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What to say to a child who thinks she's fat?

My 6 year old daughter has started to complain that her legs are fat. First of all I didn't expect self image problems until she was closer to her teens and second she is a tiny string bean at almost 40 pounds. I'm wondering if I should ignore these comments or keep going with the response of "don't be silly you are so skinny?" I don't talk about my weight and am guessing that she's picking it up from somewhere else. Suggestions?
Submitted by msladybug2543045

I wish I could say that I am totally shocked that a 6 year old has concerns about body image but in fact, there have been cases of kindergarteners hospitalized for eating disorders. Studies report that half of 3rd to 6th grade girls want to be thinner, regardless of their own size.  Children who develop an eating disorder tend to be perfectionists, the “good kid” who has previously caused no difficulties for their parents.

 

I am guessing that you are right, that she is picking it up from somewhere, possibly a friend who heard comments from her mom or older sister. But in terms of suggestions, my first one would be to not dismiss her concerns. Instead of telling her she is silly for worrying, I would ask her where she got the idea that her legs are fat. We need to teach children it's what's on the inside of a person that counts, not what's on the outside. They need to be raised to accept people for who they are and not what they look like, and they need to be proud of who they are. If a child can love and accept who they are, they will be less likely to strive to attain society's definition of the "ideal" body image and they will love and accept their own bodies, no matter what size they are.

 

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty has a terrific website which has exercises and videos you can do together to promote a healthy body image. Also BodyImageHealth.org is a website devoted to cultivating healthy body image in children. And of course, continue to be a healthy role model for her as well.

The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.

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My 10 year old daughter just recently came to me and said she thinks she is fat. My daughter is 30 kilos (66 lb) and came into me pulling at this little bit of SKIN and said it was fat and she was fat. Saddened me to think that at 10 years old she would be thinking like this.
Submitted by Aussiejbl
Mabey you should tell her that she has big bones.
Submitted by jrazz585
It's important to ask questions. Why do you feel that way or did someone say something to make you feel that way? Regardless, it's important to acknowledge their feelings. It's important to teach them, starting when they are very young, the importance of developing good eating habits, exercise and to become their own best friend. The most important thing, you as a parent can help them to do is to develop healthy self-esteem. Then they won't be bothered by outside pressure. www.s-teamkids.com
Submitted by keithoneill34
Before it becomes and issues, evaluate whether or not your child is right? Is she starting to weigh too much. Below are some tips to curbing childhood obesity. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/7870770/simple_steps_to_curbing_childhood_obesity.html?cat=25
Submitted by sheilph21
I'm glad this came up - My 3 YEAR OLD has been talking about her "skinny legs", even wanting us to feel them to see how skinny they are. She said one of the older kids in daycare talks about skinny legs. Then the other night she said she had a fat tummy. I had eating issues when I was younger so I'm really anxious about how to prevent her going through it as well.
Submitted by bzjenjen
I love the expert answer. Much to my surprise my 7 year old daughter has said the same thing. We try to focus on the words fit and healthy and leave out the words fat and thin. My daughter didn't even know the word fat until she started school. She had a name for for it "pumpilly" All I can say to all the parents out there is to set a good example of health.
Submitted by HostTammy
i have a 7 year old and she says the same thing she reads the labels on things she eats like she knows what they mean i just tell her to eat what you wants she isnt fat and she is very pretty.
Submitted by joseywhite428