9 yo daughter thinks she is too skinny

After searching online and only finding articles about girls who think they are too fat, I am at my wits end with my daughter's struggles with being skinny and hoping to get some advice. My daughter is 9 and cries if she has to show her legs since she feels like they are too skinny and she is embarrassed by them. I type this as she cries herself to sleep. She won't wear shorts to school because she doesn't want her classmates to see her legs. It's impossible to find clothes for her because the right length is often too wide at the waist. She wants baggy clothes to hide her thinness. Sometimes she'll wear multiple layers (like 4 or 5) to look bulkier. I am having a hard time being empathetic, too me she looks perfect and I know many girls struggle with being chubby. Although she is thin, she is not overly skinny and genetically our family is all on the thin side. I try to tell her she is perfect and that she will fill out as she gets older and that many girls would love to be her size but none of it helps. I let her wear her too baggy pants and buy more when those become too short but how do I help her to be more confident? I explained that everyone's bodies are different and there is no perfect shape to have. She wants me to let her eat lots of junk food to gain weight ( I explained why that was a bad idea). We are so conscious in our house to not make comments about people's size (big or little). I am also concerned because she has a little sister who I'm afraid will develop her sisters lack of body confidence. Has anyone else had similar problems with their child? Any suggestions would be so appreciated! Thank you :)

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Sounds like you're doing the right things. At the *most*, she has only a couple of years before she's completely enveloped by the other extreme; in fact it often starts at age 10. Is she in 4th grade?  Lots of times it starts in 5th, certainly by 6th (middle school). She'll likely feel *extremely* lucky once the pervasive body image obsession kicks in. 

This was me at that age! All elbows and knees, while the other girls seemed "normal."

Alas, this state of affairs persisted until I was nearly 17. Here's what my mother told me:

"Honey, I'm your mother, and I know you don't think I know anything, but any girl who has a perfect figure at 13 will be FAT before she's 20!"

She was soooo right. Already, the girls in my senior class were packing on the pounds when I just... blossomed. I ended up (if I do say so) with a spectacular, willowy figure which I still have to this day (I'm 51). Show her pictures of fashion models. Ask her if she wouldn't mind ending up like them.

The hard part is the waiting. And kids think "several years from now" is an eternity. Until then, you may have to put up with some eccentricities until she realizes she's lucky. (I wouldn't force her to wear shorts. That would've killed me.)

And, parents, please don't ream me -- I'm not saying that every girl should look like a model, thereby setting the stage for fat shaming and bad body image. That's a whole other kettle of horrible fish, obviously. This is just about one child's self esteem.


Could you try and help her focus on what her body can DO vs what it looks like? I really think sports are wonderful for young girls and women. It builds confidence, a social/support network and can help steer girls away from the stereotyped ideals of beauty. My daughter has played soccer for a number of years and has had a number of wonderful, strong female coaches. She's also shared the field with all different body types -- skinny, tall, short, heavy -- and she'll be the first to tell you that you can never tell who's going to be the strongest players by looks. If your daughter's not into team sports, there's always running, swimming, dance, hiking, etc.

If she was 4 years older I would suggest weight training. Few people really need more fat, but someone who think they are too skinny could benefit from putting on some muscle. At 9, your daughter probably doesn't have the right mix of hormones to really put on muscle.  But to get her primed for when she can, you could suggest biking--serious bicycle riders have muscular and not at all skinny legs. She could do body weight exercises like squats and lunges. If she paired a focused (safe, age-appropriate) exercise routine with a matching increased calorie intake, maybe you could both be happy. If she continues to want to pack on the fat pounds, have her read up on "skinny fat." That's what you don't want.

You could get her in a sport.  Athletics will add muscle to those legs and help her view her body in a different light; what it can do, rather than how it looks.