Just like last year and the year before, North America's most common 2016 New Year's Resolution will be to lose weight. The new year is a time for self-reflection and renewal, but too often for teens in Canada this can turn into a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions -- often about their bodies.
As we welcome 2016, Kids Help Phone is challenging teens to take the "No Year's Resolution" instead of making a resolution, naming something they wouldn't change about their bodies and themselves instead. We also invite parents to not only take the challenge with the young people in their lives, but to also play a role all throughout the year in helping their children to accept themselves and their bodies.
By helping their children recognize their inner qualities and focusing on their accomplishments, parents help to teach kids that what is really important about them has nothing to do with their size, shape, or weight. This creates an environment that promotes self-acceptance and positive self-esteem. When young people feel comfortable in their own skin, it affects their level of confidence, as well as their thoughts and behaviours.
As a parent, what can you do?
Communicate with your children
Explicitly tell them that you're open to talking about what's happening in their lives -- both the good and the bad -- while respecting that they may not want to disclose everything.
Normalize and celebrate diversity
Help your child to understand that it can take time to adjust to the changes in their body and that people come in all shapes and sizes. Encourage them to accept themselves and others the way they are.
Be mindful of how you talk
The way you talk about body image and food can make a lasting impact on your children. Think about the messages that your children are learning from you related to body image and self-acceptance. When you are more accepting of your own body, you make it easier for your children to accept themselves and their own bodies as well. Taking the No Year's Resolution challenge together can be a step in the right direction!
Television, magazines, music videos, movies and marketing all influence our perceptions and standards of physical beauty, even though many of the images they portray are unrealistic. Encourage your child to learn about the ways that the images they see can be digitally manipulated and airbrushed. Encourage your child not to compare themselves to the pictures they see in the media.
Tell them about Kids Help Phone
Kids Help Phone's professional counsellors are always here for young people ages five to 20 who are struggling with problems, big and small. If a young person in your life needs to talk, they can call 1-800-668-6868 or visit www.kidshelpphone.ca.
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Story time included books like The Paper Bag Princess or anything recommended on the Amelia Bloomer Project created by the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association. A Mighty Girl is another great site. It's tag line is: the world's largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls.
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As puberty approached I discussed genetics, hormones and the challenges that I faced, as had my mother before me.
My girls used their allowance to buy "J-14" and "Tiger Beat" magazines, but I would give them a subscription to "New Moon" as my Christmas gift. Also check out "Shameless" magazine.
We discussed how the human form comes in all shapes and sizes. Check out Queen Latifah and Beyonce. They are both proud women who embrace their shape and size.
When their bodies blossomed we looked online at what REAL breasts look like. Reality is very different from the porn sites or fashion magazines.
I educated my daughters about how models are Photoshopped by watching and discussing the Dove Self-Esteem campaign.
As they entered into high school we discussed friends who were developing eating disorders and who followed fads such as “pro-ana”, “thigh gap” and “thinspiration.” We talked about the political power to create change, as demonstrated by some magazines and organizations in the fashion industry that banned size zero models from the runway after several deaths of severely underweight models.
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