Thursday, April 12, 2012

Parental Influence Takes Precedence Over Barbie and the Media

I hate Barbie, everything about Barbie, how she looks and act. I think she is everything I don't want my daughter to be. The latest Mastercard Barbie says it all. She is airhead. I am determined to keep her off my home grounds. It would be a challenge. But I am ready.

What Parents Can Do To Help Their Children Love Their Bodies

Body size acceptance is not related to weight or actual body size, but to self-esteem and emotional health. The true indicator of a good body image is good self-esteem – not the ability to fit into size 2 jeans.

In an effort to foster self- and body-love, parents should:

  1. Minimize “diet” and weight talk, an activity that may require parents to take a look at their own eating and exercise rituals, attitudes, and preferences about weight and size.

  2. Never joke about, tease, or shame anyone because of her weight or size.

  3. Raise consciousness about the American cultural bias in favor of excessive thinness. Help your child develop immunity to the steady stream of media messages that distort her perspective by countering destructive messages with reality messages.

  4. Discourage dieting and weight-loss fads. Instead, encourage a wellness lifestyle. If your child wishes to lose weight, encourage her to eat differently, not less.

  5. Don’t equate thinness with happiness, self-satisfaction or self-actualization.

  6. Praise your daughter for what she does, not for how she looks. Do some of those things together with her in quality time.

  7. Give your daughter a vision of a greater purpose in life that extends beyond herself and her appearance, thereby encouraging her to develop healthy interests and passions. Self-esteem is drawn from productivity and contribution.

  8. Teach your child that there is no such thing as an “ideal” body. Beautiful bodies come in all sizes and shapes based on each individual’s unique strands of DNA.

  9. Pay attention to negative comments your child may make about her shape. Even if they are irrational, be empathic, not dismissive, as she feels her feelings deeply.
    Engage your daughter in a discussion about how she thinks she might look better and how she a changed appearance might improve her life. How does she plan to accomplish these goals?

  10. Engage together in activities that promote accurate, realistic and meaningful body awareness at more profound levels, teaching her to recognize the connection between body and mind.

  11. Encourage your child to become aware of her feelings, to own and express them in the interest of resolving problems rather than harboring them in her body.

  12. Discourage extreme or excessive behaviors of any sort, be they perfectionism, sleeping too much, sleeping too little, shopping too much, studying too little.

It is important for parents to realize that in order for children to feel attractive and good about themselves, they need to learn to become effective problem-solvers, good communicators, and compassionate people, as well as healthy eaters. As John Muir once said, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

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