On this day in Sydney a young girl, about 10, is looking for a dress to wear for her First Holy Communion.
She arrives at a store with her mother; her face brimming with excitement and expectation. Eventually, after a few dresses are tried on, her mother takes the young part-time job assistant aside, and asks whether there are any dresses that might hide her tween daughter’s arms.
The young girl leaves the store, crest-fallen; her spirit crushed.
“Do not tell your daughters that they are fat; just do not,’’ Dannielle Miller, author and teen educator, says.
Watch: How to help improve your daughter's body image. Post continues below.
The advice around tween girls and body image and how to deal with it is unanimous. Don’t talk about your weight. Don’t talk about the weight of others. Talk about how the body functions, not how it looks. Don’t talk about food in terms of how it will change the body. Ensure weight is not the subject of jokes in the house. Discourage dieting.
But after researching 10-year-old girls across Australia - and seeking the counsel of 2000 parents, 100 middle school teachers and experts like school principals, counsellors and parenting experts - it’s not what is happening. Girls are crying themselves to sleep over their appearance, and while many mothers worry about how their daughter sees herself, many are at a loss to help.
“I’m surprised at how aware she is about her body. And how concerned she gets if she thinks she’s put on any weight,’’ one mother said.
“Her cousins are on TikTok as young as eight (and) always pouting… and (she’s) complaining she is fat. So sad,’’ another said.