We all want our kids to have great self-esteem and to feel good about themselves. Unfortunately kids are bombarded with images of the perfect body from all angles, and at some point in their childhood they will become very aware of their appearance and body shape, and how it differs to others.
Here are my five tips to help your child be body confident
1. Be Body Confident
At least in front of them. Express satisfaction with your body and appearance. Be mindful of how even quite throwaway comments regarding your own body image may have an impact on your child.
2. Be Body Positive about Others
We can’t shield our kids completely from the tabloid and magazines’ constant fat-shaming, age-shaming and appearance criticising. But we can try and counter it. Same with friends and family: comments such as “oh Aunty Daphne has put on / lost too much weight” are not helpful to children thinking about their own body image.
3. Focus on health, rather than weight.
Eating healthily and doing lots of sports have so many other benefits than making us look good. They make us feel good and keep us in good health. Telling your child not to eat too many sweets as they will get spots, or get too fat, is counterproductive and gets them focussed on their body in a negative way. It is more effective to make a healthy lifestyle sound appealing, rather than make an unhealthy lifestyle something to be afraid of.
4. Teach Them About Photoshop
When they start talking about what people in magazines look like in an envious way it might be worth teaching them, or learning together, about the power of Photoshop. Unless an article is deliberately focussing on a celebrity’s negative appearance, the image will likely have been manipulated. Remember also that celebrities know which positions and clothing favour them and hide their perceived flaws, and use them to their advantage when they are being photographed
5. Listen to their Worries
When your child talks about their flaws they won’t necessarily believe you if you just deny there is anything wrong with them (even if you are speaking the absolute truth). If they are convinced their nose is too big or their legs are too short you are unlikely to be able to change their mind. So listen to their comments, try and work out where they have got this notion from (looking out for bullying, etc.) and then try and turn their focus to their positives, specifically in terms of what their body can do, not what it looks like.
Body confidence is a minefield, and our task is not made easy by the media, by society as a whole and even, or sometimes especially, our own insecurities. I hope these tips help you think about how to help your child with their self-esteem. I would love to hear of any further ideas you have.
Read more about silencing your inner critic here
On our magazine for kids, we give tips on being more confident:
“We often talk about self-confidence and self-esteem in tweens. These two are linked, but slightly different. Self-esteem is about how you feel about yourself, how you value your abilities and yourself. Self-confidence is about how you feel about your abilities, about trusting yourself to do something.
You could have a high self-esteem generally, but have low self-confidence in a particular area, e.g. doing maths, or standing in front of the classroom and presenting a book report.
We often split people into ‘confident’ and ‘not confident’, but we can all learn to be more confident. It just takes a bit of practice. Here are our top tips for increasing self-confidence and self-esteem!” … read more
The Girl Guides have taken the Body Confidence topic on, and are working with their members to promote self-esteem. Find out more on their website, and read what 17 year old Isla, one of their Advocate Youth Panel has to say here on Jump! Mag.
Be Real is a national movement made up of individuals, schools, businesses, charities and public bodies. It aims to make everyone feel good about their body.
“Nicky Hutchinson and Chris Calland – previously a primary and a secondary school teacher respectively – are education consultants in Bristol. They specialise in children’s behaviour, but devised their primary school body-image course, which has just been piloted at Cheddar Grove in the city, after getting requests from heads and teachers for advice on how to deal with the increasing anxiety pupils were displaying about how they looked”.
Read more in the Guardian here.