young girls and self esteem - please help!!

blackcats13August 24, 2008

Man I hope you guys have some good advice for me. DSD is almost 10. She's not "skinny". She has a bit of a tummy and as she so sadly pointed out today, "it jiggles and it's fat". It's not. She is hugely affected by marketing. She cries a lot. I've never lied to her and we had a good (I hope) discussion this evening about all of this. I said 'I've never lied to you and I won't now. You are NOT fat. You are not super skinny. You are normal." She shook her head vehemently. Then we talked about her looking at other women in her life for beauty, not advertising. Her mom is curvy/heavy, my sis (who she adores) is very curvy, her dad's sis is very curvy, we talked about how all of these women were so beautiful. I could tell by her response that she really does think they are beautiful, but to her, she is fat and ugly. She's not fat. She is a little chubby. Like many children today she needs to be out doing not inside on the pc. And in all honesty, she is just fine the way she is, it's only a problem to her.

DH has taken her out "jogging" a couple times (her idea) but she gives up after a block. No amount of explaining how you start small and build up makes a difference. She has decided she can't do it. We only have her weekends, so have no say in after school activities.

We do limit her pc time, we bought her a bike and moved to a neighborhood where she could ride it around without 100% supervision. We always eat healthy meals when she is with us and talk about health, not weight. I know this is "normal" that this starts so much younger then when I was her age. I know she gets teased at school, but she does have several friends and likes her school. I had self esteem issues at that age, but they weren't related to how "beautiful" I was at that age. I know those teen years are coming up, I just want to help ease them, even if it's only a little. DH found some self esteem thing on the Dove site that she was engrossed in for awhile. What can I do?? It breaks my heart, she's such a beautiful little girl!

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In my family, kids seem to get a bit more of a tummy before a growth spurt. You could try telling her that the stomach she's noticing is her body's way of preparing to get taller.

If your husband and her mother are cooperative, they could perhaps work together to limit the media exposure that's contributing to the problem. I would also recommend trying focus more on her positive attributes that have nothing to do with her appearance. Is she a hard worker? Is she nice to others? Is she polite? Is she a good helper, a creative artist, a thoughtful person? Look for the times when she's doing something good that she ought to be proud of, and point it out afterwards. Help her start building her self-esteem on her character and her actions, rather than how she looks.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 12:31PM
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Is she a normal weight or are you just telling her she is? Because if she is a normal weight I don't see why she's being teased (or is she being teased about something else). That doesn't excuse the teasing, of couse, but if you are not really telling her the truth she will know it. Teasing is horrible, I can't believe how horrible kids can be to each other.

My niece went through a chubby belly period. She's a super skinny teenager now. It was a combination of getting taller and deciding to cut out some carbs (she's a vegetarian and she was eating a lot of bread and butter and pasta).

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 10:36PM
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There are lots of things you can do.

I think you are right to discuss diet and exercise as a lifestyle to maintain health, and have healthy foods while she is there. Even if you only have her on weekends, a more healthy lifestyle on the weekends is helpful.

One thing that worked very well in our house was for the entire family to do activities together. We biked, we hiked, we canoed and kayaked. If I had just told my kids to go out and ride their bikes alone, they wouldn't have enjoyed it. For some people jogging is fun, but my kids would have been bored to tears. Find something you like to do together as a family - play tennis or soccer, go swimming, etc.

DH has taken her out "jogging" a couple times (her idea) but she gives up after a block. No amount of explaining how you start small and build up makes a difference

One thing that worked well for us was to have a destination we had to get to. For example, if you can bike to the restaurant, the park, or the store, then you have to keep going until you get there. Telling her to start small and build up won't work. It works better if as a family you all start small and build up while doing something fun together.

If it works well with your household during the week as well as the weekends, you could get a dog that requires exercising.

