Developing Positive Self-Esteem & Body Image in Pre-teen Girls
We all want to raise confident girls who respect and feel positive about themselves. High self-esteem can aid mental health. It is linked to lower anxiety, greater resilience, better outcomes when dealing with adversity and stronger relationships (Mann, Hosman, Schaalma & De Vries, 2004). Unfortunately however, for girls, self-esteem is often tied to their self body image. Our culture has a tendency to value girls by how they look, instead of their achievements or successes (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013).
The link between appearance and self-esteem for girls in Western society, thinness, youth and beauty are valued attributes for girls. Think about the actresses you see on television, celebrities in magazines and models in advertising. Media portrays thinness as the ideal and young, beautiful women are portrayed as stylish, successful, and popular. Attractiveness has become synonymous with self-worth and value.
Women and girls come in all shapes and sizes. Only 5-10% of women are in the same height and weight range as models, but thinness prevails as the ideal attractive body type.
Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, have lead to increased social comparison and greater body surveillance (Holland & Tiggermann, 2016). With 75% of teens having a social media profile, there is a vast public platform for self-presentation, communication, and social comparison (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013). However, girls don’t just compare themselves to realistic images of their peers; they also compare themselves to Instagram models who use filters, airbrushing and other digital enhancements (Holland & Tiggermann, 2016).
When young girls are bombarded with unrealistic beauty standards, they can internalise these standards, creating greater dissatisfaction with their own body. As a result, girls might begin to hate their bodies, develop unhealthy attitudes about food, engage in dieting, develop eating disorders, feel worthless, self-harm, avoid going to places where they might be judged based on their appearance such as the beach, or develop mental health disorders such as anxiety, or depression (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013).
While body image has long been a concern for teenagers and pubescent girls, research has shown that girls as young as 6 years old are aware of their appearance and have expressed a desire for thinness (Lowes & Tiggemann, 2003). A U.S. study found that one in four children had engaged in some kind of dieting behaviour before 7 years of age (Lowes & Tiggemann, 2003). Additionally, a child’s weight is a strong predictor of self-esteem and body satisfaction (Jones, 2002).
Puberty is a particularly difficult time due to the developmental changes in girls’ bodies. Puberty brings on rapid changes in hormonal, emotional and physical development. The ideal body image or appearance is likely to be markedly different from the reality of a developing pubescent body, causing greater body dissatisfaction by comparison. As many as 75% of Australian high school girls feel fat or want to lose weight (The Butterfly Foundation, 2019).
Explaining the natural changes that occur throughout puberty can help girls accept their body and reduce pressure to look like the body images represented in the media.
Developing positive body image
Body image is shaped by socio-cultural values, role models and social comparisons (Lowes & Tiggemann, 2003). This means that family, friends and the media are important influences on a young person’s self image.
Some do’s and don’ts (The Butterfly Foundation, 2019):
Don’t focus on your child’s appearance or tease them about their appearance.
Don’t talk about your own body in a negative way or focus on what you’re eating. Avoid labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or discussing diets or methods of weight control.
Don’t comment on how people look. Watch those subtle comments, such as “You look great!…Have you lost weight?” or “That would look horrible on me.”
Do model healthy choices and make healthy eating and exercise a part of your daily life and routine.
Do model healthy attitudes about body image, accept and value people no matter how they look.
Do use a critical eye when looking at pictures in the media or images on social media. Explain to your child that images have been altered, filtered or air-brushed to enhance their appearance – they are not realistic representations or ideals to aspire to!
Do prepare children for the physical changes that come with puberty. Explain what to expect and allow your child to ask questions.
Do compliment your child on their non-physical attributes. Focus on their personalities or skills. Try compliments like, “You show great kindness to your friends,” or “You have a very creative imagination.”
Supporting girls to develop positive self esteem
Self-esteem grows from a sense of accomplishment, achieving personal goals, learning new skills, receiving recognition from others and internalising positive values (Child Mind Institute, 2019).
