We currently live in a society where physical appearance is overrated. For many people what the mirror reflects is too important to ignore… so important that it can be the key to whether or not a person has self-confidence. Mirrors, clothing sizes, labels, advertisements and publicity… all of this makes us feel a slight distortion of reality.
If we as parents have a negative body image, it is possible that we are instilling this way of seeing the body in our children. Having a positive body image does not mean believing that the body should be perfect, what it means is the acceptance of the body as it is. There are some social statistics that are somewhat alarming:
- Eating disorders are on the rise in both boys and men
- 1 in 8 women have had an eating disorder at some point of their lives
- There are many people around the world who are not satisfied with their appearance
- Children worry too much about their body -physical appearance-
A 2007 University of Sydney-Australia study of nearly 9,000 teens found that one-fifth of teens go hungry or make themselves vomit to control their weight. 8% of teenage girls smoked for weight control. Teenage boys did too.
In a Dove study of 3,300 girls and women aged 15-64 from 10 countries, it found that 67% of women do not attend daily activities with other people because they feel bad about their appearance. After reading all this, it is necessary to be aware that there is much that can be done to protect our children against a negative body image.
Be a good model of self-compassion
A recent study found that being a good role model for self-compassion protects girls and young women from unhealthy weight control practices and eating disorders. Women who were able to be compassionate with themselves were able to have a positive body image and also better eating habits. If you want your kids to have a good body image then start by being kind to yourself and your body.
Making positive comments about others
Making comments positives to your children about other people. People who are confident in themselves – and who are not arrogant – radiate a beauty that is enviable. Let your children know that beauty does not stop with them and thus counteract the constant bombardment that the media do every day trying to show the opposite – that beauty is measurable and that there are canons of beauty-.
Don’t talk about weight or body parts you don’t like
It is important to avoid talking about weight or body parts you don’t like. If you have to do it, do it without your children being in front of you. If you do, they will learn it and will do the same because they want to be like you. There is no one more influential than you in their lives. Your children will follow in your footsteps, what you do and what you say.
Avoid comparisons at all costs
Harvard researchers found that when television cable came to Fiji in 1995 (and was on TV with Friends, Ally McBeal, Melrose Place and the like), rates of anorexia nervosa and bulimia skyrocketed. Before this, it was noted that eating disorders were almost non-existent on the island.
Much of the media promotes perfection and beauty… making it clear that it is above all else. But our children should know that no one looks like the people in the magazine photos, not even the people in them!