As a psychologist, I am very concerned about body image and the pressures around body image on our children. I have seen dozens of teens with eating disorders, and some so serious that they end up in hospital on feeding tubes.
The pressures with social media--with the barometer of popularity measured by "likes"-- has left young people more and more desperate to take a good "selfie." Looking thin is equated with beautiful; and beautiful with popular; and popular with love, acceptance & belonging. The result is a whole generation of young people struggling to achieve what is defined to be beautiful by social media standards.
Language is incredibly important. As the adults in children's lives, we can show them that beauty is more than skin deep. We can teach our children that beauty is defined by the goodness in your heart and by the way you treat the people around you. We can praise our children for their character, rather than for their appearance. We can talk about feeling proud of ourselves for our accomplishments, rather than for our dress size. We can change the dialogue, and draw the attention/obsession away from how we look and direct it towards how we feel and how we live our lives.
We can help our children feel good about themselves and their bodies when we praise them for being strong and healthy. We can can help them set goals and to celebrate "daily steps" and fruit and vegetable intake. We can help them choose shoes and clothes that are comfortable and facilitate an active lifestyle. We can share in activities that promote health, wellness, balance and moderation. In doing so, parents can be leaders in the fight to end negative body image and all the pain and suffering that follows it.