Let’s celebrate what girls do rather than how they look. Notice and praise the things girls do while engaging in activities like art, sport, dance, writing, maths. Encourage girls to continue their extra-curricular activities based on their strengths and interests.
Focus on personal strengths. Are they kind, smart, strong, witty, or funny?
One way to build self-esteem is to start a proud moments album. A visual record of proud moments such as photos, drawings, certificates, and positive comments from significant others can help to boost self-esteem, and can be particularly helpful when children are feeling low about themselves.
Giving compliments can help boost your child’s self-esteem. For compliments to be effective they need to be meaningful and genuine. Don’t say “Wow that is the best artwork I’ve ever seen!” Instead, comment on the details. For example, you could say, “the colours that you used are really beautiful.” Some children might not receive compliments well and they might need you to tone down the compliments. Try saying, “It looks like you put in lots of effort with this artwork.” Or you can encourage self-reflection by asking questions like, “How do you feel about this artwork?” or “How did it feel to play your first game of soccer?”
Praise the effort rather than the results (Child Mind Institute, 2019). Encourage girls to try new things and praise them for their perseverance. Be specific in your praise. Positive examples include, “Great effort with goal-shooting today,” “You did so well at staying calm and not reacting,” or “Amazing drawing, I love the colours and detail.”
Set a positive example and model kind comments (Child Mind Institute, 2019). Mums, be careful not to put yourself down. Other adults in the family should also be mindful not to put other women down in front of your child. Comments such as “that outfit looks horrible,” or using labels such as: “she’s so fat” can be harmful to girls listening. Instead, make an effort to comment on what other women are doing. Try “She’s inspiring because she donates her time to charities,” or “Wow, she’s worked so hard and now she represents her country in her sport.”
Encourage girls to engage in a fun form of exercise or team sport. Exercise can improve self-esteem, help children gain a sense of mastery, improve physical strength and lead girls to feel positive about their bodies (Mann et al., 2004).
If you would like some help learning how to implement these strategies, please contact us on 9362 9297 to discuss the ways in which our team could assist. Alternatively, you could book a consultation with us. We are always here to help support your family!
The Butterfly Foundation (2019). What is Body Image? Accessed on 15th May, 2019, from https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/understand-eating-disorders/body-image/
Child Mind Institute (2019). 13 Ways to Boost Your Daughter’s Self Esteem. Accessed on 21st May, 2019, from https://childmind.org/article/13-ways-to-boost-your-daughters-self-esteem/
Holland, G., & Tiggemann, M. (2016). A systematic review of the impact of the use of social networking sites on body image and disordered eating outcomes. Body image, 17, 100-110. Doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.02.008
Jones, D. C. (2002). Social comparison and body image: Attractiveness comparisons to models and peers among adolescent girls and boys. Sex Roles, 45(9/10), 645–662. Doi: 10.1023/A:1014815725852
Lowes, J. & Tiggemann, M. (2003). Body dissatisfaction, dieting awareness and the impact of parental influence in young children. The British Psychological Society, 8(2), 135–147. Doi: 10.1348/135910703321649123
Mann, M. M., Hosman, C. M., Schaalma, H. P., & De Vries, N. K. (2004). Self-esteem in a broad-spectrum approach for mental health promotion. Health education research, 19(4), 357-372. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/her/cyg041
Tiggemann, M., & Slater, A. (2013). NetGirls: The Internet, Facebook, and body image concern in adolescent girls. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 46(6), 630-633. Doi: 10.1002/eat.22141
Happy Holidays! Toddlers could be very active during mealtimes and would rather do other things than eat. On the eighth episode of the Impressive, Janna Lundquist, a Leadership Team Advisor, consults Doctor Kimberley for tips on how to encourage her kids to sit down longer during mealtimes.
Listen up as we explore:
How to change dinner time dynamics
When to use rewards at the table
Why we shouldn’t negotiate with children in relation to food
Impressive is a weekly podcast that sheds new light on the world of parenting. Join host, Dr Kimberley O’Brien PhD, as she delves into real-life parenting issues with CEOs, global ex-pats, entrepreneurs, celebrities, travelers and other hand-picked parents.
