Empowering children to feel confident about their appearance this school year
At some point in our lives, we have all looked in a mirror and wondered whether we measure up to the people that we see in movies, magazines and more. For children whose bodies are changing quickly, this is especially true, but there are things that can be done to empower them.
Dr. Jillian Lampert, Chief Strategy Officer for the Emily Program, recommends parents and teachers place an emphasis on who children are as people and compliment them accordingly.
“Like, ‘Oh, you look so excited to be here.’ Or, ‘You look so ready!’ Or, ‘I’m so proud of how hard you worked.’”
She also encourages adults to engage in positive self-talk in front of kids, including complimenting themselves or sharing something they are proud of.
“Kids absorb that and particularly young kids who kind of think their parents are superheroes,” Lampert said.
Brenda Schwerdt, Clinical Dietician at St. Luke’s added that on top of displaying self-love in front of children, parents and teachers should acknowledge their evolution as they grow.
“Kid’s bodies do change really quickly,” Schwerdt said. “Talking about how everybody has different hair colors and some people are tall and some people are short and some people just have different body sizes is important to address those differences because everybody is different and that’s okay.”
She said a routine can also work wonders for physical, mental and emotional health.
“Trying to keep a consistent breakfast, lunch, dinner schedule,” Swerdt said. “Getting a good night of sleep is also good.”
Both experts said some signs to watch out for are in children who may be experiencing eating disorders are isolation and change in personality.
“You can look at somebody and see that they seem sort of off or they seem sort of sad. Or, they seem down or they seem more isolated,” Swerdt said.
Despite what society has historically shown, both experts also point out that anyone can experience feeling less than confident, so adults should be mindful about that too.
“We know that the social pressure to appear a certain way is incredibly strong regardless of your gender,” Lampert said.
Regardless of pressure from society, school and beyond though, experts say it is about loving who you are.
“I think the most important thing that parents, teachers, any role model can do is to model that healthy behavior themselves,” Swerdt said.
Parents can find more resources about empowering their children here.