A concerned mom recently asked me, “What do I tell my child when she comes to me and says things like, Mommy, I am fat?” This is an issue that plagues alot of young girls and the scary part is that the girls are getting younger that are asking these questions.

Typically, a mom’s reaction to this is: “No honey you are not fat. Don’t be silly you are beautiful.” As much as you want to impress upon her how amazing she is and you want her to see how beautiful she is, through your eyes and your understanding, the above comment does very little to console your child.

More than anything your child wants you to hear her and help her get through what she is feeling – or at the very least, hear her and simply understand. “I feel fat”, usually has something else bubbling under the surface, like, “I feel sad, I feel left out, I feel angry, I feel lonely”.

Feeling fat has, at its’ core, the feeling of being separate from the group, disconnectd, unsimilar, not accepted and different in a “bad” way. Help your child find ways to discover what is underneath with questions like, ” If you did not feel fat, what other word could you use to describe how you are feeiing right now?”

Do your best and be still, hold yourself back from trying to convince her she is not fat. Just listen and, like a detective, work with her to uncover what it is that makes her feel like she is separate. Encourage her to remember events in her life where she overcame a a challenge. Help her remember by asking questions that give her a opportunity to own her strength in a way that empowers her.

Gently and gradually help your child to redirect her focus on what she is good at and on what she CAN do. Bring her back to her strengths and help her develop a language that makes it easier for her to get connected with her feelings.

Refrain from talking about being “fat” yourself. Be mindful of your self talk, as a mom, and be present to your sense of self worth and your self talk. Practice the same exercise and appreciate your strengths and triumphs and share them with your child.

I know it is hard to refrain from simply telling your child she is not fat but that will simply push her away. She needs to know that she can trust you and that you “get” her and that you really understand. It is uncomfortable for parents to just be present and work patiently towards a positive outcome, but it is critical that you demonstrate that you are capable of really hearing what she is saying and you have the strength to go through this WITH her one step at a time.

Encourage her to develop a skill that will empower her, something that she can share or even teach others. Help her see that her uniqueness is her power and that she can always find a place to belong.

The need to belong is the most sought after human prize, we all have a deep desire to be seen and to belong whether we choose to acknowlege it or not. Speaking to this deeply ingrained need is the key to empowering your child.

The moment that your child starts to feel a true sense of accomplishment and can share it wth a group of peers, the part of herself that is aching to belong will get refeuled. Her sense of purpose will shift and she will no longer feel the need to put herself down, for she has proven to herself that she has a place in the world. A place outside of her immediate family, where she is loved and accepted. She is finding her place in the world at large and this is an extremely important part of maturing and growing up. We all venture out of the “tribe” hoping to find that we also belong to a larger whole where we are accepted and appreciated. 

Melinda Asztalos is a parent coach, speaker, author and the founder of Life Positive by Design. She assists parents through a conscious parenting process that enables them to achieve and sustain, positive solutions to their specific parenting challenges. For more information, Please visit: http://lifepositivebydesign.com
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