Doctor Love: Concerned Mother

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

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Dear Doctor Love,
My twelve-year-old daughter is already worried about how she looks. She wants a thinner waist and has decided that certain foods, pizza, for example, are bad foods. She can’t wait to grow breasts, but they have to be large ones. She talks nonstop about how other girls look and judges very quickly, who is the best looking of a group. When we watch television, she can name a lot of the plastic surgery procedures or injection any character has had.
I don’t want her to grow up worried about her body—she is so young to already be concerned. How can I make her believe me when I tell her she is beautiful?
/s/Concerned Mother

Dear Concerned,
Our visual world is saturated with digitally altered images of impossibly thin, amazingly perfect women, and that makes raising a girl who values herself for more than her appearance a difficult task. It really begins with how you view and talk about yourself.
Showing her that you accept yourself is important, so try not to pick apart your own appearance. Don’t demean yourself or emphasize what you think is lacking in your looks. Let her know it’s okay to be happy. Even a bad hair day is not the end of the world.
It’s important to eat healthily, and as long as the bulk of her diet is fruits and vegetables, the occasional pizza slice won’t hurt her.
Studies show that girls who are involved in sports are less likely to have body issues. Team sports offer a community of girls her age who have goals that add value to improving areas of their lives other than their appearance. Getting her involved in creative activities such as dance and art will allow you to praise her for things other than what she is wearing or how she looks. In other words, help her find activities and reach goals in her life that increase her self-esteem as a young girl, not as a pretty young girl.
Young girls who are encouraged to stand up for themselves and find strength in their opinions and ideas learn that being a well-rounded person is beautiful. Being smart, witty, and compassionate is empowering, and these are traits that people remember and admire more than a pretty face or great body. Let her know you think she is beautiful but at the same time, help her realize that her greatest beauty comes from what is inside her. Teach her to have a good solid belief in herself for who she is and not just what she looks like.

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