“I hate my body”, “I’m fat”, “I’m ugly”, “I’ll be happy when I’d skinny”, “My nose is all wrong”, “My lips too thin” and so it goes on. You may not hear your son or daughter say this out loud but this is likely what they’re constantly thinking… and worse! And where has it all come from?

To a child, how they look is more important than ever, they are bombarded with constant images, references and comparisons about how they should look, all with the clear message that who they are and what they have is not good enough. The harsh reality of growing up in the 21st century.

Rising teen stars, mature TV programs and reality contests all add on the pressure to be mature beyond their years and be ‘someone’. Being ordinary is boring and who are you unless you look perfect, got gazillion followers and set to be the next glossy ‘hottie’ or “Insta Influencer”!

This kind of exposure and constant stress on young minds is the slippery slope to creating negative body image issues. And don’t think it’s just girls any more, boys are feeling similar. In fact it’s likely they have more of a dilemma – do they opt for the stereotypical muscles and male domination. Or do they choose the on-trend ‘metro sexual’ look – perfection personified but rarely achieved?

So as a parent these days not only do you have the natural roller-coaster of your kids growing up but you have the constant battle to help them develop a positive attitude towards their body image in a negatively slanted society.

With children as young as five now worried about how they look and the 20% increase of cosmetic surgery rates in the last 5 years demonstrates the desire to try to fix what doesn’t need fixing.

Together we can help the next generation embrace everything good about themselves and change the distorted reality of what beauty really is.

So if you overhear your daughter (or son) reference things about their body here are a few tips to ease the image angst…

Mirror, Mirror: Media and peers can have a direct effect on how your child sees themselves. It creates a ‘perfected image’ in their mind that adds the element of not measuring up. Here’s what you can do:

  • Stand in front of a mirror with them and ask them to only notice positive things about their body.
  • Encourage them to look more closely to notice what they like about the way they look.
  • Remind them to breathe slowly and deeply and guide them to only use positive descriptions and observations – no negatives allowed!

Reality Gap: Advertisers and Online Influencers have one goal, to make more sales. We want what we observe and kids are no different. So flicking through the latest teen mag or scrolling through Instagram will instantly create that impulse of desire. Thing is most of the styles, beauty tricks and looks are a far cry from what most teens can achieve because of one thing… airbrushing, photo altering and non-reality! Try this…

  • Flick through the latest magazine (or scroll through the Insta feed) with your child, pick out any advert or post that looks perfect.
  • Chat through with them about airbrushing and image alteration to help them develop an understanding that not everything they see is reality.

It’s a sad state of society when most young people are wishing they were someone else because of how they think they look. Help them celebrate all great things about themselves and see their confidence and self-esteem soar.

Author: Annette Du Bois

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