June 12, 2000 -- If you are the parent of a son or daughter who seems unhappy with how he or she looks, here are some tips for fostering healthy self-acceptance.
- Make a collage of unhealthy images. Cut out pictures from magazines that show women or men in unrealistic or demeaning images. Have a conversation about what advertisers are trying to say by using these images.
- Talk about how sad it is that women and men live their whole lives hating their bodies.
- Do a "winners" poster of great images of women and men. Choose people who look real!
- Start a family slogan like, "It's cool to be me." Or, "It's not cool to diet."
- Host a "Love Your Body Day" house party. Contact the National Organization for Women [http://www.now.org] and get a free copy of a video called Redefining Liberation. Have the kids invite at least five friends over to watch it and talk about how advertising affects women's (and men's) body image, health, and self-esteem. Write to companies that use advertising that demeans men or women.
- Ask kids what parts of their bodies they really like.
- Teach kids that healthful eating is good for them. Teach kids that food is just food. Teach kids that it might offer temporary comfort, but is not the answer to life's stresses and strains.
- Have kids look in the mirror and say, "I look terrific!"
- Plant a vegetable garden and let kids discover the miracle of how food grows. Have them help with food preparation, so they appreciate how lovely it is to create a delicious meal.
- Talk with your children. Encourage them to express their feelings, not repress them.
Jane Meredith Adams has written for numerous national publications including The Boston Globe.
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