Q: Lately, our 11-year-old daughter has become much more self-conscious of her looks and body shape. I know this is normal during adolescence, with or without type 1 diabetes. What can I do now to help her develop a positive self-image?
A: Issues about body image loom large in the world of preteens, and it’s common for both boys and girls in this age group to feel very self-conscious about the person looking back at them in the mirror. Girls, especially, can struggle with social pressure to look a certain way.
Since your daughter has type 1 diabetes, it’s understandable that you would be concerned about how body image might impact her diabetes management. So how do you start your daughter down the road to a more positive self-image? Some ways you can help include:
- Counteract negative self-talk by regularly encouraging your daughter to list all the things she likes about herself. Get the ball rolling by naming the qualities you admire in her.
- Become critical media consumers by talking to your daughter about how women are depicted in advertisements and on TV. Are there positive female role models in the shows she likes? Discuss what makes these girls and women stand out.
- Go scale-free or mirror-free for as long as possible. Even if it’s just for a day, encourage your daughter to skip the mirror-gazing and instead go outside and have some fun!
No one says parenting a tween is easy, and despite your best efforts, your daughter may still have days when her entire self-worth is tied up in a new blemish or a suddenly snug pair of jeans. Do your best to help her through these times, but try not to overlook signs that deeper body image issues could be in play. If you feel concerned that she’s headed down a slippery slope, don’t hesitate to ask your diabetes care team for specific advice on how to get professional help with the situation.
–Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE, is a clinical nurse manager for the Center for Diabetes Services at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, California.
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.