PROGRAMS FOR PRETEENS
Focusing on Body image and self-esteem
and the prevention of disordered eating behavior
Addressing the realities of preteen girls’ lives and concerns and experiences!
“Even if we sometimes worry about our body image
and self-confidence—that’s not what it’s about.
It’s about what we do and what we
want—all the things that concern us as girls.”
Please note that space is limited to 10 girls per group to ensure that each girl’s needs are addressed, and their voices are heard. Be sure to call soon if you wish to reserve a space for your daughter in any of the groups.
- Just 4 Girls
- The Healthy Body Image Project
Just 4 Girls Groups
A new summer group starts June 20th, 2011.
DOWNLOAD REGISTRATION FORM (due by 6/13/11)
SPACE IS LIMITED TO 10 PARTICIPANTS
This is a weekly group for preteen girls (entering 5th and 6th grade)
to talk about “all the things that concern us as girls!”
Time: Mondays (6/20, 6/27, 7/11, 7/18, 7/25, 8/1)4:00 pm – 5.30 pm
Where: Douglas Psychotherapy Center
201 Center St, Douglas, MI 49406
Cost: $65 for all six sessions (total = 9 hours)
Register: by 6/13/11
Sace is limited to 10 girls per group
These groups provide preteen girls with the opportunity to learn and talk about their changing bodies and emotions as they enter puberty. The interactive power of groups gives girls a chance to come together in a safe environment where they can air their concerns and talk about issues that may influence their self confidence and self-esteem during this time of change.
They will learn healthy coping skills and strategies to combat negative experiences they will encounter. They are encouraged to be real with each other, and explore what it means to be female and how each one of them can indeed go through adolescence and middle school without losing touch with their unique and authentic / real sense of self.
The groups will teach the girls:
- Critical thinking to help combat the myth of the perfect “ideal body” in the media
- To identify and deal with their “grungies” (“I feel ‘fat’ / ‘stupid’ / ‘ugly’) and to express the real feelings and stories that lie underneath these negative voices.
- To identify, express and manage anger and other intense uncomfortable feelings that come with puberty.
- What physical changes to expect during puberty and how to accept and love their bodies and become healthy at whatever size they are
- To discover, preserve and strengthen their sense-of-self.
These groups are based on the JUST FOR GIRLS program that was developed by Sandra Susan Friedman as a group program for young girls.
In this way JUST FOR GIRLS seeks to prevent the silencing of girls’ voices in adolescence and their subsequent loss of self.
The aim of the JUST FOR GIRLS program is to provide girls with the opportunity to talk about issues
that may influence their self confidence and self-esteem during adolescence, and to help them develop
skills and strategies to combat negative experiences. Using a negative voice can undermine girls’ self esteem
if they are not given a chance to air their concerns and to learn healthy coping skills. These
experiences often take the form of comments from peers suggesting that they are ‘too tall,’ ‘too
skinny,’ ‘fat,’ ‘ugly,’ ‘stupid’ and so forth. The group will learn to address these grungies—when girls
internalize the criticism and tell themselves that they are too fat, ugly stupid and so forth. It is our hope
that by encouraging girls to talk about their concerns we will develop resilience and encourage wellbeing
and avert future tendencies towards eating disorders, depression, and substance abuse.
“It’s almost impossible to grow up female without ‘feeling fat.’ Fat talk has become a widely used and accepted shorthand for communication by women and girls in our society.
Even before girls are able to identify the full spectrum of their feelings they are able to speak fat, to say ‘look at my thighs’ or ‘if only I was thinner…’ in place of talking about something real.”
- Sandra Susan Friedman
Module 1: Solving the Grungies – When Girls ‘Feel Fat” teaches skills to identify and decode the
grungies so that girls are able to reframe their experiences into real life experience instead of ‘fat’ talk.
Module 2: Managing Feelings and Letting Go of Stress teaches girls to identify and expand their range
of feelings and to talk about them in the context of their lives. It teaches skills to express anger
constructively and to identify and manage stress.
