herald

Monday 21 August 2017

are you causing your kid's body issues?

The other morning I stood in front of the mirror, muttering to myself about the newest wrinkles that had mysteriously appeared around my eyes overnight.

In the hustle and bustle of family breakfast time, I didn't think that anyone was really listening to me complain.

And then my teenage daughter piped up. "You always tell me to love myself the way I am, Mum," she said. "You need to take your own advice."

This stopped me in my tracks because of course I knew that she was right. As a mother, I tell my children that image isn't what defines them.

I talk to them about being healthy and explain that what they see on TV isn't real, but probably the product of plastic surgery or an airbrush.

I thought I was doing pretty well in this department, if I'm honest. And yet that morning I certainly wasn't practising what I preach, and it made me think.

How many more times had I given my daughter mixed messages about body image, without even realising it?

Worryingly, a new study has found that many mothers have no idea that the words they use to describe themselves can have such a profound effect on the kids around them, especially girls.

The survey, commissioned by Dove found that a third of mothers admitted their daughters had mimicked their negative actions about their own bodies.

lipstick

The women said that they'd seen their daughters sucking in their tummies to make themselves look thinner, examining the size of their thighs and even checking for wrinkles.

It's really not that surprising. We all know that kids copy what they see us say and do. When they're little, for example, the mimic how we put on lipstick or totter around the house in our high heels.

But, as they get older, they start to pick up on the little things that we think we're concealing from them. They watch us getting ready for a night out, struggling into Spanx to hide our jelly bellies before we even contemplate pulling on that little black dress.

They see us on holidays, refusing to get into a bikini because we feel too fat and self-conscious. Little by little, they start to add it all up and naturally they begin to judge themselves critically. Before long, the message that they are less than perfect is stamped on their subconscious and it might never be erased.

No-one wants to see their child develop an eating disorder or go through life plagued by years of unhappiness. So next time we're tempted to criticise ourselves when we look in the mirror, we should think before we speak. Our words are extremely powerful, and it's up to us to make sure we use them very carefully.

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