There’s plenty of work to be done to tackle children’s anxieties about their body image.
No matter how hard we may try not to, many of us have negative opinions about our own body image. Should young children be having the same thoughts though? Certainly not but the uncomfortable truth is that many do.
Research recently carried out by PACEY has discovered that 24 per cent of childcare professionals have experienced body confidence issues in children aged three to five years old.
Even scarier is that this increases to 47 per cent when professionals were asked about six to ten year olds. Hearing children say things such as ‘I’m fat’, ‘He/She is fat’ and ‘I’m ugly’ are fast becoming commonplace amongst children in these age ranges.
Body image problems are something we hear a lot about nowadays and in most cases the route of peoples problems can be traced back to early years.
Modern media encourages children’s awareness of body image and society is seeing a concerning increase in lack of body confidence amongst young children today.
Recent research has highlighted where these young children’s anxieties are coming from. Many will see videos and advertisements on the television or their electronic devices that encourage them to think that there is a certain way that they should look.
Indirect comments and discussions also seem to have a significant impact, with children as young as three being able to describe in detail what happens at slimming groups or being able to explain that “if they eat that it will make them fat”.
It could of course be argued that they are too young to truly understand what they’re saying but we can be sure that they repeat these things because they have overheard adults and peers.
Children are also increasingly hearing topics, phrases and innocent chit-chat that it is beginning to impact on their own intrinsic thoughts and self-belief.
Whatever the reason it’s getting worse, body image issues are a reality and we should be learning from any new evidence we discover in order to give our children the best possible start in life.
Possibly the best way to encourage body confidence is to understand that children are like sponges who soak up everything they see and hear. We need to be aware of how they are feeling about themselves, what they think of themselves and to be confident in teaching and supporting positive self-awareness.
Often a simple explanation is the best one, children are very accepting once they understand and can have some reasoning. A simple explanation can combat and diminish negative thoughts.
We need to be aware of how we talk, and what it is we actually say in front of them and we need to praise them for their talents and challenge any negativities that they may have.
All our children are uniquely brilliant and as a society we should be encouraging them to see themselves as such.