It seems like everywhere our family goes these days, we cannot avoid advertisements featuring semiclad, photoshopped and unrealistically photogenic people. They are on the back of buses, on billboards, in shop windows, on food and toy labels, in magazines and media wherever we look.
I can’t help but worry about the messages these advertisements are sending to my children: you should look a certain way, you should have a particular body shape, and anything different isn’t good enough. It’s worrying and alarming to think about the unrealistic expectations children are developing of themselves and others through being bombarded by such images. How can we ensure they are not spending too much time thinking about what they look like, or developing low self-esteem based on their body image?
I’m honoured to have Naomi Richards with us today to discuss this issue. Naomi is The Kids Coach, a life coach for children who provides coaching on any behavioural and emotional issue that they have. She coaches internationally, runs workshops for children and adds thoughts on the world of children in the press and on Sky News. She invented The WOW Board – a self-esteem tool for kids – and is the author of Being Me (And Loving It) and The Parent’s Toolkit.
Here is what she says about talking to kids about body image:
Why is it important for parents to talk to their kids about body image?
Children can get very hung up on body image as they compare themselves to their peers and also to bodies they see in the media. They think they should look a certain way and are critical of the way they look.
Are there any points to keep in mind when discussing this topic with kids?
Yes. Do not focus on looks but focus on what their body is used for.
Bodies are strong vessels that can do amazing things – highlight those things that we can do such as sports, agility, etc. Explain to your children that what they see in magazines is not real and explain photo-shopping to them.
Talk to them about physical development – and that our body shape changes as we get older. Perhaps a book could highlight this.
Get your child to think about their body and what makes their body unique. What are the advantages of their body shape?
Finally don’t make body image a huge issue. Talk positively about your body and be proud of it so that your child will follow your lead.
What age would you begin these conversations and why?
I would be guided by your child. If they have concerns about their body they will soon let you know. The best thing to do is to talk positively about your body from day one (you know what I mean) and show them that you are proud of your body and comfortable with its shape and size so that they do the same.
Are there any resources you recommend using to prepare for parent-child discussions?
I would go to the library as there are lots of storybooks about body image for all ages (here is a list to start with). There are also many stories in Being Me (And Loving It) that address height, tummies and worries about distinguished marks and disabilities.
How do you talk to your kids about body image? Any helpful analogies, resources or experiences you want to share?
You may also enjoy reading…