CREATING AND CULTIVATING A HEALTHY BODY IMAGE
Let’s start by defining what body image is. Body image is the way you feel about your body. A child who has a positive body image feels good about her body. She is happy with the way she looks, how her body moves and grows, and what her body can do. Having a good image body is essential as it affects directly your child’s self-esteem. As your child grows up, as a parent, you can support her so that from an early age she starts building a healthy body image she will have her whole life.
Here are a few strategies that can help your child develop a positive body image:
1. With babies and toddlers. Naturally, babies and toddlers seem happy with their bodies. They enjoy kicking their feet, playing with their toes, and squirming. Once they know how to stand and walk, they are very proud of themselves. In order to help your child feel good about her body, you can give tender care and cuddle with her, give her opportunities to develop new ways to use her body, smile, encourage, and praise her when she tries to master new physical skills.
2. With school aged children. As your child grows up, she is often proud to see how tall she has grown, how she looks like with a new haircut, or how fast she can now run. At this age, your child starts comparing herself to other children; she wants to feel good about her body and be able to measure up to her peers. As a parent, you can help build a healthy body image by helping her take care of her body, by finding physical activities she enjoys as feeling fit, strong, and capable is one aspect of positive body image, and by making positive comments about people of all shapes so that your child knows that beauty does not come only in size 6.
3. With preteens and teenagers. As your child goes through puberty, her body changes and the way she feels about her body will too. So, it can take time to get used to a body that looks and feels different. A lot of preteens and teens focus on what they do not like about their looks. Girls wish to have more or less curves while boys would like to have more muscles. As a parent, you can support your preteen/teen by making sure your child is active every day, by allowing her to try new styles and looks, by making sure she gets plenty of sleep and have a healthy diet, by discussing the impact of the media’s promotion of perfection and the beauty of supermodels above everything else, and by role modeling a good body image yourself.
Young people with a positive image of themselves feel more comfortable and confident in their ability to succeed. In contrast, kids with a negative body image feel more self-conscious, anxious and isolated. They are at greater risk for excessive weight gain and for eating disorders. So, take the steps to give your child the gift of positive body image.
WHEN MY CHILD IS A BULLY
No parent wants to hear that her child is a bully as it is painful and sometimes makes the parent feel guilty and/or ashamed to think of her child inflicting harm on others. If your child is engaged in bullying behaviors, it might be a sign of serious distress that needs to be addressed. She might be experiencing anxiety, depression, and have difficulty regulating her emotions and behavior.
First, it is essential to understand the reasons behind your child’s behavior. Here are a few:
-Your child is looking for attention from teachers, parents, or classmates, and hasn’t been successful getting it other ways.
-She is getting bullied at school or at home and is trying to regain a sense of power by acting aggressively toward her peers.
-She has a tendency to perceive the behavior of other kids as hostile, even when it is not.
-She wants to fit in with a group of friends who are picking on another child.
Here are a few strategies to help your child handle her behavior differently:
1. Talking through the situation with your child. It will help you understand why the social aggression is happening and how to respond to it to make it stop. For instance, if your child has low self-esteem, bullying gives her power and control over something or someone.
2. Look inward. If your child is exposed to unkind or aggressive behavior at home, it is likely she will repeat the same scenarios at school. Sometimes, family members are not aware of the impact of their own words or actions. So, ask yourself those questions: do members of your family engage in yelling, name-calling, or putdowns? Do your children pick on one another, or hit each other? How do you handle conflicts? If these types of behavior are happening, it is important to start fostering a positive home environment where kindness, respect, and support are encouraged and valued.
3. Make it right. Once your child has understood she made a mistake, then encourage her to apologize (in person, via text message, over the phone,…), but repair is an essential component of the process. Depending on the situation, your child may bake cookies for the whole class or play a game with a peer she had been previously excluding. Discuss repair options with your child.
4. Stay connected. By being present with your child, you are building an open channel of communication about her daily life. This will put you in a better position to recognize signs of bullying. Asking your child a few open-ended questions on a daily basis will help stay connected in a supportive, non-judgmental way to your child who needs to feel that you care and truly listen to her. In the morning, such questions can be about what your child has planned for the day. After school, you can ask her about a thing that went great and then about one that did not go so great.
Bullying is a maladaptive pattern due to pain and distress that your child does not know to handle differently. By trying to understand the roots of this behavior, by adopting an attitude of empathy, active listening, and support toward your child, and by exploring collaboratively appropriate ways for your child to express her underlying emotions, the patterns of aggression and coercion may soon disappear.
THE PROS AND CONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
In our 21st century, it is impossible to live without the current technology. We can limit it, but not interact without it. So, what are the effects of social media on our relationships with our children/youth and how can we use technology without abusing it?
The Pros of Social Media
1. Technology can be used to keep families connected. It can help keep track of schedules, location, and a sense of security knowing that family members can be reached quickly if needed. As a parent, you feel reassured to be able to reach your child at any time you want.
2. For divorced or separated families, technology is helpful for more immediate voice or face contact. Some new apps can make communication and accountability more accessible and can be incorporated into a custody and visitation agreement. Technology can facilitate communication between co-parents, which alleviates the potential for conflicts.
