Ad­vice for par­ents on body Im­age amid in­sults

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -


Even if your daugh­ters don’t pay much at­ten­tion to pol­i­tics, they’d be hard-pressed to have missed Don­ald Trump’s at­tack of a for­mer Miss Uni­verse’s weight or com­ments about a 400-pound hacker. It res­onated with a 15-year-old who said this week the words dam­age girls’ body im­age and asked Hil­lary Clin­ton how to help. And it res­onates with ado­les­cent and men­tal health ex­perts who say it’s time to make clear to kids that they’re more than their looks - even if a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date can get away with pub­licly de­grad­ing com­ments. Girls are par­tic­u­larly at risk for hav­ing a dis­torted body im­age that can lead to eat­ing dis­or­ders, re­gard­less of their weight. “For them to have that be re­in­forced by a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, it re­ally sets us back gen­er­a­tions,” said Dr. Jane Swedler, chief of ado­les­cent medicine at Winthrop Univer­sity Hospi­tal in Mi­ne­ola, New York.

“We can’t tell the kids just to turn him off, be­cause that’s not the an­swer,” added men­tal health ex­pert Linda Lucker Lei­bowitz of the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia. A long­time school coun­selor, she is now as­so­ciate direc­tor of school and men­tal health coun­sel­ing at Penn’s Grad­u­ate School of Ed­u­ca­tion - and says par­ents, teach­ers and coun­selors alike need to talk with chil­dren of all ages about this kind of weight bul­ly­ing.

Words mat­ter

Trump’s words are what ex­perts call body sham­ing. The lat­est back-and-forth be­gan in the pres­i­den­tial de­bate, when Clin­ton crit­i­cized Trump for call­ing a then-Miss Uni­verse “Miss Piggy” two decades ear­lier. He didn’t deny that, and the next morn­ing com­pounded the in­sult by say­ing on TV that the beauty queen had gained weight and “it was a real prob­lem.” Mon­day, dur­ing a town hall meet­ing with Clin­ton, 15-year-old Bren­nan Leach said body im­age was a ma­jor is­sue for girls her age, adding, “I see with my own eyes the dam­age Don­ald Trump does when he talks about women and how they look.” Clin­ton praised the teen for ask­ing how to help and said, “We need to laugh at it. We need to re­fute it. We need to ig­nore it. And we need to stand up to it.” Lei­bowitz said kids mimic what they hear from a celebrity like Trump.

It’s not just trump

So­ci­ety bom­bards girls and women with an un­re­al­is­tic idea of beauty - just think of all the mag­a­zine cov­ers with skinny yet buxom mod­els in a na­tion of widen­ing waist­lines. Even lit­tle girls need to be told that “most of these pic­tures are not real. They’re air­brushed, they’re Pho­to­shopped,” Swedler said.

Par­ents some­times un­con­sciously re­in­force the mes­sage, she said, if they fo­cus on pounds and di­et­ing rather than on teach­ing chil­dren to eat nu­tri­tiously and ex­er­cise to be healthy - not to be skinny. Good body im­age is im­por­tant for healthJust last month, the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics re­leased new guide­lines ad­dress­ing how to pre­vent both obe­sity and eat­ing dis­or­ders. Child­hood and teen obe­sity is a se­ri­ous prob­lem, as­so­ci­ated with de­pres­sion and poor self-es­teem as well as la­t­erin-life dis­ease. Eat­ing dis­or­ders, while not nearly as com­mon, also are a se­ri­ous prob­lem - and most teens who de­velop one didn’t start out obese. — AP

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