How Do I Help My 10 Year Old Daughter Keep Her Good Self Esteem?

Updated on May 28, 2008
M.M. asks from San Antonio, TX
27 answers

I have a beautiful 10 year old daughter who will be in the 5th grade next year. My husband and I both struggle with weight issues and unfortunately our sweet girl has inherited this also. I have always tried to talk to her about eating healthy and exercising and explained to her that we just have to work harder than some people to stay fit. She is a very active child and has never had any real self-esteem issues about being bigger than most of her friends. I guess this is where the question comes in....It is now swimsuit season and she really wants to wear a bikini. Her grandma has a pool and I told her that she could buy the bikini that she wanted but it could only be worn at grandma's house because it is not very appropriate. Well this launched us into a conversation about how I must think she is "fat" and all of her other little friends wear them - why can't she? I know that if I were to let her wear that swimsuit in public she would most likely get teased or laughed at and that would break her little heart. How do I explain to her without hurting her self-esteem that she just can't wear the same things as her tiny little friends?

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Featured Answers

C.E.

answers from Dallas on

Weight is such a tough thing for people...and yes, kids can unfortunately be mean about it. i guess i have the same recommendation that you will probably hear from everyone else.

1. menu changes - no junk food in house at all....if its there then its tempting to eat...really pay attention to what you are cooking....sometimes things we think are healthy are not that great for us.

2. My personal opinion is that some clothing is completely inappropriate for all girls, no matter their size. It shocks me what parents let their children wear. why do girls who are just starting to develop need to wear bikinis? Just explain to her about being respectful of herself and show her some awesome tankinis they have out there....those are just as stylish as the 2 pieces! I wouldnt put too much emphasis on the fact that she shouldnt wear things because of her size. body issues are so scary and the focus is health, not size!!

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A.P.

answers from Austin on

Depending on how you want to go with this - here are two options:
1: Buy her a tank-ini. They are cute, and cover more, but still a 2 piece

2: Play the whole, "It is not appropriate for a 10 year old to dress like Paris Hilton so a bikini is too much skin" card.

GOOD LUCK! :)

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K.K.

answers from Killeen on

Then don't use that as the reason that you will not let her have the bikini. Use the fact that the manufacturers make them way too suggestive for girls her age to be wearing and that you do not approve of the cuts on her age group and you are sorry that her friends parents are letting them wear them but you value your morals and want her to be raised not only with self esteem, an appreciation of herself, but to know that she doesn't have to sho off her body to get good attention from someone, and that doing so can attract unwanted attention as well.

Good Luck!

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H.P.

answers from Houston on

When I was about 8 years old, my mother let me know that I was wearing my last two-piece (not bikini, but two-piece) swimsuit until I bought one for myself. The understanding was that my body was changing and it was no longer appropriate for me to be exposed like that, until I was old enough to deal with the attention. This was not up for discussion, either. Maybe this approach could work for you with your daughter. So what if other girls do it? Create an environment where it doesn't matter what other kids do (though she won't always get that), and this can blend into that.

I've raised boys and mentored girls. I've taught those girls about not showing lots of skin or silhouette, no matter their shapes and sizes. When they got older, they understood and were able to deal with the fallout of the attention they got.

Also, as an adult, I had to realize that every piece of clothing is not made for every body part/type. Example: My breasts were always too large to wear anything backless, because I always had to wear a bra. This hurt me until I realized that there are some tops that are only flattering when filled out. There's something for everybody, and it's okay for everything not to be for everyone.

It's hard with girls at this precarious age. Make it about the beauty of her changing body being nobody's business while she learns how the world works.

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S.B.

answers from Houston on

I have this issue with my 12 year old daughter. She is overweight and yet still wants to wear a two piece -- bikini. I tried talking her into the "tankini" but she wouldn't have it. It was a battle of the wills as I tried to discuss and reason with her and very frustrating. I was trying so delicately to explain to her why the answer was no; however, this just kept the discussion going on and on and on. So, I finally said to her, "Look. I am not trying to hurt your feelings. I love you very much. I am your mother. And, as your mother, it is my responsibility to protect you. Kids your age are cruel and it will only get worse the older you get. The real deal is that you are to round and thick in your midsection to wear a bikini. Period. You know what? So am I. And, when you wear something like that with your shape, it only makes you look bigger. I am not trying to hurt you but rather protect you from the ridicule you are going to subject yourself to. That is one of my jobs as a mother...to protect. That's what I am doing. I have tried to be delicate about it and that hasn't done anything but invite an argument. And, besides, if your body WAS one that looked good in a bikini, I would probably STILL have a problem with it as you are too young to be going around boys dressed like that. So, there will be no more discussion about it. Now, if you want a swimsuit, I will buy you a one-piece for now (she needed it for the next day for a field trip). We can shop for a tankini for you later, but you are going to get something that makes you look "classy" and not anything that makes you look trampy. If you don't want a one-piece swimsuit, then fine, you can skip the outing. Make a choice."

Now, it sounds cruel and it felt cruel. It was probably one of the hardest conversations I have had to have with my daughter, but it was necessary. And, yes, we both cried. But, she understood where I was coming from and it wasn't that I was just trying to be "mean" by not allowing her the two piece. She opted to get the one piece and I will continue to shop for her a more flattering two piece tankini.

Hope this helps.....it's such a hard time for girls at this age.

Hope this helps.

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P.B.

answers from Houston on

It sounds like the weight bothers you more than it does your daughter. Perhaps you had a bad experience similar and are trying to protect her from how you felt. Let her wear the swimsuit. If she gets teased and she is embarrassed...oh well. That's part of growing up. BUT maybe she wears it and doesn't care what others say, if they even say anything. I had a "Big" sister and she'd wear skimpier bathing suits than I did. It didn't bother her in the least. We can't always protect our children from what others might say or do, but we can be there to help pick up the pieces and equip them to deal with the unpleasant things in life. Good luck!

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D.A.

answers from Houston on

I think all of us see ourselves as we wish to be. That's good in a way, but she must face facts. Isn't it better to be told by you how to dress in a way that will flatter her than to be teased by others? Actually, getting the bikini probably made her think that everything was OK. Maybe you should just go ahead and ditch the bikini and help her pick out an appropriate all-purpose swimsuit. Look online at the various options, direct her as to what would look good on her, and let her make the decisions from among a set of choices that you BOTH agree on - not something that she drags you into. The fact that she can't wear the same thing as her tiny friends means she needs to treat herself as a unique individual, not as some fashion slave.
On another tack, your family's problems with metabolism and/or weight issues may be helped with Sunrider herbal foods. They provide concentrated whole foods to help the body heal, cleanse, and balance itself. I'll be glad to get you some more information if you're interested; drop me an e-mail at [email protected]____.com luck with your daughter!

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S.P.

answers from Austin on

I would not tell her that she cannot wear what her 'tiny' friends wear. It is so easy to suddenly become ostracized in grade school and it will not help her self-esteem to feel 'punished' for having a certain body-type. (I know you are not punishing her...that just is her perception)

I would instead tell her that regardless of a 10 year old's body type, bikinis are inappropriate. I would tell her that it has nothing to do with her weight- it has to do with modesty.
You may want to negotiate with her and get her a tankini where she is properly covered, but looks fashionable and cute. There are so many adorable tankinis out there...I think Roxy makes suits for young women as well and she would look SO stylish.
Tell her that you feel strongly about modesty in young women and that she has to wait to wear a bikini until....
whatever age you feel is appropriate.

I was overweight a child and was made fun of all the time by other kids, so I can relate to what your daughter is going through. It does break your heart...

S.

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A.C.

answers from Houston on

Try putting her in girls scouts or pairing her up with a buddy or mentor.

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G.W.

answers from Beaumont on

I was a cubby 5th grader once too . So I know swhe just wants to be like the other girls . But if I was her mom , I would suggest she get a tank-keny , which they are very popular now and cover a little more . Also in my case I lost weight in 7th grade , ( because boys came on the scene). So just hang on the problem might just work itself out . God bless , G. ps , The other solution is let her get the bikini and when she wears it in public , she must have a cover up or t-shirt over it .

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G.M.

answers from San Antonio on

There are some two piece suits that are very conservative. See if she is interested in one of those, but I would say, buy her the suit she wants and buy her a conservative two piece and tell her that if at any time during the summer she feels uncomfortable in the suit she picked, she can wear the one you picked. My daughter is six and she also struggles with weight issues. We tried one piece swim suits but we struggled to get them off when she had to go to the restroom. I bought her a swim suit that is two piece, but the bottom is not a bikini, it's more of a boy boxer panty or brief panty and the top is like a tank top. I think they call them tankinis. Go online and look for nice suits and share what you find with her. Do not settle for something ugly just cause it's a conservative two piece. Good luck.

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E.A.

answers from Austin on

I don't know if anyone else has steered you to the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty yet, but here's a link: http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/.

I met their spokeswoman at last year's TX Conference for Women and she just blew me away. Her entire job is to address the issues of our girls' self-esteem and how to keep them from 'buying in' to the images of women that they see on TV and in all the magazines. The site has some age-appropriate interactive features for both you and your daughter.

Hope this helps.

- E. A.

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M.G.

answers from Longview on

It appears you are giving the impression either by example or verbal that she is fat. You don't say what she weighs or if her close friends tease her or not. If you serve healthy meals and portions to all the family she will then feel ok and not that she is singled out. Stress group activities wherein you know she is getting the right amount of exercise. As far as the swimsuites issue - take her shopping and gather as many 'pretty' suites for her to try on and let her see for herself how 'pretty' she looks in ones that you know are right for her. There are some two-piece ones out there that are not too revealing. While she is so sensitive to conversations about being "fat" try to stress her attributes - pretty hair, coloring, etc. Above all, do not let her think that you think she is "fat". I had the same problem many years ago as your daughter so I feel for her. Why not join a weight loss group. At ten years of age she can join with you and perhaps your husband. Weight Watches is good but one I can recommend is TOPS. Taking Off Pounds Sensibly- it is nationwide and it has many chapers. Go on line to TOPS.org or look in the yellow pages for a chapter near you. Going as a family will not single her out (in her own mind) and you all can share as you take off pounds in a sensible manner. They give inspiring programs and information weekly to help in your quest to lose weight but keep ones self-esteem. Good luck to you all.

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M.H.

answers from San Antonio on

First you need to let her know that it is okay to be different, we were made different, if we were all the sam, thing would be ugle. Then you let her understand that it is not appropriate for a little girl to be showing her body like that. If you are a christian let her know that, that is not of God's way.
I think that you have to be honest with children now a day because if you don't things could get ugly, be honest, she will appreciate you if not now latter.

Your friend M.

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M.W.

answers from Austin on

If you "know she would be teased or laughed at" then she is correct - you do think she is fat. She really can wear the same things as her tiny little friends - just not the same size of them! If she is happy wearing something, then let her wear it! (Provided it's not a dress code violation or something you deem morally inappropriate.)

You should DEFINITELY read Reviving Ophelia!
http://www.readinggroupguides.com/guides_R/reviving_ophel...

Best wishes to you!
M.

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J.W.

answers from Austin on

Hi M.,

I have never been in your shoes--my daughter got teased for being too skinny!-- yet I am impressed that your daughter has a healthy perception of herself despite her weight. It seems to me that the "not very appropriate" feeling on your part needs to be addressed. Is it "not appropriate" because it is a bikini? or because she's only ten? and, regardless of your daughter's weight, you would not let her wear a bikini even if her friends are wearing them? If this is the case, this sounds like a healthy reason not to let her wear one. However, if it is "not appropriate" because of her weight, and were she like her "tiny little friends" you would then let her wear a bikini, this, in my opinion, reflects something within you. If this is the case, then I feel your daughter is right. If SHE is comfortable enough with herself to wear a bikini, I say GO GIRL! and let her do it. It seems to me that you are the one worried about her getting teased, laughed at, and getting her heart broken, not her. I swam on a competitive swimming team for 13 years, from age 8 to 20, and we were all shapes and sizes, and even the overweight boys and girls wore their Speedos to compete. Now that I'm older, have cellulite, wrinkles, and "rolls" I never had before, I am determined to keep swimming until the day I die. Taking a life drawing class (drawing nudes) in college helped me so much. For a year I drew males and females of all body types, and since then I have appreciated EVERY person's body as art. We in this country are hugely insecure about the natural beauty of the bodies we were blessed to be given. Please do not reinforce this by being insecure about your daughter's body when she is OK with it--what a GIFT she has to be comfortable with her body. I say we can all learn a healthy lesson from your daughter. She is truly inspirational. So, to answer your question: "How do I help my 10 year-old daughter keep her good self esteem?" I would answer: Let her be herself and never teach her that she should be ashamed of her body. One way to do this is to be a good role model by loving and taking care of your own body. Good luck! jenifer

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T.S.

answers from Houston on

M.,

I have a 6th grade daughter and have treaded this same issue since she started school. I can remember her crying at Walmart because I would not allow her to get particular swim suits. She was born with a tummy that never went away. I have used some tactics that have proven to be successful. My daughter actually laughs about her problem areas and has learned to dress accordingly. I explained to her that most clothes are made for stick figure (size 2) kids and this means that they are not flattering on her. This does not mean that she is less perfect. God created her with curves and shapes that she will probably appreicate later. In order for her to look as wonderful she must pick larger sizes to get the same affect as those clothes on stick girls!

I finally took my daughter to the Junior section at Target and bought a more expensive two piece that covered her tummy. All the girls complimented her cool suit.

I would encourage a healthy lifestyle for the entire family. I recently lost 13 pounds and my daughter has started to read labels on the back of candy wrappers. There is a fine line between encouraging a healthy lifestyle and creating an eating disorder.

I have heard it all from my daughter over the years. In first grade a girl asked her if she was pregnant. This year a boy told her that he thought she was cute but a little over weight. These comments are heartbreaking but do not matter if your daughter is being told how adorable she is on a daily basis from the homefront.

I would also suggest taking her to the Revolve Tour next year. It is a Christian mother daughter conference for 5th-8th graders that travels the U.S. This was life changing for my daughter and she wants to go again. They have famous authors, singers and drama skits that tell it like it is to be a pre-teen. It is a great self-esteem builder for moms and daughters.

Good Luck!

T.

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B.B.

answers from Houston on

Sometimes, children have to make their own mistakes. I would advise her, and be there for her if needed. But unless there is a safety issue, She may need a little taste of reality. It took that for me to wake up and give up overeating once and for all time.

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C.F.

answers from Brownsville on

Just tell her in our family we only wear one piece and build her self esteem in other ways.

There is a book by Dannah Gresh "Secret Keeper Girl" This book has 8 great dates for you and your daughter.

C.

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N.S.

answers from Sherman on

I have the same situation with my 12 yrold. She is just now starting to care what others think about her size and it is starting to effect the way she dresses and acts. Up to this year she has been very outgoing and always looking to be the center of what is going on. Now I have noticed that she is a little more held back. Like you we have a "family flubber" to deal with, as I call it, and that is not an easy thing to get around. We just try to not but to much importance on it. You may just tell her that a two piece is not something YOU WANT her to wear in public because of her age. I hope your daughter gets through this and knows that not everyone is ment to be a size 2.

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K.C.

answers from Houston on

more then likely she is living through you. She sees how uncomfortable you are and she is now thinking like you. If you put her weight issue on the back burner you maybe able to see that her friends and your daughter dont care about what size she is because she is comfortable to want to wear a two piece. You may try going to a public pool and allowing her to wear the two piece but only when your there. And also go shoping for the perfect two peice that helps covor the parts that your scared she will get teased for. you may not realize it but with you always bringing up the weight issue your lowering her self esteem. Or just rule out the two piece all together. My daughter which is almost 12 is still not allowed to wear a two piece and she is under weight. Let your daughter know its not her weight its the fact that there are so many bad people in the world that has a interest in little girls, and thats the reason you dont want her to wear a two piece in public. A good way for her to see better is going on to a web site to find sexual offenders. So she can see how many are around your area. on your search bar type in familywatchdog and it will take you to the needed place. It will even tell you how far they live from your house. I've always try to keep informed because I have 5 kids that I have to keep safe.

I have been over weight most of my life I discovered the sweets at around 10 and have gone down hill from there. My friends didnt care but other family members did and each time we went to family gatherings it was a topic. That hurt me more and more each year. Everytime that coversation came up I just wanted to find a hole and die. The other kids i didnt know didnt care my size and noone teased me for years, it wasnt until high school when I started to have problems. But when summer came around I did always have a two piece that covered most of my stomach and it had a skirt that covered my bottom plus I always wore a shirt on top of it.

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J.A.

answers from Houston on

M.,

Let her wear what SHE feels comfortable with. Don't borrow trouble, maybe kids will make fun of her and maybe they won't. The last thing you should do is damage her self esteem by telling her she can have the bikini but only if she hides to wear it. Help her to be proud of the body God gave her.