As we prepare to begin term 3 in Australia, now is a good time to star to prepare for the dreaded tests and exams period. Whether it is your child’s first experience with formal examination periods or they are a seasoned regular, it is easy to feel unprepared and nervous. The following article will discuss strategies to assist with these nerves and help boost your child’s confidence!
Strategy #1 PREPARE FOR YOUR ASSESSMENTS
Sometimes the most obvious strategies are overlooked. Make sure you know when your child’s exam is. Mark it on the calendar. Knowing how long you have to prepare will help you and your child to appropriately schedule study times and reduce the chance of your child feeling overwhelmed.
Similarly, find out what is on the test! Some exam notices will indicate particular chapters and topics of importance. For the Higher School Certificate (HSC), students will be provided learning outcomes that explicitly highlight what knowledge will be examined. The Board of Studies has created helpful pages for each exam that outline what to expect as well as the equipment needed for each tests and exams, which can be found by following the link here.
Strategy #2 TIMETABLE
This is the time to get out the coloured highlighters and get organised! On a weekly planner, mark out all the times where you have commitments already scheduled (e.g. school, dance class, soccer practice, family BBQ, etc.). Then, working with your child, (let them do it on their own if they are capable), schedule in one to three 30 minute blocks of time on weeknights (depending on the number of tests and exams: and child’s capability) to cover a particular subject. Prioritise the subjects they find most difficult.
Breaking up the work into more manageable chunks of time will make the pressure of exams less daunting. Structuring study this way will also help to overcome any avoidance tactics.
For the weekends, you may want to discuss adding a couple more study blocks, where your child can choose the topics. Remember to schedule in fun breaks and small rewards to keep your child motivated. For example, spend 15 minutes playing their favourite game or having a snack after 30-40 minutes of study.
Strategy #3 STUDY ENVIRONMENT
Research has shown that your memory recall is best when it is in a similar environment (Godden & Baddeley, 1975). Although you cannot take your child to school to study in their regular school classroom, you can try to make their study space at home reflect the conditions of tests and exams.
For example, encourage your child to study at a desk, sitting upright in a supportive chair, in a quiet environment. Although it may be more comfortable, studying in bed will be less effective!
Strategy #4 MAKE STUDY ACTIVE
How does your child study? Most commonly, children and adolescents alike will flick through their books and highlight more words than not. Though this can be helpful, it can often lead to an illusion of knowledge – “if it is highlighted, I should know it!”
Instead, encourage active study. This includes rewriting information in their own words, making mind maps, talking about topics, creating quizzes, using past exams questions and testing knowledge. Children can either do this independently or with parents and/or friends. Research shows that this leads to better learning and understanding of the material (Prince, 2004).
Strategy #5 SLEEP
Adequate sleep is so important, especially for the exam preparation! During sleep, our brain consolidates learning, so while your child may think it is better to stay up studying until the early hours of the morning, they will be better off getting in the zzz’s (Stickgold, 2005).
Strategy #6 NUTRITION
There is no one key ‘brain food’ that is guaranteed to lead to success. However, a diet rich in whole grains (oats, brown rice, wheat bread), omega-3 (fatty fish, nuts and seeds, avocado) and vitamins (eggs, leafy greens) has been shown to improve brain function and development and improve concentration (Torrens, 2017).
In particular, for older adolescents, limiting caffeine is recommended. Although energy drinks or coffee may be considered helpful because they increase alertness, their stimulant effects may make it difficult for adolescents to wind down, negatively impact sleep and lead to daytime sleepiness (James, Kristjánsson, & Sigfúsdóttir, 2011).
Strategy #7 EXAM DAY
Important things to remember on the day:
Make sure your child has a good, wholesome breakfast – think brain food, such as eggs on toast with avocado.
Engage in positive self-talk: remind your child of the hard work that has gone into preparing for the exam. Remind them they can do this! Manage expectations and focus on the effort your child has put in, not the achievement.
