I always have been tall so in Latino culture that has meant I was ‘grande’- big. Most of my life I have been on the average side of weight with some fluctuations but never considered petite. I actually really like being tall. My Abuela who was an excellent seamstress, always encouraged me to wear clothing that fit well and accentuated my long torso. However, she was petite and all of my life I saw her make weight an issue for my mother or others. My mom never fussed about weight with me- she wanted me to be healthy but wasn’t focused on whether I was thin or not. Since discussions about weight were constant for her – she worked hard to stop that trend when I was a child.
Fast forward to my go around at motherhood and I’m blessed with the double package of identical twin daughters. I have benefited from Girl Scout Troop Leader training that helps leaders prepare for conversations to encourage girls in developing positive self-esteem and self-confidence. When my girls entered the tween years at 7- they started to develop more curves and lost that extreme ‘skinniness’ associated with some girls their age. I explained with their half-Latina cultural background they were bound to have some hips! While they couldn’t really grasp my meaning, we also talked about how in later years they would give me hugs and thank me for a bit of curves.
The first sign of a self-esteem issue developing mostly in young girls revolves around the clothes they wear. The popular stores for their age group focus on clothing lines that run like skis instead of bodies- very long and narrow. There is no room for a slight ounce of curve to fit in those shapes! So while a girl may not be considered overweight by any measure- only a certain body type will fit into those jeans. My girls were beginning to notice. At that precise moment I decided that I would help my girls appreciate who they are. While we focus on eating healthy and being active in our home, reality is that neither their father or I have ski-like bodies so they are not likely to have one either. Understanding early on that health is key and shape can be managed, but genetics comes into play as well, helped keep the conversation positive. I also decided to expand the shopping opportunities and focus on stores that offered a wider range of styles and more jeans!
See other posts that illustrate how young girls are impacted by negative self image
Fast forward a few years later and I have girls that are positive, eat well and find fashion that makes them feel good. This was an early choice and an early conversation. Why do we make women, and men, feel so wrong about their shape? Yes, we have to manage weight for our health. In the course of striving to have a better weight we should not create negative self images that cause lifelong pain. In my opinion, adults who lack self-confidence are a result of a childhood that didn’t instill this important trait that helps us succeed.
How we talk to children about their bodies, weight, self-mage and self confidence matters. And our actions are even more important. Please share your experiences with us so we all can benefit from insights to better communicate with our tweens and teens.
As a mother of twin tweens in 2011 and an active Girl Scout Troop leader, Cristy realized there was a need to develop bilingual digital content and foster a community facing the challenges of raising kids after first grade. That year she founded and remains co-Publisher of Los Tweens & Teens, to support multicultural parents and mentors with content related to raising Gen Z- tweens & teens ages 7-18. Through the Los Tweens & Teens LIVE events such as Teens & Me – the growing team aims to provide our community with essential resources from chats with therapists to battle anxiety and bullying, to understanding social media and technology.
A New Jersey native of Cuban decent, Cristy is a board member of Amigos For Kids – a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse in the South Florida community. She is a teenage cancer survivor and speaks nationally at conferences and volunteers with cancer-awareness organizations such as St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of South Florida.