like sex talks, talks about body shapes (including theirs) and awareness should be about where the kids are at and not far beyond, and curiosity should be treated as a totally normal and natural process of growing from a little kid to a big one.
I don't know if you have been watching the Olympics in your house, but that's the perfect segue into a talk about what it means to be fit and strong and healthy. Too skinny is not healthy. Gabby Douglas is STRONG and amazing! She works hard. I'm sure she eats well and burns it off in exercising and training.
American Girl has some great self-help type books for girls that she might really like.
No princess or Barbie fans in this house, but I doubt that's really the problem.
We just try to emphasize that being fit and healthy, getting plenty of exercise and eating good foods are the important things and people come in all shapes and sizes.
I would agree that a child this young is parroting something she's heard, either at home, on TV, at a friend's house, or at school. She's seen someone or something do what she is doing. See if you can figure out the influence and modify it. She's so young.
Here are some good resources for going deeper with this issue, may be too old for your DD, but maybe for later or to suggest for her school in the future:
Miss Representation, a 2011 film and study guide about how the media's misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.
Killing Us Softly, Jean Kilbourne's classic film on women and advertising.
And, Peggy Orenstein's great book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter.