When did young children become so worried about how they look? Is it that the internet constantly brings images right into their home, instantly, and their exposure is no longer restricted to TV adverts, billboards and magazines (exposure to which is probably more controllable)? Whatever happened to a carefree childhood?
I have recently read two personal accounts by mothers that shows how deeply young children can be affected by body dysmorphia, their self-image:
Self Image Issues At 5 Years Old (Play and Learn Toys Blog)
“Mom, I’m Fat”: How I Responded To My 7-Year-Old Daughter is an article by Janell Burley Hofmann in the Huffington Post.
I’d like to show my support here for Gok Wan. Yes, he has a new series about teenagers showing soon so all publicity is good publicity, but are you aware that since 2009 he has been trying to get body dysmorphia officially included on the PSHE curriculum. The PSHE part of the curriculum in primary and secondary schools is still non-statutory (DfE). The guidelines suggest children feel positive about themselves through achievement and recognition and incorporates healthy living and eating. Whilst all this is important, the area of body dysmorphia is not covered directly and having read some articles and seen a clip of the new series, it needs to be!
Gok Wan thinks a one hour session a year should be sufficient to show children how unreal a lot of the advertising, internet images etc they see are. He has even suggested ways the subject could be approached.
Try this activity with your pupils – it should take about 30 minutes. The answers may surprise you.
1. Pupils work on their own to complete the ‘Self-image and Language Inventory’.
2. This inventory gives pupils the opportunity to create a description of how they see themselves in relation to the key areas of:
a) physical appearance
b) communication with others
3. Ask pupils to repeat this activity, this time working in pairs and discussing aspects of the inventory answers.
4. Create a whole-class discussion that involves transforming pupils’ answers to the part ‘Influences on My Negative Self-image’.
This activity is one of 25 available in Positively Me! a self-esteem programme for primary teachers and pupils.