Let's talk body image (not body shape) with our kids

Drastic measures
Drastic measures

Summer is here, which means bare arms and legs and chunky winter clothing get moved to the back of our wardrobes. For some, this can be a pretty scary thought, especially with the whole concept of a “summer body” being romanticised as often as it does.

It's something that has been perpetuated for years, and seems to be getting more and more intense as time progresses.

I'm sure many of us have been victims of body shaming. It's awful at the time, and often, that feeling lingers. At the same time, many of us have probably been perpetrators of body shaming too, whether we meant to be malicious or not.

Do you promote having a positive body image in your household? Let us know by emailing us at chatback@Parent24.com and we could publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous. 

I always knew that the body-shaming issue was bad, but every now and then I see something that shows me just how severe it can be. Take this post I saw on Reddit, for example. A mother took her 15-month-old to the paediatrician, who told her to "lay off the sweets" so the baby could get "bikini ready".

Perhaps it was just a really distasteful joke and yes, it is a paediatrician’s job to get children into their best possible health, but “bikini ready”? That’s beyond me. 

The sad reality of it all

Having a low self-esteem and negative body image is more common among young girls than boys. A new Kaspersky Lab report recently revealed that girls are more insecure than boys, and they feel much more anxious about their appearance than their male counterparts.

"Nearly double the number of female Gen Z-ers, when compared to male Gen Z-ers, also admit to changing their eating habits (such as overeating or refraining from eating) because of appearance-related anxieties," continues the report. "Body improvement and fitness content on social media makes young women feel worse than young men, and females have admitted to skipping a social event in the past year due to social anxiety."

It's no surprise that a bad body image can lead to social anxiety, but it doesn't mean it's something we should simply accept. 

To think that someone could change how they see the world or feel about themselves based on the ideals of body image all around us is truly tragic. 

Conforming to body norms 

School-going children may not be super self-aware yet and as much as you teach them to not concern themselves with what other people say, they are generally more impressionable and tend to conform to societal norms and beliefs due to their surroundings and peer pressure. As a result, they'll be more likely to believe in the superiority of one body type or shape and feel pressured to look that way too.  

Take a look at this video for example:

This video is a clear indication that body image is still a sensitive topic for young girls.

The way they describe themselves is saddening and is something many young girls experience, something I'm sure we have all related to at least once in our lives. 

This is our unfortunate reality but one we should fight hard against. Especially now that we'll see old friends and family in the festive season! So here are a few pointers to have a kinder holiday season.

If you're someone who comments on others' weight or body shape: 

You may think that it’s an innocent comment or just a joke but those words really can stay with someone for a lifetime.

Everyone has their own insecurities and you don't need to be another person contributing towards or triggering it.

Why comment on someone's weight anyway? As if there aren’t so many other more important things to talk about than pointing out something about a body that someone has to carry with them every day.

This sounds like a cliché but really, if you have nothing nice to say, just say nothing at all. 

Be sensitive towards the issue, it’s so easy to let things slip. Keep your comments in your head where they’re unable to harm anyone else. 

By putting someone down, you're only projecting your negativity onto them, and let's be real, it pretty much just makes you seem like a real a-hole. 

Taking a different approach

Teach your child about self-love, it really is a magnet for many other good things such as becoming healthier and happier. If you feel your child has an unhealthy relationship with food, that's definitely something you should address, but doing so by making someone feel horrible about their appearance will naturally cause more harm than good. Just a little something to consider. 

Remember: skinny-shaming is real too

People hear "body-shaming" and think "fat-shaming", but skinny-shaming is often unacknowledged or believed to be real. 

Just because fat-shaming is rife does not mean it is okay to shame someone for being skinny either.

Body positivity should be inclusive of all body shapes. 

"Be the change"

We spend so much time trying to change ourselves and telling ourselves that when we get to a certain point, we can enjoy our lives or wear certain things. You may not be able to entirely change the body-shaming issue or change how someone feels about themselves, but if you're not making negative comments, that's one less person doing so. That's one less person contributing to the problem. A small change can be a big change.

Do you promote having a positive body image in your household? Let us know by emailing us at chatback@Parent24.com and we could publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous. 

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