Mrs. Hassan has been worried lately about her daughter, Hadiza. Hadiza has always been full of life, bubbly and happy. Lately, she’s however become withdrawn and oftentimes sullen. Mrs. Hassan has also observed that her daughter has been avoiding going outdoors – she no longer plays with her friends in their neighbourhood after school and she stylishly refuses to go on errands. She had asked her daughter what the problem was but Hadiza wasn’t willing to talk. After several attempts, Hadiza opened up and told her mom that she hates the way she looks and feels nobody likes her. Mrs. Hassan, in complete bewilderment wondered what could have made her daughter think like that – she’s just eleven for God’s sake.
Some children, at a particular point in their development stage, have had to deal with issues relating to body image and self-esteem. They develop an unhealthy conception of their bodies and become excessively worried about their looks and other people’s perception of them. As a parent, it is important to identify these feelings in your child and help him/her overcome them early enough. Having self-esteem and a healthy body image is crucial to health and the absence of it could predispose one to mental health problems.
Here are some of the signals that your child may be suffering from a poor body-image and low-self esteem: do you hear such things as “I’m too tall, I’m the fattest in my class, I hate the way my teeth looks, I wish I looked like…”?; do you observe that your child has been paying more attention to his/her looks lately and he/she have been dressing in a manner you’re not so comfortable with?; Has your child changed his/her eating habits? These and many more could be indicators of low self-esteem and poor body image in your child.
If you suspect that your child has low-self esteem and poor body image, then you should get to work. Here are some of the things you should do:
• Let your child understand that each body is made uniquely and there is no “ideal body shape”
• Encourage your child to lovingly accept his/her looks – they are perfect just the way they are
• Help your child understand that he/she is still young and therefore growth and changes would occur
• Discourage your child from using words such as “ugly, fat, thin” in describing other people
• Constantly encourage him/her and help build his/her area of strengths