Another thing about self esteem - when my kids were younger, I thought self esteem came from me (and others) telling my kids they were great, worthwhile, whatever. And perhaps some self esteem does. However, as kids get older that doesn't work. One thing that makes kids feel capable is if they ARE capable. I truly believe that household chores, having an interesting hobby and interesting experiences, knowing how to take care of themselves, all those things raise self esteem in teenagers.

In high school I think it's good if kids have a niche, a place to belong. So watch for opportunities to introduce her to things she might still be doing in high school - playing a musical instrument, learning a foreign language, photography, etc. Some great advice I got from friends when my kids were younger was to help them find something they were good at, so that when they hit those difficult teen years they would have an area where they excelled.

If your daughter is not athletic, then keep your eyes and ears open for areas where she can shine - does the school have photography contests, art contests, etc.? Might Girl Scouts be an option?

The last suggestion I have is just my personal opinion, and I hope I don't make anyone uncomfortable or upset. But I think it means a lot to girls to have a great relationship with their dads. My dad always told me I was beautiful and smart. Even when I was skinny, awkward, and had acne he looked at me like I was a beautiful princess and he just couldn't believe his good fortune to have me as his daughter. He taught me how to shoot a basketball, how to hit a baseball, ride a bike, play tennis, and he tried to teach me to golf.

For years my husband took my daughter out to breakfast just the two of them once a week. Every year they went to a father/daughter dance. Both her dad and her (older) brother have made it very clear to my daughter that she is valuable and deserves to be treated well and with respect by the young men she meets. I think having a great relationship with their dads helps girls' self esteem.

Sounds like your step daughter is maybe in the 4th or 5th grade. Those late elementary and middle school years can be so tough on girls. It sounds like she has a loving and supportive home life, and she is far ahead of many kids just from that alone.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 11:39PM
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DH and I don't have cable, so her exposure here is limited, but at home or at grandparents she is often left on her own watching TV. Thankfully her favorite channel is Food Network, but still. I get along with BM well, so DH is going to approach her to see if we can all get on the same page for helping the daughter. As for other positives, when she has a good day we tell her how proud we are that she was able to handle such and such disappointment or things like that. When I came into the picture she had multiple violent tantrums a day. In the 2 years since she has made a lot of progress and I have told her that, it always makes her smile. But there's still a ways to go, and now that she's entering these years ... sigh. We love having her help with meals and she enjoys cooking and coming up with new ideas, so maybe we will have to focus there even more. Everything else she just shakes her head when given praise

Is she a normal weight? Well, I think she is. She's not skinny and she's not fat. She IS chubby, but from what I've seen that isn't very unusual. Maybe I have a misconception that kids today are heavier then they are. I don't know what she is being teased about actually, I'm just guessing based on her recent obsession with her tummy and "beauty". It could be something else, but the huge mood reversal, obsession, and us finding out about a bully at camp all happened at the same time...

She visited a teenage cousin a few weeks ago out of state and that helped because that cousin (who I guess is healthy, not heavy and quite beautiful) was also chubby as a kid and grew into it. They talked about healthy eating and being active. The problem is DSD just gives up during any activity. I don't think anyone has ever taught her perseverance, or the rewards of hard work.

