Table of Contents
- What Is Body Positivity?
- How to Build Your Child's Self-esteem
- How Parents Should Respond/How to Build Your Child’s Body Positivity
- Know When to Seek Help
The society we are living in today idolizes the body. Unfortunately, creating a body-consciousness in children, especially girls, leads to an outcrop of behavioral disorders and body-image-related issues. This guide outlines the discussions that every mom should engage with their daughters from early puberty stages through teenage about becoming body-positive. Starting from the introduction, you'll find helpful tools to use and educate your daughter to take care of her body and esteem, not forgetting her spirit.
What Is Body Positivity?
Body positivity is the idea of appreciating your body as it is together with the changes that it may undergo in shape, looks, and size, irrespective of cultural norms or societal views. The changes in the body occur mainly due to age, nature, or individual causes throughout one’s life. It's the knowledge that you can peacefully live with your body the way it is right now without punishing it for looking differently.
The aims of the body positivity movement include the following:
- Challenging society's whole idea on how it views the body
- Campaigning for an acceptance of all bodies
- Educating individuals to appreciate and be confident of their bodies
- Addressing the pressure driven by specific body standards
Additionally, body positivity focuses on educating society on the effects and influence of media information to build a perception about their bodies.
The Importance of Body Positivity
Mass media and social media play a significant role and they affect our day-to-day activities and even the perception we have about our looks. Unfortunately, children and teenagers are the most susceptible to the utopian levels depicted by the media about how they should look or what hero to emulate. As the traditional society and social media discussions continue to disseminate information, candidly discussing body positivity with your daughter is now more critical than ever.
As kids grow into adolescents, they develop feelings about who they are and how they are perceived. As such, they start to compare themselves with others. When they match up with others, it positively builds their body image. However, at puberty, body changes still occur, and how they feel about the changes may be different.
Some kids mature earlier and others later. While some feel proud when looking more mature, others may feel awkward about the same. As a parent, helping your girls understand why their bodies' change will boost their body image.
Talking to your daughter about positive body image boosts her self-esteem and confidence. Research indicates that a negative body image to girls is a significant cause of mental conditions like depression and feeding disorders. A positive body image helps your child to appreciate their inner ability more than physical looks.
The Psychology Behind Body Positivity Movement
Body positivity has its roots in positive psychology, in which the main goal is to improve well-being rather than illness and disorder. Body positivity doesn't necessarily negate the idea of negative body image but dwells much on respect and appreciation of one’s appearance. Notably, a negative body image has consequences on the mental health and functioning of an individual. Body positivity aims to build awareness that feeling positive and accepting who you are is, by itself, therapeutic.
How Body Positivity Helps in Preventing:
Dysmorphia “imagined ugliness” is a body disorder whereby a person gets over-concerned by a minor or just imagined physical body appearance. The condition also accompanies distressful shame, leading to a failed ability to function at home, school, or other public settings.
Mainly, teenagers suffering from this type of disorder apply make-up or surgery to cover the flaws. However, in the long run, these ideas that adolescents come up with to correct the problem don't offer the required solution. Primarily, body dysmorphia is associated with an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a suggested treatment method for body dysmorphic disorder. In instances of severe cases, an individual should seek experts to offer psychiatric attention. On the other hand, there are steps that, as a parent, you can employ to assist your daughter build a positive body image.
- Avoid bad body image words - When handling your daughter, avoid using words such as "fat." Girls are primarily affected, and so they create an environment that encourages confidence and self-worth.
- Discuss meals with them - When it comes to feeding and food, don't brand foods as good, healthy, bad, or unhealthy. Such words are retrogressive and may hurt a child's self-esteem. Instead, explain to your daughter the nourishment needed in fewer quantities and those necessary for growth.
- Model body comfort - Daughters mostly take from their mothers. A parent mainly worried about her appearance is likely to rub off on her daughter. Commenting well and being confident about your looks as a mother gives you an upper hand in controlling your daughter's body image issues
It is a disorder associated with eating behaviors that impair social functioning. During adolescence, the disorder is more common among girls than boys. Common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Parents can apply body positivity in the following ways to prevent eating disorders:
- Be calm, and do not judge your daughter in your conversation.
- Avoid words that describe her appearance. E.g., thin or fat
- Be sympathetic. Let her know how her health is important to you.
- Individuals with eating disorders rarely accept the problem. Therefore as you discuss with her, be ready to listen first.
If you notice that your child is irritable, withdrawn, or mostly sad, check out for depression. Depression affects a child's expected response from eating and relationships to academic performance; they start to feel worthless, and in severe cases, suicidal thoughts may kick in.
Child and teenage depression is treated through cognitive behavioral therapy (positive body image). The process involves affirmation and teaching kids the effects of their thoughts on their feelings and character. In addition, parents should help their daughters before they sink into depression by encouraging them to participate in events and activities they’ve lost taste in. The idea is to help them jumpstart recovery through behavioral activation.
Positive psychology also advocates for interpersonal therapy. Here the focus is on how the child relates with other family members or how they generally affect her inner life.
How to Build Your Child's Self-esteem
As our children grow, character and physical changes become more evident, which affects their function-ability and participation in general. Though Parents and guardians are aware of the significance of positive body image, putting it across to assist their children in growing is a challenge.