Module 3: Building a Strong Sense-of-Self teaches girls to identify and validate the different parts of
their selves including their skills, abilities and talents. It teaches girls how they lose their self by
focusing outward and putting themselves down and how to regain and strengthen it with the power of
Module 4: Strengthening Relationships examines the qualities of a best friend. It teaches girls good
communication skills including those needed to deal with conflict. It addresses alternative aggression,
bullying, cyberbullying, violence and abusive relationships. It helps girls identify the elements that
make up healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Module 5: Celebrating Our Bodies helps girls understand the bodies they have. It addresses puberty
and growth, genes, metabolism and why diets don’t work. It promotes Health at Every Sizes, teaches
body awareness skills and promotes and encourages physical activity.
Module 6: Food, Glorious Food! teaches girls what food does, what foods they need for balance and
energy, what ‘normal’ eating is and how they can trust their own bodies around their food choices.
The Healthy Body Image Project
A group of 4th grade girls completed this group at the Douglas Elementary School.
The Healthy Body Image Project is a course of 11 sessions designed for 4th, 5th and 6th graders. The lessons are laid out very carefully and teach students aboput the physical and emotional changes they will face during puberty. They are also introduced to the pressures they will (and already are) facing to look and act a certain way.
The syllabus does not teach human reproduction.
Through participation in these sessions they will learn to counteract these pressures and most importantly to think twice before engaging in unhealthy behaviors designed to force their bodies into a certain size that may not be healthy for them. This curriculum was designed by Kathy Kater and has been endorsed by the US Dept of Health Office of Women’s Health. This program demonstrates very positive results in outcome studies with boys and girls in grades 4, 5 and 6.
BACKGROUND TO THE PROJECT
Fears and misconceptions regarding body image are widespread among American girls and boys. We worry that our preteens will become more and more influenced by unrealistic advertising and strong pressure from their “peer families”. As parents, some of us still struggle with the “body perfect” mentality that drives our culture. The cultural myths responsible for this are willingly absorbed by all of us, unless we stand back and question and examine them.
The 4 main toxic myths that have been identified are:
- Toxic Myth #1: How I look is much more important than who I am.
- Toxic Myth #2: I can totally control and change the body I was born with.
- Toxic Myth #3: Dieting works and my hunger should be ignored.
- Toxic Myth #4: How I look is more important than how healthy I am.
If we do not critically examine them, they work automatically and can lead to:
- Unhealthy thoughts and actions regarding our bodies.
- Unhealthy thoughts and actions regarding our eating.
- Unhealthy thoughts and actions regarding our fitness and how we use our bodies.
- Unhealthy thoughts and actions regarding what we weigh.
Prevention is key! But sadly, studies are showing that even by middle school prevention is too late and has little impact on negative body image and unhealthy eating and body behaviors already adopted.
HOW THE PROJECT WORKS
Each lesson in the The Model for Healthy Body Image challenges one of the toxic myths.
Lessons are like antidotes conveyed to students through simple language using examples, stories and experiential activities.
The lessons aim to help young students recognize the difference between what they can and cannot control when it comes to their bodies. It teaches them how to decode and resist the unhealthy cultural pressures they face about food, fitness, diet and weight. It inspires them to value their health and what is INSIDE above external perfection.
The students are strongly encouraged to share their learning and their projects with parents in order to begin the very important conversations we would like them to have with parents over the next years. The idea is that they get to feel more comfortable and welcome to discuss any worries or concerns or excitements they have about their changing bodies and feelings with their parents, step-parents, caregivers etc.
Many of the Healthy Body Image lessons contain handouts for students to take home. It’s possible that many parents will find these healthy-body image lessons challenging due to their own body image concerns. Many adults still struggle with body image, eating, nutrition, fitness and weight concerns that began in adolescence or earlier.
In light of this parents can embrace these positive body lessons for themselves. And also take heart in knowing that they can reinforce a healthier and easier path for their child.
