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LPflip

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Dec 14, 2020
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I am going for advice. My daughter is 10 years old, Level 6 gymnast. She says thing all the time about staying small. She gets upset if someone mentions she looks taller. She has recently started making comments about size small clothes and not wanting to wear clothes that are bigger. Some of her gym friends are older and developing and this seems to make her anxious. I listen to her and want her to be honest with me but I think she may need to talk with a professional. Has anyone been through this?
 

gymgal

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Aug 22, 2008
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First, I would be concerned that she is picking this up from the gym itself, either directly or indirectly by what the coaches and other girls are saying. To some extent, this is normal for some girls, not wanting to develop/grow and being a gymnast makes it all the more obvious daunting. I can only answer as to what I would do in that situation. If I felt that this was beyond me just being able to reassure her that everyone goes through the growth process, then I would talk with her primary for some assistance and then maybe a specialist.
 
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Aussie_coach

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Jan 4, 2008
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It’s often the talk around the gym that growing is hard. They talk about skills getting harder, more strength being needed, injuries etc.

Lots of gymnasts have this issue but it is important not to let it get out of hand.

At this age it can easily develop into an eating disorder. And that can be life threatening.

If she seems to be avoiding eating etc, seek urgent help.

It can also be useful to point out the positives of getting taller. Beautiful long lines, easier to catch the high bar, going on roller coasters etc.
 

LPflip

Proud Parent
Dec 14, 2020
13
49
First, I would be concerned that she is picking this up from the gym itself, either directly or indirectly by what the coaches and other girls are saying. To some extent, this is normal for some girls, not wanting to develop/grow and being a gymnast makes it all the more obvious daunting. I can only answer as to what I would do in that situation. If I felt that this was beyond me just being able to reassure her that everyone goes through the growth process, then I would talk with her primary for some assistance and then maybe a specialist.
Thank you. She has a well check due in June. I’ll mention it to them. You are correct it is probably the gym as she has mentioned before the coach can help me better because I am smaller.
 

LPflip

Proud Parent
Dec 14, 2020
13
49
It’s often the talk around the gym that growing is hard. They talk about skills getting harder, more strength being needed, injuries etc.

Lots of gymnasts have this issue but it is important not to let it get out of hand.

At this age it can easily develop into an eating disorder. And that can be life threatening.

If she seems to be avoiding eating etc, seek urgent help.

It can also be useful to point out the positives of getting taller. Beautiful long lines, easier to catch the high bar, going on roller coasters etc.
Thank you. I am concerned it could get out of hand. She tends to eat healthy. She eats what we make. I know she eats at home and packs snacks for gym and I hope she is eating there. She has never been a huge sweets fan, but will have some from time to time. She talks more about things on the car ride home so I can mention about catching the bar, and long lines.
 

BusyMomof2

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Feb 2, 2022
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Following as I also have a very tiny 8.5 year old (still wears a size 5T). My best friend is a child psychologist and former competitive gymnast, who was also very small, and she's talked to me in detail about this very issue. One piece of advice that she offered, which you may already be doing, is to avoid talking about her size in general. No nicknames that use the word "tiny", no comments when a new clothing size is needed, no "you're finally growing" commentary at the doctor, etc. I am guilty of the tiny nicknames (she's always been small) but am working on it. FWIW.
 

LPmom

Proud Parent
Feb 19, 2019
49
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Gym environment is a big thing for me when it comes to this discussion. Positive role models are so important in breaking out of this mindset. Are there upper level optional athletes built like future college athletes? Our gym has a fairly large group of level 9/10 girls who are average height for non-gymnasts and muscular in the way that our local college gymnastics athletes are. We still have some upper optionals who are younger and who I would call tiny, but they aren’t the dominant body type or role model. I think it helps the younger girls feel more confident about growing because they see the older girls growing and succeeding. Those girls are held up as examples and are not getting abandoned by coaches. It trickles down even to things like pre-team, where the girls definitely are older than at many local gyms and don’t all fit the “tiny gymnast” body type that dominated at our old gym.
 

JBS

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We actually address this and talk about it quite a bit at the gym (growing). We had one group that was really against hitting 5 foot tall... they would say they were 4 foot 14 inches instead of 5' 2".

One thing to remember is that it is in fact easier for coaches to spot smaller athletes most of the time. For this reason... it is something that will eventually come up at the gym. It is something that the culture of the gym must address.

We have a culture of not only spotting on bars... but double spotting as well. Also using the overhead spotting rig to gain a mechanical advantage. The double and single spotted stations are not always as one would think either. Many times the smaller athletes are getting double spotted and the older more advanced athletes only need a single spot. Just depends on who needs what.

Sometimes it is necessary to have a full conversation with an older gymnast on the path that they will take to achieve a skill and that this path is fully possible. It may even be necessary to explain that the 7 year old will be learning it using these methods and the 14 year old will be using these methods and that they are both very viable. The gymnast must understand and believe that their path is good. If they think the only way is to use the path the 7 year old is using... well... that happens... and sometimes it's true... hire yourself some more spotters for bars and get that double spotting action going... it's worked well for us.

We also talk about the benefits of growing... more muscles... more power... etc.

Also... we have a heavy college gymnastics culture... meaning... many of the athletes enjoy watching college gymnastics.

