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Nanny worries about body image of young charges

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Readers: I've stepped away from my column for a week while I put the finishing touches on my new book, which will be published in the fall. Please enjoy these "Best Of" columns in my absence. I'll be back with your fresh questions and answers next week.

Dear Amy: I am the nanny of two 10-year-old girls this summer, and I am concerned with comments they have made about their looks.

Both are normal-size, healthy girls with regular bodies, but I have heard them say how fat they think they are at least five or six times. One time one girl complained about her "big belly," and the other said, "I need to work out soooo bad; I'm so fat."

Amy, these girls are 10!

I always tell them that they are beautiful girls and are a healthy size.

I am wondering if this is the proper way to handle this kind of talk, or what I could possibly do to make these girls believe that they are not fat.

 

I do not want them to suffer the same self-esteem issues so many women (including myself) face. -- Wondering in Illinois

Dear Wondering: You are right to be concerned about this, and you are responding to these girls just as you should. You can help further by exposing them to positive girl role models, rather than the stick-insect pop tarts and cultural "icons" currently in vogue.

If your summer charges haven't yet started the "Harry Potter" books, now would be a good time to read J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (1998, Scholastic) with them. The Hermione character is one that any 10-year-old girl should emulate.

Adolescent girls should be encouraged to be smart and creative problem-solvers, not miniature workout queens.

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