Arrive early: this is especially important for the HSC, as sometimes exams can be in rooms different from normal exams or classes.
Remind your child to:
Take three deep breaths to help settle their nerves.
Read all the instructions carefully.
Wear a watch to keep track of time.
Have something enjoyable arranged for after the assessment – your child has earned it!
Strategy #8 REDUCING ANXIETY DURING TESTS AND EXAMS
Though the above strategies can help support your child, it is normal for them to experience anxiety. Recognising the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety can help your child break the anxiety cycle.
Racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worry and negative self-talk are common psychological symptoms of anxiety. Physical symptoms may include an accelerated heart rate, sweaty palms, upset stomach and tension throughout the body (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Some strategies to help reduce anxiety include: deep breathing exercises (long, slow breaths in through the nose, out through the mouth), positive self talk (“I can do it”), grounding exercises (focus on what is in the room, not racing thoughts), and taking a break to go and exercise (Furner, & Berman, 2003; Otto & Smits, 2011).
If you notice your child’s exam anxiety is persistent and detrimentally affecting your child’s ability not only to study but to effectively function in other areas of life, it may be indicative of a more serious issue. Should you have any concerns please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly reception on (02) 9362 9297.
Best of Luck!
Done with your assessments? Or just going back to school? Check out our term programs!
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Furner, J. M., & Berman, B. T. (2003). Math anxiety: Overcoming a major obstacle to the improvement of student math performance. Childhood Education, 79(3), 170-175. doi: 10.1080/00094056.2003.10522220
Godden, D. R. & Baddeley, A. D. Context‐dependent memory in two natural environments: on land and underwater. British Journal of Psychology, 66(3), 325-331. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1975.tb01468.x
James, J. E., Kristjánsson, Á. L., & Sigfúsdóttir, I. D. (2011). Adolescent substance use, sleep, and academic achievement: evidence of harm due to caffeine. Journal of adolescence, 34(4), 665-673.
NSW Education Standards Authority (2018). Exam advice and resources for students. Retrieved 17th September, 2018, from http://k6.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/11-12/hsc/exam-advice-resources
Otto, M, W., & Smits, J. A. J. (2011). Exercise for mood and anxiety: Proven strategies for overcoming depression and enhancing well-being. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc.
Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231.
Stickgold, R. (2005). Sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Nature, 437(7063), 1272-1278. doi:10.1038/nature04286
School camps, slumber parties and sleepovers are important steps to your child gaining their independence, but for some kids and their parents, this potentially positive experience can be riddled with anxiety. Thankfully, there are effective strategies which resolve some of the most common concerns around sleeping away from home or without the comfort of family.
For kids in later primary school, Term One here in Australia often includes the obligatory school camp. Similarly, the school holidays for tweens and teens often provide an exciting opportunity for children to engage in fun overnight holiday camp programs, or perhaps your child may be invited to their first sleepover at a friend’s house. Whether it is a slumber party, school trip or even an overseas camp, the emotions and concerns you and/or your children may have remain the same. Although it is not unusual to have apprehension around first-time sleepovers, the good news is that there are ways to manage these worries and make it the positive experience it should be for both parents and kids.
Read on for our top tips for successfully navigating this adventure together.
Why can Overnight School Camp seem scary?
Just like anything new, overnight trips present children with a series of unknowns. These can range from primal concerns around their safety, to social concerns about fitting in and getting along with peers, to practical concerns like whether they will remember everything or pack the right things. Knowing the main theme of your child’s concern will be the first step in assisting them to feel more confident.
Strategies for Parents of first-time School Campers
Overall, the main goal for parents is to focus on positives. Think about what your child has to gain from this experience. It is very likely to be a great opportunity to establish new friendships, participate in hands-on learning experiences and, importantly, gain a sense of independence outside of the family network. The following considerations and tips may be helpful for parents:
Are you yourself anxious? In preparation, it is important to check-in on how you are feeling yourself. What are you worried about as a parent? How are you addressing these concerns? In these times, if you are worried, you are more likely to present as flustered and somewhat erratic. This can heighten anxiety in young children, who could interpret camp as something to be concerned about. It is important to manage your own anxiety first!
