Dear Parents of Teenage Daughters,
I have been meaning to write this letter to you for some time. I am sorry that I have been horribly negligent. I have been working with teen girls for over three decades and I want to make sure that you are aware of the problematic relationship many of them have with the scales in your homes. Yes, I understand why you have scales in your homes. You want to make sure that everyone is staying healthy and managing their weight well. That makes sense. There is, however, a down side to having scales so readily available to your tween and teen daughters. In my experience, many of the tween and teen girls are using the scales and their body weight as a measure of something far greater than their body weight. They report equating their body weight with how good they are as a person and how they are functioning as a young woman. Let me put this another way: They may get on the scale feeling perfectly good and get off feeling dreadful if there has been any movement in an upward direction.
And, we all know that two pounds here or there should not be the measure of a woman and her self-esteem, right? Your daughters can assess how they feel by how comfortable they are in their clothing in their own skin and by what their body can do rather than simply on how much they weigh. It is time to evaluate how frequently your daughters are turning to scales for the measure of their worth.
My suggestions are to:
1. Remove the scale if your daughters are on it several times per week or even several times per day. Your girls are more than the sum of the weight of their body parts.
2. Take a look at your own relationship with the scale. What are you modeling for your kids? Are you on the scale frequently and making constant references to your weight? If so, then please for the sake of your entire family, re-evaluate this behavior.
3. If you have an impossible time separating your daughter and her self-esteem from the scale, than perhaps it is time to visit the pediatrician and maybe even a good therapist.
4. Focus on all aspects of your daughter's well-being including her creativity, behavior as a friend, intelligence, athleticism and how well she takes care of all aspects of her being.
Remember that the scale can be your daughter's worst enemy. It may also be the enemy of both fathers and mothers and even your sons. I have focused on teen girls here because they are the ones who most frequently present with issues relating to where the scale needle points. I guess that my wish is that you and your kids can point your compass in a different direction and one that does not focus on social comparisons of body weight. I wish you good luck and I would love to hear about your experiences.
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