Whilst the world of social media has many positives in bringing people together to share and connect, as a mother of young children I can’t help being concerned about the increasing focus on our external appearance.
More than ever we are bombarded by images of perfectly made up people sporting the latest in fashion, make-up and hairstyles. I believe these constant images of perfection are setting unrealistic standards in our children’s impressionable and developing minds. (At least they are unrealistic in our household—I’m lucky to have a shower some days let alone manage a full face of makeup, and perfect hair!) Don’t get me wrong, I like an opportunity to get frocked up as much as the next person, however I think like most things in life it’s all about balance—meaning getting dressed up for a special occasion or a night out, not just to leave the house.
In my opinion this focus on what we look like runs the risk of distracting our children from concentrating on what is really important in their personal development like the type of person they want to be and what qualities they want to possess for a happy and healthy adulthood. Research suggests that developing a negative body image puts our children at much higher risk of developing depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and body image disorders in their teens and adult life. In fact, Australian data shows about one in three young people have issues with their body image.
So in this week’s blog I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts that I’ve collected from a wide range of literature on how we can help our children develop a healthy body image.
- Compliment children on things other than their appearance. Things like being kind, thoughtful, healthy, strong, artistic, funny, and their attitude to school work.
- Focus on healthy eating and exercise, not weight. Talk about balance, and what our bodies need to be healthy, and the effects of too much or too little for our body’s health and performance.
- Be a positive role model for your children.
- We all have good and bad days, but try to resist the urge to talk negatively about your body shape, size or looks in front of your children
- Make healthy food choices and exercise regularly
- Watch for subtle messages we send all the time i.e. saying to a friend ‘wow you look amazing, have you lost weight?’ If we are constantly remarking on our friend’s appearances, it will send a message to our children that we value these things above less superficial things like their sense of humour or cleverness.
- Educate your children about media images. It’s important that they understand that the way people look in these images may not be what they look like in real life. Talk to them about how airbrushing, lighting and camera angles can create unrealistic images.
- Different is not defective. Different is just different, not good or bad. We all come in different shapes, sizes, have different likes and dislikes—teach your children to appreciate the differences in others instead of fearing or ridiculing them.