In today’s media obsessed culture, it can be a challenge for parents to help their children maintain a healthy image regarding their good looks and bodies. Children are likely to absorb many questionable ideas about physical appearance from television, movies, the internet as well as their peers.
As much as the outside factors affect a child’s psyche, his or her parents also play a crucial role in the way children think of their bodies.
These signs indicate your child may be suffering from very low self esteem
Having a poor self image about one’s body can, in extreme cases, lead to eating disorders. This is a more prevalent issue today than many people realize.
- Some of the statistics regarding eating disorders are both surprising and disturbing. For example, in the U.S. as many as 24 million people suffer from an eating disorder such as bulimia, binge eating disorder or anorexia.
- While people are more likely to die from eating disorders than any other type of mental illness, only about 10% of people with these conditions receive treatment.
- What’s worth noting here is that people who develop these disorders usually do so at a very young age, usually before 20 and often as young as 16.
Parents often act as role models when it comes to their children’s body image. As kids get older, however, they are also strongly influenced by their peers and the media.
How media influences children’s opinions about themselves
The media, including movies, online videos, websites, billboards, music and magazines are flooded with images of men with perfect bodies and women with an hourglass figure and kids get exposed to these mediums everyday.
- It has been estimated that the average child today is exposed to as much as 7 hours of media per day. It therefore leaves a powerful impact on a child’s psychology.
- Many of the images that are shown by the media push an ideal of thinness, especially for women. We have seen an increase in this during the last few decades.
- Models, actresses and female singers share their diet secrets and conform to this ideal of beauty. That said, we often read about one or the other celebrity suffering from eating disorders and failing health.
Kids who look up to these celebrities are likely to develop a distorted view of what it means to be healthy and beautiful. Also, they may also not be aware that images of celebrities are often altered by computer technology.
How parents influence their child’s personality
Parents are the primary influence of a child’s early life. That’s why a parent can easily pass along attitudes and behaviour without even meaning to do so. For example, if a mother is always concerned about diet and weight gain, her kids are going to take notice of this and will most likely adapt many of these tendencies.
- In some cases, for example, a mother who follows a strict diet and is conscious about her own weight will also indirectly encourage her daughter to pursue the same goals.
- Research shows that girls whose mothers have these tendencies are more likely to develop eating disorders.
- This can also happen with boys, though it is less common. Among boys, it is more likely that they will become concerned with muscularity. This is something that is encouraged by the media and can also lead to problems.
What parents can do to help kids develop a positive sense of self
Parents can help to offset the influence of the media by supporting their kids in developing a positive self image. This can be accomplished in several ways, such as:
- Parents can become more aware of their own beliefs regarding body image and how this may be affecting their kids.
- Kids can be taught how the media influences people and even distorts the appearance of people in photographs, magazines, TV, etc so they look perfect.
- Explain to the kids that there are different body types and that everyone isn’t meant to look the same.
- Look for signs that kids are developing an unhealthy self image and seek professional help for them if this is the case.
- Practice healthy eating habits and engage in some kind of physical activity and set an example in front of your kids. This is the most effective way that parents can influence their children to live a healthy life. Some parents find that they must first address their own unhealthy tendencies in this area before they can help their children.
- Some parents place controls and limits when it comes to what their kids can watch on TV or which websites they can access. While it’s impossible to completely shield kids from media nowadays, it is possible to limit what they are exposed to when they are still very young.
Our society is gradually becoming better educated about the severity of eating disorders and how the media and society’s ideals about beauty contribute to this. By just paying more attention to this issue, parents can ensure that their children grow up to become happy healthy individuals who know their body and are proud of it.