Summer is here!! Which means it’s time to relax, go to the pool, hang out with friends, enjoy ourselves, and best of all, no more homework… finally! It is also that time of year when mothers take their daughters to get a new swimsuit for summer (which usually does not go as swimmingly as you’d think…pun intended).
As moms we think this will be a great opportunity for Mother-Daughter bonding time but we forgot last year and how hard it is to decide. Argh! Where do we start? Target, Walmart, Gap, Victoria’s Secret? Before you decide, be prepared and know what your daughter is thinking/feeling and exposed to…
Most tweens/teens are purchasing items like bras, underwear, and swimsuits this time of year. As moms we want our daughters to be self confident and find clothing that fits and is fun and comfortable. Preteens/teens are in a developmental stage that is a middle ground with childhood left behind and adulthood looming. Their bodies are changing, hips are getting wider, breasts in development, the dreaded acne (which as moms we know it is normal but for many girls they compare themselves to figures in social media/magazines). Most girls that age believe they are truly “ugly” and often express concerns ranging from feeling that their face, body, weight, and/or hairstyle is unattractive which causes a lot of self absorption, introspection, anxiety and even depression.
What is beautiful?
Miley Cyrus/Victoria Secret Model or J. Lo/Beyonce/Megan Trainor. Moms need to be aware that tweens/teens are bombarded by hypersexual images of women in the media which leads them to believe the most important attributes of a woman are their beauty and sexuality rather than their intelligence, personality, and ideas.
What is normal?
A focus on appearance during adolescence is common and normal part of development. It becomes a problem when kids worry about their appearance and not recognize their strengths and attributes. Puberty is all about growth spurts (or lack thereof), acne, braces/crooked teeth which can effect their self esteem! What adds to your child’s stress is what society/social media believes is beautiful… flawless skin, beautiful clothes, and beautiful body. Yes mom, this is what they are thinking/feeling in the dressing room trying on swimsuits and have what seems a crisis out of nowhere… These thoughts and feelings are common and seem insurmountable to your vulnerable tween or teen.
So what can you do as the parent to help ease the pain to your tween/teen and feel more comfortable in their own skin? Here are a few things you can try:
- Encourage physical activity. Physical activity boosts natural stress reducing hormones, reduces anxiety/depression, and builds muscles so they can become more trim & fit.
- Encourage healthy eating. Talk about proper diet and nutrition and how that helps our bodies grow and feel good.
- Talk about puberty/body changes. Bookstores and libraries have lots of resources about “What’s happening to my body” (Southeast Psych has great resources to choose from in their bookstore).
- Don’t tease them!
- Listen to peer pressure comments–tweens/teens live in a culture of cruelty. Schedule meetings once a month 1:1 to just allow them to talk and not judge about their experiences.
- Be careful with flattery. Praise effort not “the person”–looks, intelligence, ability.
- Talk about gimmicks. Media often portrays women as perfect but it’s about camera angles, lighting, or makeup. In person they are NOT that perfect.
- Check yourself as parents. What message do you convey to them when you talk about YOURSELF! Don’t focus on weight, calories, or clothing size. Instead, talk about health, exercise, and proper diet.
If things get out of hand…
If the perceived “uglies” get the best of your daughter or you would like more suggestions and support, consider seeing a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician or Psychologist who can help! Remember this is a tough time of year and stage of development! Support and encourage your daughter to realize a healthy body is beautiful!