3. 24/7 availability. Since the Internet never sleeps, you can access the resources you need anytime pretty much from anywhere. The online tools offer more information to your child than a library full of encyclopedias. Studies have linked Internet/social media use with greater success in academics.
The Cons of Social Media
1. The issue of anonymity. It allows for cyberbullying. Teens are often the victims, as bullies can target and prey on vulnerable middle/high school peers without taking personal responsibility.
2. The wrong type of connection. Social media can connect dissatisfied, disgruntled, and misguided people who will fuel each other’s negative attitudes and beliefs. Young people are often impressionable and eager for acceptance, which can cloud their judgement and make them easy preys.
3. Social media invites your child to compare herself with others. If your child/teen has low self-esteem issues and insecurities, reading and hearing about other people’s successes and happiness can deepen feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.
Since it is unavoidable, it is our role as a parent to help our child/teen navigate the realm of today social media. Regular face to face conversations about it are essential to determine the limits and the benefits of its use. Being open to discussion while maintaining firm boundaries will help your child/teen develop a healthy attitude towards social media.
MOTIVATING YOUR CHILD TO CLEAN UP
Children do not clean up and put away things on their own. It is a learning process that takes time, patience, and perseverance. Yelling might work temporarily, but in the long term it is ineffective as children become resistant and build resentment toward their parents. Instead, using firm requests while encouraging your children may lead them to be more cooperative. Like adults, children appreciate being treated with respect and good manners. The more parents understand and apply these concepts, the more children will grow into more responsive and responsible adults.
Here are a few strategies to help you motivate your child to clean up:
1. Set a good example. It may seem obvious, but you need to be consistent between your expectations and your own behavior. If your house is not tidy, do not expect your child to put away her toys. By showing your child that you take care of your belongings, it will send her the right message.
2. Ask for one thing at a time. If you give your child multiple reminders at once, chances are she will forget at least half of it. Instead, focus on one aspect you want to be achieved. Once done, praise her and then ask for something else. For instance, say to your child “Please put your homework folder in your backpack” Then, when she is done, tell her “Thank you for doing this. Now, can you put your dirty clothes in the hamper?”
3. Use a positive and encouraging voice. It might be difficult to keep your frustration out of your voice, but if you do not, your child will perceive it and will probably not comply. Instead, take a few deep breaths before speaking and think about how to formulate your request. It is best to say, “Please remember to pack your lunch box.” instead of “Unlike yesterday, do not forget to pack your lunch box.”
4. Get your child’s attention. This means moving close to your child and not yell a prompt from the bathroom while your child is in her bedroom. It also means making eye contact. If you have a young child, do not hesitate to kneel to be at her level. If your child is older, they need to stop texting or playing a video game before being able to hear you.
5. Let your child choose where her toys belong. If you let your child be part of the process by giving her options, then she will more likely to want to put things away. So, let her be involved in the decision as to where put her things.
As long as you have children at home, you may need to give up having a spotless house, but tidy can be an attainable goal. With persistence, encouragement, and a few consistent rules, your child can learn how to clean up.
DEVELOPING EFFECTIVE PARENTING HABITS
As a parent we want the best for our children. We wish them to be kind, confident, cooperative, and assertive. In our daily interactions with our kids, we try to guide them the best way we can. But, sometimes, our best ways are detrimental instead of being beneficial.
Here are a few examples and strategies to guide them effectively:
1. Letting her take chances and make mistakes instead of stepping in. By always stopping your child from making a mistake, you teach her to rely on you exclusively. It prevents her from fully experiencing a situation and learning from it. If your child is never challenged on her own, she will not learn how to problem solve, and will therefore lack self confidence later on when making decisions.
2. Praising her instead of overcomplimenting her. Your child needs positive reinforcement but overdoing it can be detrimental. When you tell your child how great she does for every little thing, then your word will become something she needs. Instead, she should learn how great it feels to feel proud. So, after she overcame some challenge you can ask her how it feels inside and then you can tell her she can be proud of herself.
3. Letting her have her own way instead of expecting perfection. Requesting perfection teaches your child that what she does and eventually who she is, is never good enough. This will lead your child to develop insecurity and low self-esteem. For instance, let your child make her bed. If the she does not tuck the sheets as you would, it does not matter. What matters is she made it and she will learn eventually to make it look better over time.
4. Showing her, not telling her. The best thing you can do is lead by example. For instance, if you volunteer somewhere, there is a big chance your child will ask you to volunteer as well. When you stand up for a cause, another person, or yourself, you show her how to do it. Soon enough, she will “copy” you and start advocating.
5. Talking about uncomfortable issues instead of sweeping them under the rug. Starting a conversation about difficult topics such as bullying, cheating at school, sexual abuse, thoughts of suicide, or drugs is never easy. You can start with an inviting question such as “It looks like something is bothering you. Do you want to talk about it?” Listen carefully and refrain yourself from overreacting or judging. Instead, provide your child with love, empathy, and support. Then, while respecting her point of view, share with her your own way of thinking and viewing the situation. Try to find a solution that works for everyone and implement it.
In order to become responsible and independent adults, children need to have opportunities to practice and learn what is best for them.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.