We all want our children to feel good about themselves. The challenge is how to place emphasis on the right things so that our kids can spend their childhood having fun, not worrying about how they look, and so that they can grow into strong confident adults. And, by the way, this is not just about girls. It is well known that a growing percentage of boys develop eating disorders and other body image issues too. So we asked the experts what we can do as parents, and here are some tips from them:
Setting an example: This is perhaps the most important of them all. Rather than complaining about body shapes, it’s vital to learn to praise your own body for the amazing things it can do (such as carry a baby). Your child will internalise these healthy body messages and you’ll probably feel happier for it too!
Praise: Instead of telling kids how pretty or handsome they look, praise them for their achievements and qualities. This way, they will learn that they have value beyond their appearance. “You are beautiful, inside and out” is not just reserved for Caitlyn Jenner. “You are so healthy and strong” also works.
Food: Instead of dividing food into good/bad with respect to weight, a more useful division can be “sometimes” and “always” food. This can be used to explain why we eat some foods less often and in smaller quantities and why others are really useful and necessary for growth and development.
Exercise: Exercise is a great way to build positive body image when there is a focus on exercise as a way of being healthy and strong, rather than losing weight. It helps kids to be proud of what their body can achieve and gain confidence in their own abilities.
Media: No need to ban ALL Barbie episodes, but make a point of talking with your child about how people are portrayed in the media. This will help them grow up more aware and mindful that what they see on TV, in books and in magazines is not always “reality”.
Enter Lottie. Lottie is a doll that puts the focus back into what kids can ‘do’ rather than how they look. Lottie is a stargazer and a fossil hunter. She also rides horses and jumps in muddy puddles. The dolls, which are designed with a child’s proportions rather than an adult’s, were created to challenge negative body image concerns, premature sexualisation and the demise of childhood. She doesn’t wear make-up, high heels or jewellery. Instead, the focus is on empowering little girls to be who they want to be, and celebrating girlhood. Sounds pretty awesome, right? (For their full range, visit their website here)
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We have five Lottie Dolls up for grabs – win one by commenting on this post to let us know how old your child is, and what they want to be when they grow up. Don’t forget to provide a valid email address so that we can contact you if you win! T&Cs apply.