Jennifer Pearce

Hi there! My name is Jennifer and I am one of the newest members to MomTalk and JustKiddin'. I am a 40-year-old mother who works outside the home. I live with my husband of eleven years and our two young daughters. After being a stay-at-home-mother for six years, I re-entered the workforce when my husband was briefly unemployed. When he returned to work, I chose to keep working due to economics and the age of my daughters at the time. I now work as the advertising manager of a community newspaper and appreciate how working has gotten me much more involved in my community. However, I often miss the opportunity to spend more time with my daughters, or to volunteer more time with their school and activities. My older daughter is a 10-year-old fourth grader, and my younger daughter is a 6-year-old kindergartener. Their many activities and my husband’s complicated work schedule make scheduling our number one family challenge. He works a rotating shift in a retail store that includes many nights and weekends. We struggle to preserve our time together as a family and make the most of it, while still finding time to accomplish our individual goals and pursue our favorite interests. My interests include reading, writing and photography. I love taking family photos and completed a Project 365 in 2010, taking a photo a day for the year. It was a wonderful experience to document our life for a year and appreciate all the little pieces of it. I am currently working to put the 365 pictures into a scrapbook…if I can just find the time. I look forward to sharing our journey with you here on JustKiddin'!

kristen-paulsen

“Am I fat?”…Dealing with Self Image and your Tween

research_chart_girls_body_image 

Being the mother a girl tween has proven to be more complicated than I’d ever had imagined.  Sometimes I think the issues are the same and then I’m reminded how quickly our children are growing up and I think it was faster than I ever grew up.  I feel old thinking about the differences between my generation and my child’s. 

This past week my daughter again asked me if she were fat.  It reminded me of the week before when I was volunteering in her class and another girl came up to me and said she was too fat.  (she actually was,  in my opinion,  too thin)  I was shocked….9 and 10 year old girls worried about their body images!   

When I asked why she felt that way and why she asked such a question, her response was just as startling.  The girls all talk about their weight and how to stay skinny.  I asked if any of the boys had teased her or said anything and she said not to her.  (Did she mean perhaps to others?!) 

There are so many great books and articles about raising a girl with a positive self image.  Many of the suggestions indicate that we shouldn’t say anything about our own weight within earshot of our tween girls/boys.  We should focus on the character rather than the outside image.  Live by example.  Make sure you are modeling healthy eating habits and exercise routines.  Whether we want to carry the burden or not, our daughters will follow their mother’s example. 

Although I’m a mother of a tween girl, I also have a growing boy who will one day enter this stage as well.  Boys are not exempt from issues with their body image.  I know my little brother had issues with eating that started with a wrestling coach needing him to weigh under normal guidelines to “take the advantage” because of his height.  Without knowing it, he instigated an eating disorder for my brother.  We must be careful of our children’s influences and look for signs of possible issues such as picking at food, a change in eating habits, vocalizing more displeasure with how they look, becoming “look” obsessed or more focused on outside “perfection” than on building positive character traits. 

Look for the positive!  Heaven only knows we are all affected by media imaging (which is all reconfigured, which our tweens don’t understand), we are affected by comments from parents, siblings, peers, etc.  With all the potential negative influences on our children’s self esteem, it is important to build our children up.  Encourage through example.  Build character which will in turn build confidence and self-esteem.    The following articles offer great suggestions, ideas and more insight on this subject. 

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3749179

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-10-12-body-image_N.htm ,

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/youd-be-so-pretty-if/200906/tween-girls-and-their-bodies-what-can-moms-do

Have you had to field any questions about body image with your tween?  If so, how did you handle it?  Suggestions?  Thoughts?

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One Comment on ““Am I fat?”…Dealing with Self Image and your Tween”

  • Trinyan May 21st, 2010 9:01 am

    Great post Kristen. What a difficult and sad topic. I think many women contribute to the problem for tweens because so many of us (myself included) still continue to wrestle with this problem in our own lives. We can’t give what we don’t have.

    I saw an article reviewing the research over the past 10 years on the topic of early adolescent body image. It covered individual, social, and familial factors that led tweens to be at risk. It also covered the research on remedial and preventative action that can be taken. I’m not able to post the pdf file here, but email me and I’ll send it to you.

    The research points to strong family relations, positive parenting styles, and various forms of social interaction as the best thing you can do to help your tween develop a good body image.

    You won’t be surprised to see that organized sports can really help with the problem. But I was surprised to see that some sports, if they are focused on weight or aesthetics, can have just the opposite effect. Dance, gymnastics, wrestling, etc. can contribute to body image problems because of the pressure to weigh or look a certain way to excel. (Obviously, that’s not to say that kids shouldn’t participate in those activities.)

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