My 8-Year-Old Already Has Body-Image Issues, and I'm to Blame

My daughter recently had an appointment with her psychiatrist. Like normal, her doctor measured how tall she was and how much she weighed. This is standard procedure, but these measurements are particularly important for children like my daughter. She takes medication for her ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and one of the side effects of this particular medication is a suppressed appetite.

I wish my daughter didn't need to take medication, but in her case, medication is necessary in order for her to function well in school. Unfortunately, it makes her feel full when it's meal time, so it prevents her from growing like she's supposed to during the school year. While my daughter sat quietly on the doctor's couch as she fidgeted, her doctor and I discussed her lack of weight gain. We decided to give my daughter a break from her medication this Summer in the hopes that her body will catch up on the weight she should have gained during the school year.

After the appointment, I overheard my daughter sadly tell my mom that she's too skinny. Hearing those words come out of my 8-year-old's mouth took me aback. I hated the fact that at such a young age, my daughter was body-shaming herself. What I hated even more was the fact that I knew it was 100 percent my fault. The big mistake I now realize I made was discussing my daughter's weight with her doctor right in front of her, as if she wasn't even there. Sure, I'm her mother, but this is her body, her life, and I wasn't involving her in the discussion and decision at all.

I told my daughter right then and there that she is absolutely perfect to me. I don't ever want her to think she's too skinny, too fat, or too anything. I don't ever want her to feel ashamed or embarrassed of her body. I explained to her that while it's true that her medication can make it difficult for her to gain weight like other kids, it doesn't mean that she's not healthy. She is extremely active and very strong. She can sure outrun her father and me!

My talk made her feel better, and she's been enjoying eating to her heart's content this Summer, but I'm not sure if my words are enough to keep her feeling confident about her body. To be completely honest, our society is pretty screwed up. There are people out there (including family members) who look at my daughter and make rude comments, like, "She's all skin and bones," and "Don't you feed her?" They have no right to judge my daughter — or anyone else's body, for that matter. Nobody does. And nobody has the right to make her feel like she's not healthy and beautiful. She is. All that should matter is how she feels about yourself, which I know will be an uphill battle for a girl her age. But while that hill could potentially get impossibly tall as the years go on, I'm going to do everything in my power to knock it down as far as I can.