I'm thinking about this as I write and I think I know what I need to do but I'm not able to. Nothing my parents ever said to me made a difference, I had to get active and find strength to appreciate my body. If she goes for a walk with me (and I don't power walk but it's a good pace) and just me I can get in a good mile. I don't put up with whining, never have. But with her dad the situation quickly deteriorates. Guess that is the benefit of not being the bio parent ;) Maybe she likes the adult female attention (draw your own conclusions there). Problem is I am physically unable to do any activity right now, pretty much ruined my summer. Ahhhh. I'm just babbling now. I just need to get healthy ASAP and get this girl out with me.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 12:04AM
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This was my dd two years ago. A little shorter and rounder than 99% of the other girls in her class. She is 12 now and just this past summer shot up and lost weight. She had developed acid reflux and IBS which contributed to weight loss. The self esteem has gotten better too. I agree that time with dad such as breakfast, a movie anything is a great thing for a girl. Finding her strengths is helpful. Mine found volleyball and now tennis at the jr high level.
The volleyball helped with activity but she really didn't lose weight then. I agree with reducing the carbs as those seem to be a pre-teens worst enemy.
I hope she can find a comfort level for herself. She's at a very awkward age and kids grow up so much faster. Yes, girls are mean, nasty etc. I look back at the last two years and wish I'd taken a stronger stand against some but I realize we can't fight all their battles. Keep the positive reinforcement going without overkill. Remind her that inner beauty comes out and is noticed so much more than physical beauty. That realization finally came through for mine. What a revelation that was. It was really touching.
Hang in there.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 5:37PM
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I just noticed this didn't post when I thought it did! And thanks sissyfran - I'll keep up the reinforcement and strongly encourage the dad-daughter time! I found this past week swimming at the YMCA. Since she really wants to go in the deep end this might be good for her too if we can scrape together the $$.

Daisyinga - it's funny I was composing my response while you were putting in yours and they are similar. I like the destination idea, although it didn't work so well last weekend, but last weekend I think she was pre-disposed to being emotional and not getting ice cream (we walked/she rode to the store for a cold drink) was too much. And you are right, she just doesn't like to go out alone, and doesn't have any friends here since she is only here on the weekend. We do need to get out there with her. She's very interested in soccer and swimming, but again, team things she has to be available during the week, so has to be at BMs convenience. Maybe DH and she can have a morning walk to somewhere. They've also done a little geo-caching, I need to encourage that more.

I hear you about being capable as well. Whenever she asks me for help I give the minimum needed and teach her the rest, I won't just do things for her. I think that happens too much in her life. One thing that makes it hard for her is these unrealistic expectations of herself to master a new skill the first time. She's already given up on martial arts, sadly.

I need to get some sleep!! I will share all of these comments and suggestions with DH. Thanks to everyone!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 11:45PM
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My heart goes out to your daughter.

I've felt the same things too.

It sounds like your daughter has the beginning of Anorexia Nervosa. Distorted body image, the perception that you are fat and ugly when you are not, is a hallmark of the mental illness. Something is literally wrong in her brain, as was in mine. The brain is not functioning properly.

This is what was going on with me. I thought I was fat and ugly and horrible looking when in fact I was skinny and pretty. It was a mental illness that had taken over my life.

May I suggest Zinc supplements? This is what changed my life. When I took it, the thoughts and feelings and behaviors (it sounds like your daughter has not yet taken action to lose weight, that is very good) were gone. The body image distortion was gone. I looked in the mirror and saw someone thin who needed to gain weight. I looked in the mirror and saw someone pretty.

Let me show you the research on Zinc. It's worth a shot.

"Features of the illness: Physiological: ...Abnornalities of mineral and electrolyte levels in the body, Zinc deficiency"

Studies have been done that show Zinc has been effective in reducing or eliminating the self-image distortion of Anorexia for Anorexics.

"The release also cites a Journal For Medical Research article by Dr. Alex Schauss, which reported studies at Stanford University, the University of Kentucky, and the University of California at Davis which found most anorexics and bulimics were zinc-deficient. According to the release, a five-year study showed an 85% remission rate for anorexia patients given zinc supplements. According to Dr. Barbara Levine, Director of the Nutrition Information Center at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, zinc-rich foods include red meat, seafood, cheese, and nuts."

"These findings have led some scientists to suggest that zinc deficiency may actually play a role in the causation of anorexia nervosa. The role between zinc and eating behaviour may be connected to a brain chemical known as neuropeptide Y (NPY), the main function of which is to stimulate eating. Generally speaking, restriction of food causes an increase in NPY levels. Animal research has discovered, however, that zinc deficiency blunts the increase in NPY in response to food restriction. The results of this research suggest that zinc deficiency may quell the normal urge to eat more should food be rationed."

