The pre-teen years, is arguably one of the most hardest times in a child’s life. Their age says they are expected to start acting like adults, but still have many child-like restrictions.
Although a lot of my work is based on the teen years, over the last decade, we’ve seen a great rise in pre-teens trying to copy-cat teenage behaviour. Revealing clothing, experimental phases, and conflicts with parents are all teenage-inspired actions, that pre-teens are starting to show, which have never existed before.
Let’s dissect what healthy self-esteem looks like. Healthy self-esteem shows a person is in their comfort zone as a human being. It means they take care of themselves – whether through clothing choices, a healthy diet, or how they compare themselves to their peers.
The obvious self-esteem issue for girls, and one that is starting to affect boys too is inevitably their weight, which often stems on into teenage-hood and their adult lives. Looking at the glass half-empty, I must mention things like obesity, bulimia and anorexia. These seem to be common household terms these days, which shows the need to teach girls about the value of their temple of a body is greater than ever. Of course, looking at all the Photoshopped photos of beautiful Size Minus-10 models in magazines cannot be healthy, so there’s two approaches I’ve heard of and practice when speaking to girls about weight issues.
Pamela Marker was the New Zealand Girlfriend Magazine Editor a few years back. I was never fond of girly magazines growing up, because just like any other girl, I would fall into depression after seeing the skinny models showing off what I didn’t have (i.e. a stick figure), which would motivate me enough to do a massive two hour workout, after which celebratory pizza was always in order. Obviously it was not a healthy option.
What made me look twice at Girlfriend magazine after Pamela came onto the team was her strive to help girls gain better self esteem – not destroy it. They would have the occasional model in there, but always tried to keep Photoshop to a minimum. The technique Pamela often used when speaking to girls was showing them the ‘before’ and ‘after’ Photoshop photos. No girl could feel bad after seeing how much graphical work goes into making one photo of a model. Think the famous Dove Video that went viral, which showed how a normal-looking woman was transformed into an intensified photo, to the point where if you saw the actual person on the street, you wouldn’t recognize them in a million years.
Paula Abdul, after admitting her bulimia issues in her youth suggests every girl should lie down on a large piece of paper and have a friend outline her. When you stand up, basically, you see that you’re actually not fat like you think, in fact, it gives you a newly found confidence.
Although having a healthy self-esteem is not only about weight, but it’s definitely a starting point. The hype of gym memberships (yes, pre-teens are starting to go to the gym now!!), whether you look fat in a top, whether you haven’t been kissed because you’re ‘fat’…all these first world problems derive from a healthy outlook on your physical appearance.
Eva-Maria's recently published second book 'Shush, You!' features more quick tips about, among other things, how to help your preteens and teens understand the importance of a healthy self-esteem, so make sure you check it out here.