Bullying can take on many forms, one of which is body shaming. Body shaming is an act in which individuals are judged negatively based on their physical appearance.
Generally, children are body-shamed if they appear “overweight” or don’t fit the idyllic image of “thin and beautiful” for girls or “fit and strong” for boys. Researchers have noted that thin-shaming is also negative and a form of judgement and bullying.
A study completed by UK eating disorder Charity Beat found that kids who are bullied at a young age are more likely to develop an eating disorder, with over 75 per cent of participants surveyed admitting that bullying was a significant cause of their disorder.
Statistics like these are worrying for any parent, whether their child is the victim or the perpetrator, but the dangerous ramifications from bullying can be significantly reduced via education and support from home.
So here are some tips in dealing with body shaming if your child does experience it:
Talk about the situation.
Ensure you have an open conversation with your child about the situation. Once they have calmed down from their emotions, make sure to talk about what has happened calmly and rationally. Let them know that bullying is never okay and that what has happened isn’t their fault.
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Focus on non-physical qualities.
Compliments to negate whatever your child has been teased about is usually the immediate reaction from most parents. It is important to do this but it’s also important to focus on their internal qualities, such as their dazzling personality, their smarts or their unique sense of humour.
Teach your kids self-love.
Self-love is a difficult act even for adults, so trying to implement this skill set in your child at an early age is crucial. Lead by example and speak positively about your body and your inner characteristics. If they see how happy you are living as your authentic self, they will follow your lead and become aware of what a healthy self-perception looks like.
Discuss the media.
In terms of body image, it is a great idea to teach your child that what is being portrayed in the media isn’t always an accurate representation of real life. Find some positive body image role models to expose your children to within the media, whether that be watching shows or reading books with underlying body positivity messages.
Seek help from the professionals.
Everyone deals with hurtful comments differently, so don’t be afraid to seek advice from a GP, psychologist or counsellor to help you tailor the best way to deal with the bullying for your child. Also ensure to let the institution where the bullying is occurring know and meet with the teachers to look at way to reduce its occurrence and impact on your child.
Merissa Forsyth is the founder of Pretty Foundation, a non-profit focused on building body resilience in girls aged 2-6. Pretty Foundation has launched a series of books that will aim to instil key body image messages in young girls and has recently released the second book in their series, ‘Charlie’s Tales, Cassia and the Fire Dragons.‘