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This article was contributed by Dove Self-Esteem Project

The Dove Self-Esteem Project provides teachers, family workers and parents with free resources to help raise young people's body confidence and self-esteem. Teachers and professionals can download free resources to deliver self-esteem workshops to young people.

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Self-esteem starts at home: three ways to boost your child’s body confidence

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We all have doubts about the way we look from time to time - children and adults alike. But sometimes these niggling doubts can develop into serious and lasting low self-esteem. One study found that 80 per cent of girls don’t like what they see when they look in the mirror, and another showed that around 30 per cent of teenage boys found it hard to talk to their parents about body image. 

It’s an important conversation to have, but it’s hard to know where to start with the body image conversation - for one thing, your child may be reluctant to talk. Luckily, there are practical things you can do to help them develop a more positive outlook. The free Uniquely Me parent guide from the Dove Self-Esteem Project has lots of activities, conversation starters and action checklists covering all things to do with body confidence. 

You’ll find more expert advice in the parent guide, but here are three ways to boost your child’s body confidence.

Don’t go on too much about looks

Try to avoid talking too much about appearances. It doesn’t matter whether what you say is positive or negative - if your child hears you commenting on how beautiful actors and actresses are on TV, or complaining in front of the mirror, they’re likely to feel looks matter enormously. Help your child realise that they don’t need to be worrying about their appearance. There’s more on how adult behaviour can affect the way a child feels about their own body in the first two chapters of the free ‘Uniquely Me’ parent guide. You can try the Body Talk Action Checklist on page 12 for more tips.

Introduce some helpful role models

There are lots of influential people using their fame and popularity as a platform to campaign against unrealistic beauty ideals, many of these will also post inspirational content online to help inspire others.

Ask your child if there are any role models that they find particularly inspiring and why they look up to them. TV personality Jameela Jamil from the popular show The Good Place and Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o are both outspoken about the negative effect unrealistic body standards can have on young people’s self-esteem. 

The Distortion Beauty Action Checklist on page 17 of the Uniquely Me Parent Guide can help your child see beyond manipulated images. 

Celebrate what makes them unique

Try to shift the focus away from your child’s looks and instead get them thinking and talking about some of the great things that make them who they are. Get them talking about their hobbies, achievements and ambitions. 

Give your child compliments and encouragement about things that are not related to the way they look or dress. What is it they think friends and family like about their personality? What makes them strong, funny, loyal, helpful? What are they proud of? Chapter 4 of the Uniquely Me Parent Guide has activities to help your child learn how to express their self-confidence and really celebrate their individuality. 

(For teachers and professionals, the Dove Self-Esteem Project also offers a series of workshops and resources with practical activities to help boost children’s self-esteem. Download them for free here.)

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‘Uniquely me’ is packed with advice and practical activities for parents to help nurture their children's body confidence and self-esteem. It contains expert advice from Dove Self-Esteem Project global experts from the fields of psychology, body image, self-esteem, eating disorders and media representation to create a resource for parents that is focused on advice and action.

Download your free ‘Uniquely Me’ parent guide

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