In a world where we are constantly confronted with images of slim, glamorous celebrities and models, grappling with issues of body image and self-confidence is commonplace for many. What can we do, as parents, to prevent our children from losing confidence? How can we raise children who have a strong sense of identity based on who they are in the world, not on their physical appearance?
Be a role model
Be conscious of your own values and judgements. Consider what you model to your child, and show your child that you value other people based on who they are in terms of their values, skills and outlook on life. Normalise ordinary women in ordinary bodies you child learns to accept all body shapes.
Value and reinforce your child’s achievements and integrity, not their body, through praise. Boost their self-esteem by acknowledging their “inside-out” qualities – patience, persistence, kindness, honesty and creativity.
Be on the lookout for signs of negative thinking about body shape, weight or size in your child. If such thinking is not turned around, they may have ongoing issues with low self-esteem and confidence.
Be a sensitive parent
A causal, unintentionally judgemental comment from a parent can seriously wound the fragile body image of a child. Avoid making comments about your child’s weight and appearance, even in jest.
Be media aware
Try to see the world through your child’s eyes and stay connected with the media your child engages with. Speaking with your child about why you’re unhappy with a television program or social media platform will teach them more than simply banning them from it.
Be a role model for healthy lifestyle choices by exercising regularly and eating a diet that emphasises nutrition rather than kilojoule intake. Stress fitness, health and enjoyment rather than weight management as motivation for exercise. Teach your child that their goal is to take care of their body, whatever its shape and size.