Bullying and low self-esteem issues start early. A lot earlier than you might think. Things have changed since we've been in school, for better and worse.
Half of all girls ages 3 to 6 worry about becoming fat according to a news segment done by Good Morning America. Unfortunately my daughter fell into that category half way through her kindergarten year. The segment asked children ages 5 to 8 with many of their health answers revolved around body image from eating healthy so they don't get fat to eating less so that their stomach won't bulge.
Childhood obesity is a problem, but is the way we are handling it solving the problem? These anti-obesity campaigns single out 'fat' kids which more often than not will only lead them to eating more out of depression. This anti-fat culture that both parents and society in general is doing more harm than good.
What are the consequences? To give a personal example a couple of girls took the childhood obesity awareness week to whole other level. The school itself, which also co-runs a community garden, emphasised eating healthy and exercise. However, my little girl became obsessed at the fact that she was 'fat'. My daughter is actually on the very thin side of body shapes. She went quickly from being thin to skin and bones. She began to refuse food and was starving herself. She would only eat out of extreme hunger and even then very little. She also stopped eating school at lunch along with many other girls.
Luckily, between the school intervention and myself we were able to start getting her to eating normally again with out medical intervention. It seemed like forever but it lasted a week. The girls who has started this had to be separated during lunch because they were nit-picking other students telling then they were going to be fat and not to eat. None of these children that were bullied were what could be considered 'fat' in any sense of the word.
While she is eating now and at a normal weight the damage that those girls did is said and done. My daughter still refuses to eat at school along with several other students. Luckily, I have been able to get her to eat breakfast before school and lunch as soon as she gets home. Hopefully, by her next school year in 1st grade we can make further progress together to actually eat at lunch time at school.
Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated incident. Stories like these are spreading in many schools. If you dig deep enough it usually comes down to 1 - 2 kids in a classroom that started the bullying and name calling. Body image shouldn't be an issue with children this young but it is. Instead of focusing on who is and isn't 'fat' it should be on what we can all do to be healthy. The anti obesity campaign had their heart in the right place but bullies have found a way to damage its efforts.
So this summer talk to your children about body image and what's really important, being and staying healthy. Eat right and stay active. It's that simple. Help your child know what IS healthy and not to tease and name-call others. It's easier said than done but we should focus on what's on the inside not the outside. Many of you may have a child like mine who takes what others say very seriously so it is important that you get the first say on issues like these and not wait like I did. In cases like this, knowledge is the key to thick skin.
Click the links bellow for articles for information on how and what to talk about regarding body image. You can also call NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) at 800-931-2237 if you feel that your child might have an eating disorder.
With all the love in the world,
Body Image: Help Kids Love The Shape They're In
Education.com: Body Image and Self-Esteem