“I leave the house thinking I look nice and then I see you and I feel fat and ugly.”
I heard these words coming out of a 7 year old girls mouth some years ago when I was starting out as a teacher. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea how body-conscious and self-conscious young girls could be.
That incident occurred long before the huge surge in social media use and now, not only do kids compare themselves with their classmates, but they’re in a daily situation where they have opportunities to compare themselves, and each other, to people or celebrities from all over the world.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” Theodore Roosevelt.
Social media creates lives and lifestyles that are impossible to live up to or simply just untrue. Parents are being put in positions where they have to deal with a new array of problems such as cyber bullying, ‘Facebook depression’, sexting and exposure to inappropriate content.
Even something as innocent as colouring books have a role in promoting unrealistic ideals for vulnerable and impressionable young girls, as seen in the book series ‘Topmodel’ with images of ‘perfect’ young girls that they have to dress up and colour in.
Children, and teenagers especially, are faced with huge daily pressures to keep up with a celebrity/blogger standard of dressing, eating, exercising and happiness that is having huge effects on self-esteem, confidence and mental health.
And it’s not only children that are affected by social media comparison.
We too as adults stroll through social media platforms subconsciously or consciously judging, comparing, loving, hating other posts, people and ourselves. I’m absolutely not an expert when it comes to parenting but I wonder if we as parents were kinder to ourselves would this rub off more on our children?
How do you talk to yourself about yourself in front of your kids? Have you ever listened to what you say about yourself?
“My bum looks big in this”
“I have no bum in this”
“I’m too fat”
“I look awful”
“I have to lose weight”
“I can’t eat that, I need to lose this belly…”
Your children don’t care if you have a muffin top, big thighs, skinny calves, no bum, fuzzy hair or whatever you ‘think’ is wrong with you. Our kids (most of the time!) love us for who we are, no matter what!
Imagine your young son or daughter standing in front of a mirror pulling at a roll of fat or squeezing their face saying to themselves “I’m so fat and ugly”.
I cried the first time I thought of that situation. Social media is here to stay so maybe one small step in tackling how it affects our children’s self-image is to be kind to ourselves first and it might just rub off on them.
Top 3 Foods to Promote Good Mental Health in Children:
1. Oily Fish: Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines are really hi in DHA and EPA which are essential for protecting the brain and promoting memory and cognitive function. I would recommend taking a daily fish oil supplement from your local health shop. Many are flavoured now which is much more
appealing for kids.
2. Vegetables: Especially green vegetables are full of essential nutrients and minerals that support healthy brain function. If your child refuses to eat them, continue to put them on their plate but don’t pressure them into eating them. Lead by example. If you and the rest of the family are always tucking into big sides of veg they will eventually have a taste and then before you know it, they’re eating more than you! Make shapes and faces out of veggies to make them more fun.
3. Eggs: Choline is vital for brain health and is abundant in the yolk of eggs. Eggs are a much better way to start the day then sugar filled cereals that can cause children to crash and get tired within an hour of eating. Eggs are also full of healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. We have them almost every
morning for breakfast!
Co-Founder of Food Fitness Fertility
Mum, teacher, nutritional therapist, personal trainer.