A positive body image is what we want for our children. It is a tough subject to talk about and even harder to prove that accepting yourself is self- love. It is not something many adults might have thought about when they were kids. The modern media environment is one in which sexually suggestive images are present in kids’ lives earlier than ever before.
While the issues kids are going through may be mostly similar across generations, the way they feel and respond to these issues is not; and that is something parents need to be aware of if they want to help their kids think and grow into happy, healthy adults.
Engage in careful discussion
Because sexual imagery and discussions about it are omnipresent in today’s media landscape, it is often necessary for parents to talk to their kids about the subject earlier than they may have expected. This does not have to mean exposing them to harsh or explicit words and images. It does mean, however, teaching them how to think about such things when they do eventually come across them.
Discussions can be tailored in such a way that they are informative but age-appropriate. This may involve starting off by discussing basic anatomy and physical changes brought about by puberty, later moving on to emotional changes and attraction, and in their teen years, discussing relationships and responsible decision-making.
Address the subject regardless of gender
Confusion and insecurities about sex and body image do not affect girls exclusively, though that has often been the assumption. Boys today are faced with pressures similar to those faced by girls. This is an unfortunate reality that tends to be somewhat neglected by teachers and parents who certainly mean well, but who may not realize that this is the case.
Both girls and boys can feel pressure as they get older to fit certain physical ideals, and possibly take unhealthy actions in order to do so. Recognizing this is crucial to ensuring all kids get the advice they need to feel good about themselves.
Teach kids confidence
It is natural for kids to want to look and feel attractive as they grow older. The do everything they possibly can to fit in with their peers. This is not something that needs to be discouraged. What can be done, however, is to teach kids that they should always make decisions in a way that preserves their self-respect, understanding that it is a good thing to maintain a sense of individuality and resistance to peer pressure.
Parents should also help kids recognize the difference between self-improvement and unhealthy self-criticism. Wanting to be physically fit is a good thing. Taking extreme measures to accomplish that goal is not.
Wanting to feel like one belongs is normal but desperately needing validation from peers is a problem. Children need to feel that they are loved and accepted, and that should begin from within.
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