I don’t know about you, but during lockdown my dress size definitely went up and my fitness levels absolutely went down. Some people embraced the opportunity to stay at home by expanding their skill set, learning a new language, challenging themselves to ride hundreds of kilometres from the safety of their own living room, whilst others of us found solace in packets of crisps, a glass of wine here and there and Netflix on demand. For many children, it was the same (minus the wine of course)! Whilst Joe Wicks certainly stepped up to the mark becoming the UK’s personal PE teacher, not all children had access or inclination to attend his virtual sessions.
The serious decline in opportunity and access to physical education has had a truly detrimental effect on many children, from physical to mental wellbeing.
The Chief Medical Officer recommends that children complete and average of 60 minutes of activity everyday, and even before lockdown only 47% of school aged children were achieving this. During lockdown the level of children during 60 mins of daily activity ranged from between 14-22%.
Inactivity was reported to be higher amongst girls, children from poorer backgrounds and BAME children. Around 1 in 10 children in the UK reported no daily activity at all during lockdown.
These worrying statistics have led to an increase in weight for many parents and children, and with this an adverse effect on body image. Many children going through puberty and the changes that growing up brings are already aware of their bodies evolving into something new, but how we react around them, and how we present our own body image, has a deep rooted and lasting effect.
According to Mentally Healthy Schools:
“Body image is how a child feels about and sees their body. It can relate to body size or shape, skin colour, appearance, facial features or physical disabilities/differences.
A positive body image supports physical and mental health. It can boost confidence and help children develop a healthy image of themselves. A negative body image or body dissatisfaction can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and poor self-perception. It can also affect learning, participation and school achievement, lead to unhealthy eating practices and increase the risk of developing eating disorders in later life.”
Sadly, recent research by the Be Real Campaign states that more than half (52%) of 11 to 16 year olds regularly worry about how they look and almost a third (30%) are isolating themselves because of body image anxiety.
As parents we may not all have a healthy relationship with our bodies, with many of us constantly dieting and exercising in an effort to achieve the body we aspire to have. However, as parents, we need to teach our children to love their bodies, appreciate what they have been blessed with (hopefully happiness and health) and to make healthy choices.
The best, and often most personally challenging, is to lead by example.
All this is easier said than done when you are an adult, but harder still when you are a tween or teen who is in the throes of puberty.
Their bodies and brains are changing due to the release of hormones which, cruelly at such a challenging time of life, make them more aware of how they look, how their body is changing and what is happening to other bodies around them. While everyone goes through these changes, it can feel frightening, isolating and lead to anxiety.
We’ve looked into what the experts are suggesting can be done to help those you love, love their bodies, which in turn will lead to improved self-esteem and overall happiness.
The charity Young Minds has some great advice:
The Children’s Society has similar advice:
So, parents, let’s get positive, make healthy life choices and highlight what is great about our kids.
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