- Lead by example - Children emulate their parents on how they act, eat, and talk about others. Also, kids copy from the environment and learn how society wants things done. As a parent, be keen on how you comment about feeding or a person's character and appearance, especially in front of your children.
- Don’t wait until it’s too late - Research shows that kids start getting worried about body weight as early as 3 yrs. The way you communicate about how fat or thin they are from that age affects their esteem. It’s time you changed the discussion and words in your conversation. For instance, you may use "healthy feeding instead of dieting."
- Teach wealth before weight - Positive body image is all about wellness and health. Let your kids know that early enough. Then, speak positive health vibes to your children as they grow. E.g., No imperfect bodies; everybody is beautiful. Talk to them about a balanced diet instead of "this and that is not allowed."
- Engage in physical activity - Good health and exercise are synonymous. However, do not refer to games as a method of shedding weight. Kids may end up hating the activities as well as their body sizes.
- Discuss food with kids - If your children have a terrible eating habit, don’t scorn them about it. Instead, place some good dinner on the table and, using easy-to-understand terms, explain to them the nutritious importance of vegetables or fruits in our diet.
- Correct the media perversion - It's almost impossible to bar your children from media exposure. While they take much of societal ideas and standards, teach your kids not to be defined by what they eat or how their bodies look.
- The mirror motivation - Girls are more likely to spend hours in front of a mirror than boys. So stick to encouraging words such as í am beautiful" to affirm their countenance.
- Write a top - ten list about things your daughter loves- Help your child develop a list of things they are good at. The list should touch on foods or weight matters but general items such as reading a book, singing a nice song, etc. Let them repeat this list daily as a way of reminding them of their capability and strength.
How Parents Should Respond/How to Build Your Child’s Body Positivity
As children grow, they undergo both mental and physical changes. However, the changes become more pronounced at the puberty stage, and life takes a new course. Hormonal changes cause fear and mixed reactions to some. At this stage, many adolescents gamble to maintain positive self-esteem and focus on self-worth. You will have no other better moment to encourage and help your daughter maintain her sense of self than this period.
Many teenagers suffering from crushed esteem believe that they are unloved, worthless, and less important. Considerably, such feelings affect the mental growth of the child and later develop social impairments. However, there is a list of fun activities that parents can engage in to help boost their children's esteem and build a positive body image.
- Jot a positive note to the teen- a heartfelt message with words of care is a true affirmation that you love and think of a person.
- Be open to communication- most of the time, teenagers find it hard to share their problems with their parents. Ensure that your daughter is free to reach out to you and speak her feelings at any time.
- Give an ear and respect their feelings- sometimes kids may feel sad and angry. As a parent, understand the pattern of a child’s moods and offer them a chance to speak out. Whenever they are not comfortable with you, get them a trusted person they can talk to.
- Create a conducive and safe environment- be it in school or home, ensure that your daughter is safe. Beware of the information your child is receiving from the media and the matters discussed in the house. On the other hand, promote positive characters such as respect and kindness and prevent the negative ones like bullying.
- Promote healthy eating habits- allowing your daughter to accompany you to the food store works to psyche her feeding habit. Engage them in a discussion of the meals they love and how to prepare them.
- Cook with them- culinary skills are essential to growing children. Feeling good in the kitchen serves to boost their self-esteem and develop a sense of trust and self-worth.
- Stop body shaming- it doesn't only matter the sweet words you tell your kids. What you say about yourself and others affects them too. So desist from body-shaming comments such as "this skirt makes me look huge."
- Encourage exercise for physical health- physical health is a recipe for mental health. Eating well and adequate sleep ensures that your kids can navigate through stressful and tough situations. Exercising regularly also facilitates positive emotions and avoids depression.
Know When to Seek Help
At times, every person experiences low moods and a disturbing feeling of depression. At some point, the depressive symptoms need psychiatric attention. Psychiatric or professional assistance is required when:
- There are observable changes in personality (eating or coordination problems)
- You cannot manage daily activities and chores.
- Battling with unusual thinking
- Feeling untold sadness and depression.
- Experiencing suicidal thoughts and ideas.
- Excessive drug abuse
- Involvement in anger leading to violence
If you or your daughter is experiencing such signs, it's time to seek professional attention. Experts are always available to offer the help your daughter needs. Get in touch with the following for assistance:
Mental health specialists, including:
- Clinical Psychologists
- Social Workers
- Authorized mental health counselors
- Your family doctor
- Assistance provided by employer programs (EAPs)
- Neighboring institutions offering mental health programs
- A local hospital
- Community-based mental health clinics
- Church leaders or the clergy
- Your health Insurance company
Mostly, persons with mental health issues are ignored as normal and suffering from easy to recover symptoms. It's recommended and comfortable to approach a therapist or a health expert to address your daughter’s mental issues.
Get in touch with your doctor or schedule an appointment with a psychologist for your daughter. Finding an expert familiar with your beliefs or understanding the social context pertinent to your life story is an added advantage. Ensure that your child gets the most appropriate treatment that will help them regain a positive body image and grow self-esteem and trust in themselves.
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