- In a survey, two-thirds of parents said their children feel ashamed about their appearance.
- They reported that their children’s self-esteem was affected by these feelings.
- In addition, many children were poorly treated because of their appearance.
- Experts say this is a common feeling during childhood and adolescence.
- However, there is a lot that parents can do to support and educate their children.
according to new poll Conducted by CS Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 64% of parents said their children are self-conscious about some aspect of their appearance, such as weight, skin or breast size.
The nationally-represented survey included 1,653 parents with at least one child between the ages of eight and 18.
Parents who took part in the survey said they noticed these feelings more often in teens than in younger children. Seventy-three percent of teenage girls and 69% of teenage boys felt this way versus 57% of young girls and 49% of young boys.
In 27% of cases, they reported that their child’s self-awareness affected their self-esteem in a negative way while 20% said that their child did not want to participate in activities because of their feelings.
Almost 18% refused to appear in pictures, and 17% tried to hide their appearance with clothes. Additionally, 8% engaged in restricted eating.
Many respondents said that their children were often treated poorly because of their appearance by other children (28%), strangers (12%), family members (12%), teachers (5%), and health care providers (5%) . .
Two-thirds of these parents felt their child was aware of how they were being treated.
Co-Director of Mott Poll Dr. Susan WolfordMD, MPH, a pediatric obesity expert and pediatrician at CS Mott Children’s Hospital affiliated with the University of Michigan, said these findings are significant.
She noted that “negative body image can contribute to poor self-esteem and ultimately affect emotional well-being.” “Thus, it is important to help children and teens form positive perceptions of their bodies.”
according to Eileen Anderson FayeEd, director of education, bioethics and medical humanities and associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, these feelings are common among children. “Most adolescents feel uncomfortable or ashamed in at least some contexts of their lives,” she noted.
Anderson Fay explained, “Developmentally, adolescents bring parts of their brain online that allow for greater comparison of where they fit in relative to others in their social worlds.”
She added that they are better able to deal with abstraction at this point in their development, allowing them to imagine themselves in different scenarios and make comparisons between their developing bodies and those of others.
“Body image issues have long caused teens to feel uncomfortable in many societies, cultures, and subcultures,” Anderson Fay said.
She also indicated that the spread of social media further complicates the issue.
“Not only do they compare themselves — and they compare themselves to — others in their immediate worlds, but they also have instant, persistent, filtered images from national and international media to contend with.”
“They often look at the perfect, edited photos of someone’s best moment and compare their worst,” she added.
She also noted that the ideals of gravity are constantly changing, so children can never achieve those ideals.
On top of that, she explained, they have to worry that someone might pick them up in an instant and post it on social media, where the photo could live forever.
Wolford and Anderson Fay say there is a lot that parents can do to help their children through this difficult phase of their lives.
Deliver what you preach
Anderson Fay explained that it is important first and foremost that parents “model what they preach.”
A mother who degrades herself in front of a mirror and then expects her daughter to feel good about herself, or a father who talks about his physical flaws but expects his son to feel confident, [those parents] “A typical behavior that children tend to absorb over time,” she said.
She suggests that parents praise children’s personality traits rather than their looks. “You really showed up for your girlfriend when she was upset” gives a better punch than, “Well, you guys still look so pretty.”
Talk to them about their feelings
Additionally, Wolford suggests that parents open up a dialogue with their children about what happens to their bodies, explaining that the things they aren’t comfortable with can change over time. She adds that parents can tell that most people feel shy at some point, which will put the stress they feel in context.
“It is also important to talk with children about the unrealistic images they see in the media and to discuss the importance of diversity,” Wolford said. “This will help children understand that we are all unique and that these differences should be celebrated and embraced.”
Anderson Fay added that parents should listen closely to what their children are saying, without dismissing or making assumptions, and asking follow-up questions. She advises working “in the spirit of Ted Lasso: Be curious, not judgmental.”
Take control of social media
When it comes to social media, there’s a lot parents can do to educate their kids about the realities of filters and “shooting” and photo angles, too, Anderson Fay said. Also, it can help direct them towards body positive influencer social media.
It also advises parents not to post pictures of their children on social media unless their children have approved them.
“There are a lot of things out of control in teens’ lives, especially on social media, to give them control and respect over important family posts,” she said. “As a mother of three teenage girls, I feel this girl’s pain myself, but in the long run, it pays off in your relationship and in the kids’ sense of respect and control.”
Put them in supportive environments
Finally, Anderson Fay said, “If parents are concerned about their teen, they can offer resources such as counseling or opportunities to meet with a trusted friend or family member.”
She also suggests discovering the places where children feel “themselves” and trying to reinforce those environments as a way to boost children’s confidence.
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