SUMMARY OF THE PROGRAM
Here is a summary of the sessions (an introductory week followed by 10 lessons):
Week 1 is an Introduction to the Project. We discuss tools for coping with the changes ahead. The students devise ground rules for privacy and safety helping them feel free to express their worries and excitements without being ridiculed or exposed.
Through a story about the “Rainbow People” who all wanted to look orange, Lesson 1 illustrates the “silliness” of dieting and all trying to look the same way and how much effort and discomfort it can take. And how unsuccessful it is long-term.
In Lesson 2, the students explore all the different aspects of their identity and create an “identity pie” on a paper plate that shows just how many parts there are to their identities and how important it is to give attention to all the pieces of their identity pie (not just “looks”). Pies can be displayed in their bedrooms and shared with parents. When they feel bad about one tiny part of themselves, hopefully students can see just how much more there is to who they are!
In Lesson 3, students study and discuss a booklet on how their appearance will change through puberty! They (now the experts on this) are asked to share these books with their parents because it “helps to talk to people they trust about how their bodies are changing”. They learn that their particular course of development has been predetermined and cannot be changed by healthy means. They learn that differences in body shapes and where fat will settle (especially in girls) is to be expected! And that being teased or teasing anybody was absolutely not okay. They learn that “fatter” and “thinner” are descriptive words NOT judgments. They discover that in order to grow healthily they should expect to become heavier and taller faster than ever and that more fat on their bodies and even bigger feet were normal and expected events of puberty. The students tend to be both excited and nervous to see how they will “turn out” in adolescence and adulthood.
In lesson 4, they learn about genetics and how their body shape and size and many aspects of their appearance have already been determined. Again, they tend to be excited and nervous to see how they will develop and how they will end up looking.
Lesson 5 introduces them to metabolism. I.E. how food we eat is converted into energy. Through a game we play they come to learn that people burn (metabolize) their food at different speeds and also store different amounts of fat. This is because we all inherit different rates of metabolism. The game showed that when people eat exactly the same amount of food at the same time, metabolism makes some people get hungrier sooner than others. It shows that some people naturally store fat more easily than others and that there is nothing one can do to change this. They come to understand that size and weight cannot be totally manipulated at will through (even though this is an idea that is generally accepted by all of us). Instead they learn that each of us have a normal, healthy body size that could be fatter or thinner and that accepting oneself is key.
In Lesson 6, they learn to be more media savvy. They begin recognize and understand how advertisers seek to promote “the right look” and “how to get it”. And how this kind of message can play havoc on their vulnerabilities and undermine their self-esteem. Students realize it is pointless to compare themselves to “models” whose looks are for the most part a total artistic illusion. They learn that they can care about their appearance and STILL be confident and feel good about themselves, but that what matters most is what is inside.
Lesson 7 introduces the girls to the five basic needs for survival – water, air, food, sleep and warmth. We play a game that demonstrates that when any of these needs are denied, humans always respond in the same way – we become totally focused on what is missing, we cannot concentrate on anything else, we increasingly crave what is missing. And we become more and more uncomfortable, self-centered, crabby, depressed and worried. When we are finally given back what is missing, we take in more than the normal amount to make up for what we were deprived of. We might sleep more, gulp more water, breathe more air or stuff ourselves with extra food.
The bottom line is that dieting is popular and pushed hard by the media, but it comes with a very high price and it does not work long term. In fact it has the opposite effect. It can make you gain weight.
Lessons 8 and 9 continue where lesson 7 left off, reinforcing the opposite of dieting – which is engaging in physical movement, eating well and listening to the body’s cues for hunger and fullness. Eating well has to do with nutrition, balance and variety. It also involves eating enough to satisfy your particular body’s need for hunger and nutrition and for movement.
Lesson 10 helps students define their own standard for role models. It matters a great deal who our preteens we compare themselves to! And since it is their choice, the project will show them how fads and fashions sway their choice of role models. The project will help them learn what to consider in choosing a healthy role model. They will again use critical thinking to decide what fads are destructive and limiting, versus what fads are fun or positive and harmless.
Healthy Body Image Curriculum by Kathy Kater
Download introductory pages 1- 48