5. Encourage positive extended family dialogue.
Grandmas, aunts, and cousins can be an influence for good in teaching children positive self-image. After hearing my grandma praise one of her granddaughters several times about how thin she was, I called and asked her if she might openly praise some other qualities that her granddaughters have. This was an easy conversation for me because I have a great relationship with my grandma, and I knew she loved many things about the grandkids.
Many of us fall into the trap of continually praising girls on their looks and boys on their athletic abilities. You can lead out the praise in family gatherings by noting specific talents and abilities that relatives are blessed with beyond their looks.
6. Discuss media, toys, games, and other influences that are promoting sexy as the norm.
You might be surprised just how much your children notice at a very young age. Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker, professor of psychology, says, “For girls, looking at fashion magazines that promote a ‘thin’ ideal and watching prime-time television and music videos with sexualized images are closely linked to depressive symptoms and low self-esteem. For both boys and girls, the more time they spend engaging with media, the lower their grades and the less contentment they express, especially related to who they are and their everyday lives.”
To address this issue, you could open a discussion by asking children how they think their dolls should be dressed. If you happen to own a toy that is conveying a negative or skewed image, use it as a tool to have this discussion and offer to replace it with an appropriate toy or game.
7. Help children understand what defines real beauty.
This isn’t just the talk about how beauty is only skin deep. This is the discussion where you give your child the tools to recognize their own divine heritage, individual worth, and priceless self-identity.
When my children witnessed an inappropriate commercial on television, I took the opportunity to dispel the lies being portrayed by asking a few simple questions. Does Heavenly Father want us to be happy? We’ve learned that by choosing the right we can be happy. Do you think that the people in that commercial are really happy? Why or why not?
8. Cut down on the number of images that your child consumes.
Through all of the discussions I’ve had with my children about positive self-image, I’ve recognized that a strong, creative mind is necessary to combat Satan’s tactics to destroy self-worth. With a vivid imagination and outlets to utilize creativity, children can step away from the parameters the media has set and learn the expectations our Heavenly Father has for them.
I asked my children to draw me a picture about beauty. The activity served as a reminder that we can create our own “media influence” in our home, so that real beauty is all around us. My girls drew pictures of flowers, trees, hearts, birds, and landscapes, while my younger boys drew some trucks and monsters. I found it interesting that the only people in their drawings were themselves enjoying the beauty they had created.
Assess how much time your child spends watching television, playing video games, using the computer, and playing on smartphones and other electronic devices. Then consider that we are exposed to hundreds of images for every hour we use these devices.
How do these negative images affect our children’s growing minds? Lexie and Linsday Kite explain the phenomenon of “the normalization of abnormal.” Since we’ll see so many more images of women in media than we’ll ever see face-to-face, those images form a new standard for not just beautiful but also average and healthy in our minds. When women compare themselves to a standard of beautiful, average, and healthy that simply doesn’t exist in real life, the battle for healthy body image is already lost.
Your daughter is aware of her body. You can be assured that by age 6, she will already have had enough outside influences to notice her body compared to others. The important point here is to teach our children how to love and honor their bodies. Help them recognize yet another master plan of the adversary, step away from what media portrays, and cherish their bodies—one of the greatest gifts God has given us on earth.