Navigating body issues with teenagers
Q: Do you have any advice for approaching or responding to the topics of body image, healthy eating and exercising with my tween daughter? Her bodyís changing, and once in a while she laments the changes ó nothing Iím concerned about, normal stuff. I also see these (relatively infrequent) comments as an opportunity to broaden the discussion from "looks" to feeling good and healthy and taking charge of your physical and emotional health.
I am sensitive about discussions surrounding body image, food, exercise, etc. Sheís already well-versed in the biology of whatís happening, and her dad and I model good behavior around eating, exercise, and tending to our emotional health, so weíre on the right path.
Raising a Tween Girl
A: "Broaden(ing) the discussion from Ďlooksí to feeling good and healthy" is good stuff, but it will quickly not be good if you respond to her complaints automatically with, "What matters is that youíre healthy," or etc. Doing that will have the unintended effect of negating her, and also sending her the message that bodies and feelings about bodies are not to be discussed except within the narrow confines of the parental talking points.
Anyway, your modeling good behavior and emotional housekeeping is huge, and so I suggest, where possible, you get moving. Hike, bike, paddle, swim, dance, ski, skate, etc., as a family. Itís easier to feel good about a body thatís doing good things for you.
And respond to your daughterís complaints by saying her frustrations with her changing body are normal. Everybody goes through it.
And do a lot of listening before you respond, because she may still find it useful to hear that feeling good takes precedence over looks, but the way you say it needs to be tailored to what sheís asking of you, versus coming off as boilerplate mompreach. Being heard can do more for a kidís mental, and therefore physical, health than a kale and quinoa surprise.