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The End of Innocence..? Children become aware of their appearance before 5 years old

December 03, 2013 4 min read

A new study reveals that children are becoming more image conscious at an incredibly young age. 1/3 of British children under 5 years old are worried about their looks & 18% have cried because they feel ugly. The new study showed girls were much more likely than boys to be unhappy with their appearance, but boys are under increasing pressure to be attractive, with parents saying one in ten sons had cried about not being handsome enough. Worryingly, a third of children became aware of their looks under FIVE years old - and by the age of eight more than three quarters of youngsters were acutely aware of their personal appearance Two in five parents also reported their child often compared their appearance to others. But is this because of the media's effect, or our own? Could parents and their own image issues be creating a domino effect? 80% of the mothers said compare their looks to others, and 39% confessing they have cried over their appearance. While we are increasingly concerned about celebrities and models projecting unrealistic body types and standards of beauty, is our generation setting our children up with the same ideals - but with a "role model" much closer to home? As a mother or father, if you are constantly concerned about your appearance - should you be more concerned by those outside factors like Miley Cyrus and Megan Fox affecting your children - or should you be more aware of your own concerns and how they appear to your own children. Is the worry the 'standard' set, or your reaction to it? No doubt, this is not an easy task when raising children. Just because you have a child does not mean your feelings towards your own appearance can completely vanish. But at the same time, you are forced to become this pillar of support and strength in a world of uncertainty and anxiety - even if you don't feel that way. So what is the solution, pretend the people in the media don't effect you so that you can strengthen your child (or does that shelter them..) or be true in your feelings and don't hide that from them (but does that fester their own insecurities...)? My opinion has always been that regardless of how hard you try, one day your child is going to step out into the harsh reality of the world and face it alone. If you shelter them from the pressures of society, they will not know how to deal with them when they encounter them alone. If you place your own insecurities on them, their first reaction will be to fear the pressure and shy away from it. Though I grew up full of insecurities like any other teenage girl, every time I think of these circumstances I think of how my own mother approached them when I was very young. Around the time I was starting to enter the world of training bras and makeup she let me do it by myself. She never showed me how to put on makeup, but if I asked - no question was ever off limits. She never told me when I needed to start wearing a bra, but never refused me when I wanted ones with padding. Largely, she let me decide how I wanted to look and let me have the power to decide. A lot of the times this meant I ended up leaving the house looking ridiculous, but that was my mistake to make. It also made these things acceptable to me on my own terms because I ventured into them alone. If I wanted that bra - I had to go buy it myself. Maybe not with my own money, but I had to walk into the store filled with lingerie and thongs and figure my way out. The first few times were nerve wracking, but it also took the mystery and insecurity out of these situations. Every time I think about it, I think about a particular exchange we had when I was probably 7 or 8. She was in the bathroom putting on mascara and I asked why she was jabbing herself in the eye. She told me it was mascara and it was more like painting. I asked why you'd want to paint your eye lashes and she said "to make them look longer". I said that seemed stupid (ps I was a pretty mouthy kid) and that was that. She didn't delve into why I would want them to look longer or how makeup can change the way you looked. But she also didn't lecture me on makeup being age appropriate or the dangers of poking my eye out. At that age, at that point in time, mascara was stupid to me and she allowed it to be. When I decided a few years later it wasn't, she didn't remind me of this accusation or my own hypocrisy (though to be fair...I was 7). She didn't tell me I didn't need it or was too young to wear it. She simply let me figure it out for myself.

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