"...there is at least some evidence that disordered physiology may play a role in the development of the condition too. In particular, research has suggested that anorexia may be related to a deficiency in the mineral zinc. Zinc deficiency has been found to be a common feature in anorexics, and it has been noted that zinc deficiency and anorexia nervosa have symptoms in common which include poor appetite, weight loss, nausea and cessation of periods (amenorrhea)."

"People who don't consume zinc may become seriously anorexic, with little desire and even a repulsion for eating. For many young, weight-conscious women, and often the elderly, not eating becomes a state of mind and is considered a serious psychiatric disorder.

"...For people trying to recover from anorexia, or those who are having trouble holding onto body weight, I believe our work strengthens earlier findings that recommend the use of zinc supplements," Shay said. "Another lab has shown that zinc supplements have led to greater recovery rates."

" The use of zinc in the treatment of anorexia nervosa has been advocated since # by Bakan."

"Insufficient zinc has been linked to anorexia, which responds well to zinc replacement treatment."

"Zinc deficiency has also been detected in people with anorexia or bulimia in most,nineeen, twenty though not all, twenty one studies. In addition, some of the manifestations of zinc deficiency, such as reduced appetite, taste, and smell, are similar to symptoms observed in some cases of anorexia or bulimia."

"A # study (Birmingham and Gritzner) reports that low zinc levels create dynamics in the brain that are similar to those seen with anorexia nervosa. The study found that giving zinc to a group of persons with anorexia produced asignificant improvement in body mass index compared to a group of anorexic persons not receiving zinc. Birmingham and Gritzner suggest that zinc deficiencies make neurotransmitters less effective. When this problem is corrected with zinc therapy in those with anorexia, they conclude, the resulting improvement in brain functioning creates an improvement in anorexia symptoms...."

"What is interesting is that such an inexpensive and widely-available mineral shows promise, by itself, in establishing better brain functioning in this group."

"If you have anorexia, [take] fifity mg a day of this essential mineral, along with one to three mg per day of copper."

"It's important to check with your doctor before beginning a course of zinc therapy, however, because too much zinccan result in other problems in brain functioning (Flinn et al., #). Medical assistance will help regulate zinc at the proper level for you."


    Bookmark   September 18, 2008 at 4:44PM
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Why do you say she has a distorted body image? The OP said she is chubby. If she is chubby and thinks she is so, it's not a distorted body image. She may be overly concerned with his appearance, but that's isn't necessarily AN. You thought you were fat when in fact you were skinny. That is not the case with the OP's child.

When I was in high school I thought I was bigger than all my friends. I WAS bigger. That is not AN or distorted body image, it's the truth. Now, if I thought I was obese that would have been distorted because I wasn't, I was a size 10 when they were size 4-6.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2008 at 9:10PM
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Just because you had anorexia certainly doesnt mean this girl has,like sue says she is not imagining she is chubby,she is daughter was exactly the same at that soon as she reached 11 she shot up,started her periods and now has a lovely figure and lots of confidence.
I think its quite normal at that age to start being self concience.
As for all that about Zinc i really dont think its some miracle cure for anorexia .if someone doesnt eat they are bound to detect zinc deficiency in them.
I think the op is doing brilliantly at handling this the step daughter is lucky to have her.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 8:07AM
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"as she so sadly pointed out today, "it jiggles and it's fat". It's not"

I saw this part and missed the part about her being "a little chubby." Nevermind about what I said! Sorry about that.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 4:28PM
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If you lavish your daughter with honest praise when it is merited ( kids know insincerity ) and avoid picking at her faults or shortcomings she will see herself as a good person.

Teach her that it is okay to be different.

Show her while looking at magazines or watching TV that ads try to manipulate our self image.
These models are not real people and most photos are touched up and airbrushed to look perfect.

There are no perfect people out there.

She should rejoice in all her strengths and weaknesses...for it makes her who she is: perfectly wonderful.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 8:36AM
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