I am no expert and I’m not a parent but what I do know is that the stats are scary – more than half of our younger generation (girls and boys) suffer with low self-esteem and a negative body image. And what was clear from the Dove Self Esteem project event I attended is that they need our help. We, as the ones who have been through changing bodies, bullies and low self-esteem need to step up and do whatever we can to build them up.
I want you to take a moment to think about this;
How you felt in your teens (before the likes of social media and the Kardashians). Most of us had some form of a struggle – whether it was our body, our freckles, our skin tone, hair or anything of the sort. Now think about how you feel today, you probably still struggle because we are exposed to fake perfection on the daily on a larger scale. Now think about how much worse it would be if you were younger and experiencing changes in your body and are confused about pretty much everything.
Here a few ways you can help them;
Create a safe space for children
Whether you are a parent, a teacher, an Aunty or have any part in a child’s life, make sure they feel safe to use their voice. It is vital that they are able to open up to someone about their struggles as well as if they are experiencing any form of bullying or sexual harassment. A big problem that was brought up at the event was that children don’t know how to use their voice so we need to not only teach them to use it but encourage them to use it.
Watch what you say
Speak kindly to yourself and others when there are young ears around. They hear us and if we are saying unkind things about our bodies or someone else’s body then they will learn to judge bodies.
TV, social media, magazines are all widely accessible and extremely influential and while it’s difficult to protect them from everything, we need to try. Monitor what they are watching/consuming as much as you can and point them in the direction of positive influences.
Speak to them, use your experiences to help them
I watched the girls and boys at the event, they listened and were inspired by others sharing their stories, so much so, that they openly shared theirs later in the day and many of them had little breakthroughs. If they can relate to you they will be more comfortable to open up.
Dove along with trained professionals have created useful resources for teachers and parents which you can find here. Make use of these, you might even learn a thing or two.
Encourage and listen
Allow them to dream, encourage them to participate, create a positive environment where they can try whatever they want to and if they fail, be there to pick them up.
Be a role model
It’s not exactly easy to act like a role model 24/7, but try, because they are constantly looking for that someone to look up, to guide them, to “be like”. Make that someone you so that they don’t go searching in the wrong places.
What I took away from the event is that you don’t need to be a big business such as Unilever or a psychologist to make a change and to help our future generation. It starts at home and we can all do something to help.