Whenever a friend’s daughter looks at herself in the mirror, she always wonders out loud who she takes after in height. At 8 years old, she is one of the shortest girls in her class and is also behind her younger sister in height by a few inches. My friend, her mom, is quite tall by women’s standards, while her husband is average in height.
Worried about her child, my friend would always assure her daughter that she, too, was short when she was younger and that in time, the grade-schooler would catch up. True enough, this girl had a growth spurt in the last two years, and now she towers over her eldest sibling.
Kids this age are usually conscious of their appearance. “Many of the children on either end of the range want to be the same size as their friends,” Eileen Kennedy-Moore, creator of The Great Courses video Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids, told Parents. “Around age 7, children become able to realistically compare themselves to others,” she adds.
How can you, the parent, lend support to your child who feels awkward about her height, whether she feels too short or too tall? Here are some tips.
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How to help your child deal with height issues
1. Lend an ear.
This friend of mine often didn’t know what to tell her daughter whenever she would state the obvious. “How could you argue with the truth?” she would say to me.
Wayne Fleisig, a psychologist at Children’s of Alabama, says kids don’t always need to hear a solution. “Sometimes, kids just want to be heard.” His suggestion? Let your child know she’s been heard by echoing her sentiment.
For example, say, “I understand you feel like your classmates are mocking you because you’re the shortest in class. I’m sorry this is making you feel bad.” That my friend took it further and told her daughter of her own experiences growing up made it more reassuring.
A child worried about her height will try to fit in in the subtlest ways — a tall child often slouches so as not to stand out, literally, while someone who feels she is shorter than average might refuse to socialize as a coping mechanism. But they won’t come to you to voice out their thoughts.
If you observe this behavior and suspect it might be rooted in her opinion of her height, find the right time and circumstance to ask her why. Make her understand that her height is not representative of what she can do, and certainly won’t limit what she can achieve if she doesn’t allow it.
3. Help your child deal with comments.
As people are, sometimes they love to state the obvious. By now, your child must be tired of hearing the same comment like “How you’ve grown!” or “You’re so tall!” The person saying it probably thinks it is harmless. Point this out to your child. “If kids know they’re not intentionally being picked on, it takes some of the sting away,” says Kennedy-Moore.