Homesickness chat. This is a big one! You may have experienced some separation anxiety with your child in the early years when beginning preschool. This experience is quite relatable in that it is an unknown situation. If your child is worried they may miss home too much to enjoy themselves, an easy fix can be to have your child bring with them an important item from home that can easily be popped in their bag.
Pack together. Make it fun! Often camps will provide you with a list of required items.For a sleepover, you can call the other parent and jot down a list. Then turn packing into a game, such as collecting the required items as if on a scavenger hunt. Further to this, make sure you do not leave packing to the last minute! Think of the classic saying ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’; packing ahead of time will allow you to make any last trips to the shops if required.
Reduce the sense of the ‘unknown’. Talk about what to expect and perhaps see if you can get a rough schedule for the camp. Where possible, make a rooming request with teachers/staff if the child is not given the option.
Share your own positive experiences. Simply talking with your child about your good experiences on camp may help to further ease the fear of the unknown. It is okay to talk about experiences that also didn’t turn out too well, however it is important to emphasise the learning that came out of that experience!
Normalise that some anxiety is okay. It is always important to emphasise that all feelings we experience are normal, and good, and part of our body looking after us. Holding onto anxious feelings is not helpful in the long term, however. Help your children to recognise when they don’t feel good, and to challenge an unhelpful feeling with a helpful thought or saying to themselves, for instance, “I’m feeling nervous, but I know I’ll have a great time with my friends on camp”.
Account for any travel sickness or dietary needs in advance. As parents, you know what your child can and cannot handle. It is important to make staff aware of any accommodations that need to take place to help mitigate the likelihood of any predictable problems.
Strategies to Enhance your Child’s Confidence during School Camp
While there is a lot you can do to put your child at ease, it is important that they know how to be present and manage their anxiety while they are at camp without you. Teach your child to:
Ease physical tension. When we are anxious, our body responds physically. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can linger and perpetuate negative feelings. Practicing relaxation techniques at home will help your child to self-soothe while away. Examples include deep breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
Worry diary. If something is bothering your child, encourage them to write it down in a journal, and leave the thoughts there until they are at home again.
For the night-owls. If there is a certain item at home that helps your child get to sleep, let them take it to camp to help put them at ease. If your child seems embarrassed about having a comfort toy at camp, you could find a small precious object to pop under their pillow instead. A drawing/portrait of the toy or letter (perhaps even written in the voice of their special toy) are also good substitutes.
Practice talking to staff. If your child does require assistance, often they may feel too anxious to tell someone about it because they do not want to get into trouble or bother anyone. Practice at home ways to approach and engage with staff or get their attention. This can be practiced with regards to how to complete activities, if a peer is unkind, when feeling homesick, or where to get their special dietary food from.
Some anxiety around first camps and overnight stays is normal and an important part of your child’s emotional development. If this distress is persistent, however, and detrimentally affecting your child’s overall functioning in other areas of life, it may be a warning sign of an ongoing issue. If you feel that you and/or your child require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly reception on (02) 9362 9297.
For the sixth episode of Impressive, a young scientist by the name of Angelina Arora, the inventor of bioplastic, tells the story behind her interesting work and how it has been taking her to greater heights. Also, she shares the insights that she gained while on her journey towards success.
Listen up as we explore:
How Angelina’s parents supported her passion for science and inventing.
How to seek out a support network of teachers, professors and mentors to make your dreams a reality.
How to find friends who are equally passionate about their own endeavours, while balancing schoolwork with international research.
Impressive is a weekly podcast that sheds a new light on the world of parenting. Join host, Dr Kimberley O’Brien PhD, as she delves into real-life parenting issues with CEOs, global ex-pats, entrepreneurs, celebrities, travellers and other hand-picked parents.