02 May 7 Rules For Talking to Children About Self Image
When I was six years old, a friend of my mother’s told her she thought I was too skinny. My mother called up our family doctor, Dr. Stone, and asked what to do. Dr. Stone told her to give me two banana milkshakes a day: Whole milk, bananas and sugar. My mother complied.
By age 11, I was at Weight Watchers. I was 15 pounds overweight by then, and was getting teased by kids at school. Over six months, I lost the weight — but I would only continue to yo-yo at different weights. I weighed as much as 250 pounds at one point as a young adult, and lost as much as 69 pounds soon after. Even today, as a successful entrepreneur and writer, I am not totally comfortable with my body image — I prefer to swim with my t-shirt on, for instance. The truth is, no matter what size I am, I feel fat.
Yet I have two daughters, whom I totally adore. Charlotte (10) and Kate (6) are both amazing, healthy girls. The last thing in the world I would want to do is contribute to their negative self-image, based on my own fears or insecurities.
I met Brian Cuban, interestingly enough, though Twitter. Brian, pictured above on the far left, is the brother of Dallas Mavericks billionaire and fellow LinkedIn Influencer Mark Cuban. Brian’s quite the success in his own right: a lawyer, activist and TV host. But he’s been a success in spite of a mental disorder known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) in which the sufferer is preoccupied with a distorted sense of self-image and is often afflicted with eating disorders, depression and addiction. Brian just published a book called Shattered Image — about his compelling story — and so I asked him to give me tips for talking to my kids about their self image.
Whether your children are underweight, overweight, or “normal” weight, how you talk to them about body image can make a huge difference in their lives. Here are Brian’s seven rules for talking to children about self image:
- Remember that your child is not you. He/she is a unique individual, bringing a unique genetic and psychological makeup to the game.
- When talking to your child, it is important to talk to them based on their view of life, not yours.
- Shaming words do hurt and are remembered for life.
- It is important to understand how to speak to your child based on the specific problem. The problem may not be what you think it is.
- If you’re not sure how to speak to your child about it, speak to a professional first.
- There is no shame in speaking to a professional first.
- If your child is showing signs of a distorted self-image don’t blame yourself. Work the problem. Focus on the solution.
Our country has so many problems with self-image, and it all starts with childhood. Here’s to hoping my daughters and your children can grow up with a healthy, not shattered, image.
What do you think? Learn more now at Shattered Image.
Now it’s your turn. Why do you think body image is such a problem in the US ? Why do you think we often see someone else when we look in the mirror? What do you think we can do to change this for future generations? Please let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Brian Cuban is a successful lawyer, activist and TV host. He is the author of the bestseller Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder.