My friend Irvina founded an incredible organization called Rewrite Beautiful, a revolution to change how girls see beauty in themselves. Rewrite Beautiful goal is to change girls from viewing their worth in the superficial for the prevention of eating disorders. Their vision is to build a nation of girls who don’t focus on their bodies, but rather their unique gifts and talents. In Irvina’s words, “We want girls to focus on changing their communities instead of changing their bodies.”
Irvina’s organization has an amazing blog that highlights different women each week who are making a difference, and recently their newsletter posted a list of ways parents can help protect their children from eating disorders. I asked if I could share the list here, and she graciously said yes. Here are five tips for helping to prevent eating disorders:
S – Slow
From birth through their teenage years children are sculpting their values by modeling the behavior of their parents and care givers. If children are exposed to complaints about weight, wrinkles or the way jeans fit, they are going to become concerned over the same things. Slow down before voicing insecurity’s around children. Let your child’s caregiver know that eating disorders are at an all-time high and you would like them on your team as a positive, confident role model for your child.
M – Movies
No, the Disney princesses are not to blame for eating disorders, but an over consumption of them may contribute greatly to a girls values. Many women in eating disorder recovery refer to “wanting to be saved out of their eating disorder” and “waiting for someone who will make it all better.” When a girl is still molding her values the images she sees has a lasting impact. Therefore it is very important to show her movies of strong, independent heroines. Some of our favorites are Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, The Power Puff Girls, Kim Possible and Mulan.
I – Individual
Many times children develop an over concern with their looks and body, by excitement of “Wow! You look so beautiful!” There is nothing wrong with this, but try to show the equal amount of excitement around their creativity, kindness and strength. Beauty is conditional and doesn’t help the child develop a strong sense of self. What does help a child is praise for their individuality she has, “Wow! You are such a good artists!” Or “Wow! You are such a helpful sister!” or “Wow! You are so smart!” Every child has gifting, it’s up to us to show them their worth comes from their actions.
L – Love
Children mimic our conversations. We show children through our conversations with others, “I LOVE Tracey’s new hair!” and “I LOVE Chloe’s new car”. Making it equally important for us to verbalize what we “LOVE” about other people’s behavior. Children need to hear, “I LOVE how Jackie loves on her animals” Or “I LOVE how Jasmine donates her dental services to kids who don’t have a dentist.” When kids hear this dialogue they will try to fit the mold of your ‘LOVING’.
E – Empower
There will always be outside influences teaching your child to question their clothing and appearance. When you start to see shifts in your child’s behavior interrupt the behavior by role playing with them. Pretend to be the person who says, “You dress funny. I don’t like you” Empower your child to say, “I like how I dress. I don’t like people who are mean. I’m not playing with you until you’re nice.” Practicing this will empower your child to think for themselves and not become a victim of bullying.