Jen

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S.W.

answers from Houston on

The best thing you can do for your children is to demonstrate healthy eating and exercise patterns yourself. If your children see you living a healthy lifestyle, then they will follow your lead. Some suggestions: limit TV/computer to no more than two hours a day. If she is an active child, then take a serious look at what food your family is eating. As you know, it is best to eat food that is from the earth as much as possible. Limit the chips and replace with whole grain crackers (trisket, etc.). Stock your fridge with apples, and lots of fruit. Serve lots of vegetables, and cut out the breads (buy whole grain). Avoid the "beige" diet and serve a colorful variety of foods with your meal. Hope this helps! Good luck!

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U.

answers from San Antonio on

I know you are trying to protect her, but it is not your place to let her know she's too big to wear a bikini in public, IMHO, unlesss she is obese. In my home, bikinis past age 8 were just not allowed because showing skin wasn't allowed, no matter what the other kids were doing. You might try to go that route. Kids do show too much skin (and so do their dolls, lol).

I know big girls who wore bikinis and were aware that some kids teased them, but still feel good about themselves. My concern would be that if the negative opinion comes from mom it really gets taken into her sense of self (even if you're just saying what OTHER people might think, she's hearing it come from you). What other people say can hurt, but it is less damaging because she separates herself from others. She doesn't separate her opinion of herself from your opinion of her. Do you know what I'm getting at?

Let her pick out a decent bathing suit, tankinis are nice, put the focus on decency, not size, and then don't say more. Support her no matter what and teach her to celebrate the fact that we are all different!

Good luck and a hug. These issues are so hard when you love someone so much!

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T.E.

answers from Houston on

Tell her the reason she can't wear the bikini in public is b/c it is not cool to show a lot of skin and when she is swimming or doing a diving board and water slide it might fall down.

I have weight probs,too. I am trying not to pass them onto my kids. My 11 yr.old daughter is 5 ft.4 in. 110 lbs.and all legs. I try to teach her about serving sizes and portion control along with exercise.
Good Luck.

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H.F.

answers from San Angelo on

This is a great time to teach your daughter respect for herself. I don't know how religious you are, but my family's belief is that God made us all exactly how we have to be to live our lives the way he planned. Talk to her about how different animals have different traits to adapt to their environments. Tell her people are the same way. Some people were made to be supermodels, but not all. Some were made colored so they can have the challenges and blessings from that. Her husband is out there waiting for the perfect woman...her and she has to be exactly as she is! She should be taught from this lesson to not only love the body that she has been given, but to respect it and treat it with respect. My girls can't wear bikinis and they are skinny as rails...we don't think that showing that much body is appropriate...it has nothing to do with their body type. We don't wear shorty shorts or spaghetti strapped shirts either. This is also a good time to talk to her about appropriate behavior. Talk to ther about the fact that just because other people do things, like her friends, doesn't mean that it is right or appropriate, or that they look better than her. (May want to have the drug, sex, alcohol, smoking talk too and ask her what she would do if her friends were all smoking for example. Maybe you can go out together and look for a little onepiece with a cute skirt or tie wrap that she loves and feels pretty wearing.

Just as an aside, I was always a rolly polly kid and heavy teen. This is the first year that anyone has ever called me skinny. I had battled weight gain my whole life and didn't realize why until I started Weight Watchers. I didn't even have to exercise more than walking three times a week. I firmly believe that in conjunction with hormones, that most weight gain is because of food intake...period. It is amazing what you learn about food...not just the fruit and vegetable thing and food pyramid thing, but how bad most salad dressings are for you for example, and how bad cheese is for your weight...things I kind of knew, but really didn't get. AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO BUY OR EAT SPECIAL FOODS. Anyway, I lost 28 lbs in four months and have kept it off for a year. That is a lot for me because I am short. Just a thought for if you guys need a really easy guide/plan/lifestyle. Good luck to you all, and God Bless.

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T.V.

answers from Houston on

Read Captivating by John & Staci Eldridge and have your husband read it too. I believe that self esteem comes from Dad. If he 'fills her cup', then she will always know that he loved and cherished her.

You can get it for $1.99 used on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Captivating-Unveiling-Mystery-Woman...

As far as the swimsuit, tell her you would like her to be modest and not show everything she will EVENTUALLY have to offer. It is my intention to never let my daughter where a bikini until she buys them herself, but to make things easier look for super cute suits that flatter without showing too much like these http://www.modbecatalog.com/ or http://www.diviinemodestee.com/divinitasole/ If you look around vintage really is IN.

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