Interview with a Mom: Ways to Encourage Health Self-Esteem in Girls

Holly Driggers is the parent of a daughter who is just entering her pre-teen years. She was gracious enough to take the time to talk to GENaustin about her experiences raising a daughter who is just beginning to navigate the pressures of being a teen girl.

As your daughter enters her pre-teen years, what changes do you see in the way she views herself?

My daughter is 10, almost 11 y/o. I have noticed that lately she spends just a bit longer to get dressed/ready for the day in the mornings than when she was 9, almost 10 y/o.  She still seems to view herself as capable, smart and pretty, but does notice what other girls wear and the way they behave.  She has said once or twice in the past month that she made a “dumb mistake” but did not seem to categorize herself as “dumb.”

Have you seen signs that your daughter’s peers are increasingly worried about their bodies & how they look?

Yes, I have heard my daughter’s classmates say that they are fat/chubby or not pretty/normal. I have heard them compare themselves to each other (“I’m fatter than you…” or “Your hair is so much prettier…”)

What are you most worried about, in terms of outside influences on your daughter’s self-esteem?

My biggest concern centers on what my daughter hears at school re: how other girls think about their bodies. We limit TV for our kids, and we discuss what we see if we watch a show together. We identify what is normal body weight vs. what is too thin or too large.  My daughter is very active, and engages in sports 4-6 times per week, and we concentrate on how her body is becoming more trained to do exactly what she wants it to do (if she were too thin/too large, then her physical abilities would be limited).

What are the biggest issues you see girls struggling with today, in terms of healthy body image and self-esteem?

I think girls struggle with trying to look a certain way in order to appeal to others or to be deemed worthy of attention. Many girls do not dress with modesty in mind, and I am concerned that some children internalize these “sexualized” images of themselves.  Kids should be able to wear t-shirts and shorts to play without calling attention to body parts (midriffs, short shorts, etc.)

Is there anything you’ve been doing to try to promote a healthy body image in your daughter?

We try to stay actively engaged in conversation about what a healthy body looks like, and what healthy foods look like.  We discuss how our choices/actions can affect our bodies’ development. We emphasize what healthy bodies are able to do as well as the activities in which she is involved because she is healthy.

As a mom who is beginning to deal with these issues, do you have any advice for the mother’s of younger girls, who will soon be facing similar issues?

Limit the sources of “fashion” or “celebrity” magazines in your home. I made the choice about 7 yrs ago that I did not want my little girl to think that she had to look a certain way in order to be considered “pretty” or “worthy” of praise/attention; so I cancelled all subscriptions to magazines that had these images inside.  Limit the types of TV programs that are allowed to shows that promote achievement/activity and not the exterior appearance of a person.

Vanessa Wright