As parents, my wife and I try to teach our girls not to have unrealistic beauty ideals, and to love themselves whether or not they fit the conventional idea of beauty.
We hope they will learn to resist, or at least question, the avalanche of media and social media influences so they can judge themselves by other criteria than how they look and behave. As I tell my daughters: try your best to tune out the negative noise, and focus instead on making healthy life choices, including education, nutrition, and exercise.
Here are five tools you can use to strengthen your child’s body image.
- Having conversations about what’s normal – and what’s not – during the developmental stages of puberty and adolescence is vital in teaching young girls about realistic beauty. To do this as parents you first need to understand the biological changes that occur at this time and the accompanying emotional and social changes and then share this with your daughters. I trust young people to come to their own thoughtful conclusions if given the right information.
- Encourage your daughters to start thinking more critically when viewing pictures of celebrities and models. Have conversations with them about the way media images are manipulated, and emphasise that they rarely represent real, inclusive, and diverse beauty. Help them understand that they shouldn’t compare the way they look to the fake images they see.
Use real examples. When you’re watching TV together, pause shows and commercials to talk about the messages that are being conveyed. Look at magazines together and discuss the unrealistic images you see in ads and photo shoots.
- Talk about marketing. Discuss the tactics advertisers use to sell products. Help your daughter spot underlying messages about how a product will make her more attractive.
- Have conversations about unhealthy body images. Discuss the harsh realities that underweight models face. Tell your teen about the drastic and unhealthy measures many take to obtain these body types and the toll it takes on their health.
- Talk to your daughters about social media use. This is the best way to protect your child from risks and ensure their internet safety. Topics to discuss should include:
How they treat other people and how they want to be treated online. Encourage your teen to make only positive comments.
The risks involved in using social media. Make sure your child understands the danger of sexting or being tagged in an embarrassing photo taken at a party.
How to navigate posting risks. For example, if your daughter posts an identifiable selfie, she can reduce risk by not including any other personal information.
How to deal with ghosting – when someone suddenly stops texting and responding – catfishing – having a false persona online – and other online relationship issues.
If you want to help your daughter feel better about herself, the book, Normal might help spark a conversation between you and your daughter. Let them to know that how they look is not their fault. Beauty is about confidence, not perfection.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information only, and does not constitute health or medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your physical or mental health, seek immediate medical attention.