Little ones have more to worry about than how to share their favorite toy.
I’m always impressed when I am confronted with a question that stumps me from a small human. But I don’t particularly enjoy answering the tough questions. Especially when they have to do with body image or confidence. It’s a delicate subject, and parents/guardians assume the role of values clarifier.
I have worked and volunteered at camps with younger students, taught tennis lessons to 4 year olds, babysat any age range you can think of, etc. My first priority is to protect any child that is under my supervision. That means protection from the obvious: bodily harm, the sun, eating things off the floor, you name it. I have noticed that something else is usually nagging at kids now, in 2013, other than the fact that they can’t dance on a countertop or touch a hot stove.
Children—girls especially—are concerned about their outward appearance. I don’t remember being genuinely concerned about my appearance until I was in fifth or sixth grade. That’s when things were about to get real…aka puberty. I was a serious tomboy who refused to wear anything other than a skort so I could play football with the boys on Boot Hill. I learned several life lessons on that hill, so I’m glad I made that executive decision at such a young age. I digress.
It doesn’t necessarily concern me that young girls are aware of their bodies. This is a great thing and will prove advantageous one day. What I’m blown away by is the fact that so many elementary aged girls are disappointed with their weight. I suppose this is inevitable considering the amount of women we see fully dressed on-screen (big or small) and in other traditional media are few and far between. Hell, even I blush at Victoria’s Secret commercials sometimes.
I’ve watched current Disney Channel shows by force, and this is the pattern I’ve noticed: the “young girl” playing the lead role is usually, in real life, 17 or 18. She is witty, but it’s only because she is taking shots at other actors/actresses on the show. She is constantly searching for her next beau, who will make her happy. Her friends are usually not as “attractive” as her, by societal standards. Why would they be? They’re not the lead role. She is struggling between being a rebel and following the rules, which leads to her deceiving her parents. Blah, blah, blah. I have built up disdain for these shows. The acting is pretty terrible, the plot lines are non-existent, and everyone on the show looks PERFECT 100% of the time.
Where are the role models? Where is the strong girl who doesn’t care if she has the perfect outfit on? Why can’t kids just be kids for as long as possible then join the rest of the cranky world when they’re old enough to go to PG-13 movies?
If I could give advice to every little girl about growing up, this is what I would say:
- It’s cool to be smart
- Right now it doesn’t seem like being in charge of a bunch of boys is that much fun, but believe me it is
- You are worth more than your makeup
- You are also worth more than the tears you cried after a school dance (I’ve been there.)
- You have the ability to do incredible things when you least expect yourself to
- If you don’t keep your head up, no one else is going to hold it up for you
- Your parents can’t fight all of your battles
- Friends come and go
- Find your niche—hopefully it’s a productive one
I’m not a parent, so I’ll accept any and all criticism. Hopefully, if I am blessed to parent children, this blog post will come in handy.