Body image is not a new concept in today’s generation. With the world becoming more digitalised, issues related to the appearance have become everyday affairs. Lots of people, especially adolescents and young adults, are unhappy with the way they look.
But before we dive deeper into this issue, it is crucial to understand the exact meaning of body image.
What is Body Image?
Body image is the perception you hold regarding your appearance. It is primarily based on how you look at yourself and how you perceive others look at you. Positive as well as negative experiences in the past have a significant role in developing your body image. Having a healthy body image correlates to high self-esteem, and vice versa.
What Can Parents Do?
As our experiences throughout the growing years play a significant role in shaping our perceptions, parents can have a tremendous role in fostering as well as maintaining a positive body image among adolescents. Some of the tips that could be very useful throughout the growing years include –
• Referring to your child in positive terms – Rather than focusing on the negative traits, compliment them. Make sure that you provide constructive criticism if you wish to discourage certain behaviours. Keep minimal rooms for negativity in casual conversations with your child.
• Focusing on personal efforts and qualities that do not have anything to do with appearance – Every child possesses a passion, a gift, or love for something. Encourage him/her to pursue that interest, instead of fixating on the appearance. When your child does what he/she loves, it naturally helps in nurturing a sense of self and positive self-image based on the values that are far much deeper than the appearance.
• Making your child understand the psychology of advertising – Today’s digital world is filled with advertisements that target the weakness of individuals to sell a variety of products. Adolescents can be easy preys to these advertisements. Explaining how advertisers target their clients can make children see the whole picture. They are less likely to think that they need to compensate their insecurities by buying products.
• Being aware of what you say to girls v/s boys – Many times we raise our children with gender stereotypes where we encourage boys to be “bold” and “strong” while asking girls to be “gentle” and “beautiful”. Make sure that you are no way pressuring your kid to conform to the extreme standards of body ideals.
• Sharing your own experiences – When you share your insecurities and vulnerabilities to your kid, he/she will feel that is it normal to feel that way. So talk about the issues you faced in the past and the different ways you dealt with them. It will hold immense value in your child’s life.
• Checking in Frequently – Talk to your child about the qualities they like about themselves. When you notice signs of dissatisfaction in your child, do not ignore them. They can be signals of even bigger concerns. Try to create a safe space where your child can talk to you about these concerns.
It is crucial to maintain a free-flowing dialogue with your child every now and then regarding body image and self-esteem. You can also turn to other parents for advice if you are having difficulty communicating with your kid. If need be, get in touch with a therapist or counsellor to get professional help for evaluating your child’s mental and physical well-being.
You can also ask your child to call the DISHA helpline in case of any distress – 18004191828.