Mom, Do I Look Fat?

There’s no business like show business. Indeed.

Much has already been said about the power and influence that celebrities have over society. Especially these days. Suddenly, it’s not “hot” to be healthy, otherwise you might be called—gasp!—FAT.

Unless you have been sleeping in a cryogenic chamber for the past decade, you would know that not having a 21-inch waist makes you, like, eeeew obese, since “fat” is the new dreaded F word. Now being skin-and-bones is the new “sexy,” promiscuity is trendy and stupidity is cute.

It’s foolish to put all the blame on “the stars above,” of course. To be fair, they’re only humans too and did not wield magical powers to make us involuntarily imitate or tolerate their actions. And there are those who are at the opposite side of the spectrum—who can actually act, for one, and who don’t involve themselves in situations that would compromise their values. The thing is, we don’t see them too often, do we? Because all the cameras love something a lot more juicy.

Sadly, it’s not just us who have been taking notice—kids too. Girls, particularly, who are beginning to take a little longer staring at the mirror, and in their tender ages, wondering “Do I look fat?”

A friend of mine recently told me of one unforgettable day when her lovely, perfectly healthy eight-year-old daughter came up to her and asked earnestly, “Mom, am I fat?” My friend said she started noticing a change in her exuberant, bubbly daughter one summer, when she absolutely refused to get into the pool with her friends as she was too embarrassed to put her swim suit on. Later she would shy away from school activities and would socialize with other kids less and less. The one thing that would cheer her up is whenever my friend would dress her up nicely, with matching cute hair accessories.

As a mother, your child will always be beautiful in your eyes. When she begins looking down on herself, of course, your first impulse is to find out who or what has been breeding such negative feelings in your child. But let’s not forget that children mirror what they see. We have to be very careful. It could be the images of skinny socialites she sees on TV, but it could also be mommy, whom she often hears ranting about flabby arms and bulging waistlines.

Confidence breeds freedom in our children. And they benefit when their parents take steps in helping them develop positive feelings of self-worth. Here are some simple steps that you can try:

* Be there. Make your child feel appreciated. Set aside time that you will devote solely to her. Do things that she excels in or activities that she loves to do. A favorite activity will always be dress-up. Play pretend with her and dress her up like a princess. Put on some dainty hair accessories on her head. There’s plenty to choose from: pretty little hair bows or cute little hair clips. You can even start a fun collection together!

* Be fair. Do not compare siblings. Or better yet, do not compare them to anyone at all. Each child has a unique set of strengths and it will boost her self-esteem if you highlight these strengths. This will not only make them feel that you do notice, but also motivate them to develop their gifts even more.

* Be realistic. I know, I know, we all want our children to maybe someday rule the world. But sometimes, although our motivations for them to succeed may be sincere, these may also become crushing weight on their shoulders.

* Be emphatic. Avoid judgmental comments. Instead, use more positive terms. Children tend to be less defensive when the problem is cast as a strategy that must be changed rather than as something caused by a deficiency in them. Instead of saying “Try harder,” something positive and emphatic like “Let’s try doing this differently” will motivate them more.

* Be expressive. Hug your child, tell her you love her, make her feel that you are proud of her, be supportive of her. Sometimes, rewarding her for an achievement helps, too. Is she an animal-lover? Maybe she’ll like a pet, or if she’s not ready yet, start small with a cute hair clip with her favorite animal designs.

* Be a positive role model. Okay, so maybe you’re not a hot momma like Angelina Jolie. So are the rest of us mere mortals! What’s worse is rubbing off low self-worth on your perfectly adorable child. Don’t belittle yourself or be unrealistic about your own talents. Make an effort to focus on the good things about you and your child will be encouraged to do the same. Be careful, too, of the images she sees around her. Try to make her understand that she is special the way she is.

These all remind of a recent movie I thoroughly enjoyed with my kids: Kung Fu Panda. It’s a barrel of laughs, for sure, but more importantly, it sends out a message that its young audience badly needs to hear. There is a scene where the panda Po talks to his noodle-making father Mr. Ping. By a fateful string of events, Po ends up being declared the “dragon warrior” and is now his village’s only hope against a feared villain. Being a fluffy panda that has no experience in battle, he has constantly doubted himself. Before the fight, Mr. Ping reveals to him the secret ingredient to his famous “Secret Ingredient Soup.” Mr. Ping says “The secret ingredient is… nothing!” And adds, “To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.”

We already know our children are special. It’s time to let them see just how special they really are! Much love to your girls :)