Parents, have you flipped through the fashion magazine your daughter bought recently? Or have you sat down with your child and watched the latest Korean drama or music video together?
If the answer is yes, then you may have noticed the increasing number of stick-thin models or performers that are proliferating mass media.
Most of us should be familiar with reports on how aspiring models or actors deliberately starve themselves or undergo dangerous practices, such as purging or the misuse of laxatives, just to ensure that they stay skinny. Misled by the belief that this will help them remain relevant in the entertainment industry, they disregard the fact that it could put their life in jeopardy. Also rampant are stories of how Korean celebrities are obliged to go for plastic surgery to have a certain look in order to achieve fame and success.
Everywhere we look, we are surrounded by unrealistic expectations and body ideals. Teenagers are not only impressionable, but they are also at a phase where they are very self-conscious about how they look. As such, it is important that they understand that what they see in the media may not be realistic, and that beauty comes in all forms.
Inform Your Child of the Risks
Keep communication lines open and have frequent discussions with your child on what they see or hear in the media. Share with them reports of how performers achieved their appearance at the expense of their health and well-being. Rationalise with them if such extreme actions are worth the cost.
Have a Healthy Body Image Yourself
Of course, it is not always easy, even as an adult, to feel satisfied about your own appearance. As parents, your behaviour and attitude towards your own body image has a great impact too. If you are constantly expressing dissatisfaction about your appearance, this could influence your child to be critical about themselves too.
A healthy and positive body image means being able to appreciate it for its qualities and capabilities. Therefore, it is important that parents are comfortable in their own skin and by doing so teach their children to feel the same way.
Be Supportive of Your Child’s Appearance
Be supportive of your child’s appearance, as long as they are not doing anything that could be self-detrimental. Instead of being critical about your child’s concern for his or her appearance, understand their insecurities and always reassure them that they are perfectly fine the way they are.
Eventually, it is important to let youngsters understand that being attractive or popular is not just simply about looks, but also about how you carry yourself. Compliment your child on other qualities, such as their patience in handling people, generosity in sharing their things with others or their diligence in doing well for a school test. Instead of focusing on appearances, get them to concentrate on learning a skill such as playing a musical instrument or developing a hobby - be generous in your praise when they excel at something.
Have frequent discussions with your children if the images portrayed by the media should truly be considered “beautiful”. Educate them that beauty is not a template and that it exists in multiple forms.
As parents we should be comfortable with our own body image, as our children model themselves after us.
Being attractive is about more than just looks and appearance; teach your children that personality and other qualities all contribute to it.