I would recommend monitoring the situation closely and get help if there is any sort of issue... this is definitely not something to test your parenting / coaching skills on. It can become a real issue that a professional needs to address.

I have one daughter that learned almost everything very young and now another that is learning more as a 14 year old.
 
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NutterButter

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Jan 24, 2013
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I like all the advice you've received so far. As others have mentioned, I would make sure the gym environment isn't a negative contributor here (do you see a wide variety of body types in their older teens/upper levels?, do they make comments or attempt to teach what it means to be 'healthy'?). Any gym that dictates a specific image of 'healthy' would be a red flag for me. Does your DD show anxiety in other aspects of her life such as social anxiety or perfectionism. My DD has body dysmorphia and TBH until recently, I never truly appreciated just how much of her thought space this takes up on a daily basis. My DD started seeing a therapist around age 9 for general anxiety and it helped her tremendously but I wish I had done more for her on the body dysmorphia front.
 
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NutterButter

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Jan 24, 2013
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Following as I also have a very tiny 8.5 year old (still wears a size 5T). My best friend is a child psychologist and former competitive gymnast, who was also very small, and she's talked to me in detail about this very issue. One piece of advice that she offered, which you may already be doing, is to avoid talking about her size in general. No nicknames that use the word "tiny", no comments when a new clothing size is needed, no "you're finally growing" commentary at the doctor, etc. I am guilty of the tiny nicknames (she's always been small) but am working on it. FWIW.

I agree with this and it made me chuckle! My kids are small. My husband and I are small. Grandparents and great-grandparents are small. I would have the same conversation every year at my kids' well-check where despite consistent growth, I would remind the doc that we are all small and almost pleading with the tone of my voice to stop discussing this. And yet one year she became concerned over my son's height because he dropped from 10th to 5th percentile. I shrugged it off - no big deal to me! The following year he was around 3rd percentile. Doc encouraged me to take him to an endocrinologist. OK fine, I grudgingly took him. Turns out his body barely produces growth hormone. 3 years later he's about to stop growth hormone shots and is back in the 15th percentile. The comments from the doc about 'you're finally growing' still always get me, yet that was the goal.
 

LPflip

Proud Parent
Dec 14, 2020
13
49
I like all the advice you've received so far. As others have mentioned, I would make sure the gym environment isn't a negative contributor here (do you see a wide variety of body types in their older teens/upper levels?, do they make comments or attempt to teach what it means to be 'healthy'?). Any gym that dictates a specific image of 'healthy' would be a red flag for me. Does your DD show anxiety in other aspects of her life such as social anxiety or perfectionism. My DD has body dysmorphia and TBH until recently, I never truly appreciated just how much of her thought space this takes up on a daily basis. My DD started seeing a therapist around age 9 for general anxiety and it helped her tremendously but I wish I had done more for her on the body dysmorphia front.
Thank you for suggesting the therapist. My husband and I were talking about it this morning. 99 percent of the girls are thin and not very tall. One girl is 14 and 5foot 4 inches. Watching her on floor is beautiful as she has great lines and can showcase her flexibility. Since Covid we do not go in the gym as much as before. I am not sure if the culture in the gym to talk about size or if the girls themselves are discussing size. I will continue to monitor her and see if this continues.
 
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NutterButter

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Jan 24, 2013
882
Thank you for suggesting the therapist. My husband and I were talking about it this morning. 99 percent of the girls are thin and not very tall. One girl is 14 and 5foot 4 inches. Watching her on floor is beautiful as she has great lines and can showcase her flexibility. Since Covid we do not go in the gym as much as before. I am not sure if the culture in the gym to talk about size or if the girls themselves are discussing size. I will continue to monitor her and see if this continues.
Sometimes gyms have their own culture around appearance without ever saying a word. For instance when a kid is selected for team, they only extend invites to those with a certain physique. And some will size up mom and dad to see how fit and trim they are (no pun intended). And the ‘health’ discussions also can be non verbal. For instance, some gyms will include nutrition in the team handbook and explicitly state that sweets are to be avoided. Are girls discouraged from bringing treats in on their birthdays? That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about.
 
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LPflip

Proud Parent
Dec 14, 2020
13
49
Sometimes gyms have their own culture around appearance without ever saying a word. For instance when a kid is selected for team, they only extend invites to those with a certain physique. And some will size up mom and dad to see how fit and trim they are (no pun intended). And the ‘health’ discussions also can be non verbal. For instance, some gyms will include nutrition in the team handbook and explicitly state that sweets are to be avoided. Are girls discouraged from bringing treats in on their birthdays? That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about.
No, they can bring in treats for birthdays and special occasions. They have never discussed with parents about diet.
 

tryagain

New Member
Feb 16, 2022
10
44
I struggled with the same (being terrified of growing too tall, mortified when I passed 5 feet and my mum's height already at age 11, etc). Things went badly for me and it took me until my mid-twenties to make peace and then actually appreciate the body I have, so please do be careful... :(
 

Patricia

New Member
Feb 3, 2022
3
47
I was shocked to see that they say the height of the collegiate gymnast after her name when watching college gymnastics on TV. Not healthy for the young ones watching. My almost 14 year old daughter is short like me (I’m 5 ft) and we both hope she gets a little taller than me. I guess we are guilty of the opposite. It may be just a phase for your daughter though - hoping that’s all it is and nothing more serious. It’s good that you are aware and keeping an eye on it.
 
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