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In a world obsessed with ideal body mass ratios and a one-size-fits-all approach, how do we raise kids who are happy, healthy and confident in themselves?
(Some rights reserved, Prashanth dotcompals via Flickr Creative Commons)
Just recently, Namrata Sadhvani wrote about the challenges and rewards of motherhood, and about what people expect of mothers. Hardly anyone is ever truly prepared when they become mothers – not even experienced parents – and we often find that we never stop learning at every step of the way. Many mothers also come to realize that no amount of reading up and researching can truly prepare you for the real deal, and as their children grow up, they find themselves surprised by the many challenges they encounter. It can be quite alarming to realize just how sensitive and impressionable kids are, and how easily they succumb to pressure from their peers and the media.
This is why it’s important for parents to understand how to manage not just their expectations of their kids, but their kids’ expectations of themselves as well. Sadly, in a world that’s growing increasingly connected, many of today’s children are exposed to problems that their parents never had to deal with when they were younger, and this often leaves parents unaware of how to deal with them. For example, a report by CNN has revealed that children as young as 5 years old are already concerned about their body image, with children as young as 7 already having engaged in some sort of dieting behavior. As shared in a blog post by Tootsa MacGinty, “The findings showed that 80 percent of the country’s 10-year-old girls have been on a diet, and more than half of girls even younger report not being as thin as they’d like to be. Boys also overwhelmingly say their weight causes the most dissatisfaction with their body. Many of them grew up playing with action figures, whose measurements now exceed those of even the biggest bodybuilders.”
These statistics aren’t exclusive to the USA and the UK either. Research done on South Indian children has also revealed that regardless of their current weight, an alarming percentage of children has already tried dieting: approximately 73% of overweight and obese, 35% of normal weight and 22% of underweight children. It also revealed that the perception of weight status was related to attempts to lose weight, and that “Children are likely to attempt weight loss in India irrespective of their weight status, age and gender.”
As parents, we all want our children to grow up loving themselves and who they are. After all, children come in all shapes and sizes, and while maintaining a healthy weight should always be a priority for us, burdening children with body image issues will only serve to promote bad habits. It is
up to us parents to guide them on their journey to staying healthy – not through emphasizing weight, but through emphasizing health. The easiest thing to do is to make sure that your kids are eating right, and setting a good example by preparing healthy dishes they can enjoy, as well as inviting them to join you for exercise daily. By raising healthy children, we make sure that they grow up free from body image issues, and that they’re able to live the happy and care-free lives that children should have.
AuntieisaMom has struggled with weight issues her whole life, and now that she’s somehow
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