A Message for Single Parents
The major physical changes occur during adolescence and they do not always understand what is happening to their body.
The age group of 8-13 year-olds, especially young girls, are increasingly targeted by the commericializaton of fashion, music, magazines and film.
Among girls, the construction of identity, centered on the appearance and early sexual expertise, can lead to false conceptions of what they should project as an image.
Among girls, the frequent exhibition of images that evoke seduction and charm increases the risk for wanting to follow a diet and of hypersexualization. Almost 10% of girls between the ages of 8 and 9 have already followed a strict diet.
The physical changes that occur during adolescence blur the image that adolescents have of themselves. In this respect, young people certainly find security in "fitting in the norm" and they are particularly sensitive to models of beauty conveyed through the media.
A negative body image for girls
Girls' dissatisfaction with their body is associated with the normal increase of fatty tissue during puberty. The older girls get, the more they seem more dissatisfied with their bodies and the more they tend to severely judge their appearance, especially that of the thighs, hips, breasts, buttocks and belly. There are many adolescents who seek to appear thin and display a less than healthy weight. The young girls seem to follow the model of adult women who, in the majority, want to lose a few kilos.
Dissatisfaction among boys seems related to the development of the muscles and the body frame.
If the boys tend to be more satisfied with their weight than girls, they do, however, increasingly desire a more imposing figure as they enter adolescence. According to magazines and newspapers, more and more men and teenagers are willing to do what it takes in order to get the flat stomach, pectorals of steel, and square shoulders of the models in vogue. They go in growing numbers to fitness centers and salons for tanning and hair removal.
Men who concerned about their appearance seem to pay special attention to their hair, chest, abdomen, nose, eyes, and the size of their penis.
As they grow older, boys are faced with the simultaneous desires to stay thin, look young, and be muscular.
Childhood (6 to 11 years)
- Development of the body and discovery of its multiple functions.
- Curiosity about sexual functions (conception, pregnancy, birth, differences between boys and girls, etc.).
- Knowledge of anatomical, psychological, and emotional changes that occur during puberty.
Adolescence (12 to 17 years)
During puberty, in boys and in girls, a series of physical changes occurs that will range five to six years.
In Quebec, almost all boys and girls of 13 years of age have begun puberty. At 16, a third of the girls have completed their puberty, while only 3% of boys of the same age have completed theirs. This means that boys and girls do not develop at the same time. Puberty occurs between the ages of 8 and 17 for girls and between the ages of 10 and 18 in boys.
- Development of breasts and the uterus.
- Appearance of hair on the pubis and armpits.
- Enlargement of the hips and arrival of menstruation.
- Appearance of pubic hair, growth of the penis and testes.
- Spontaneous erections and first ejaculations.
- Appearance of hair on the face and underarms.
- Voice change.
The abundance of sexual messages in the media is certainly linked to the phenomenon of hypersexualization of young people.
Our era, moreover, is the first to make sexually explicit material so easily accessible, and on a large scale.
In fact, the media is currently considered to be a major source of sexual socialization due to the considerable increase of sexual content observed in the media in recent years.
Indeed, the young audience is bombarded, sometimes from childhood, by an avalanche of commercialized products designed to meet the need "to be cool".
In addition, children and adolescents form an ideal target audience for television shows whose main goal is to sell the targeted audience to the advertising agencies. Moreover, pre-adolescents, who were not targeted before, now represent an extraordinary market.
Girls from 9 to 13 years old are the most targeted
Tackling their looks, in order to erase all traces of their real age. In fact, you need to know that, in this world of the image, "to just be your own age gives the impression of being behind". In other words, precocity is fashionable.
By creating excessive attention to the body or to beauty among young girls and teaching them that sexuality and seduction are sources of power, we imprison them within the perspective of the other.
Moreover, we are witnessing an everyday acceptance of oral sex. Before the 1990's, frequency of oral sex among adolescents had been the subject of few studies. Since then, many studies have focused on oral sex. However, studies that make a distinction between the originator or the object of oral sex acts are more rare. American research conducted on adolescents reveal that, in the last 10 years, there has been an increase in the practice of oral sex, in particular, of fellatio.
In the world of youth, hypersexualization refers to a set of practices, attitudes, and situations, such as:
- The hypersexualization of clothing.
- Highly-sexualized seduction.
- The phenomenon of "f*** friends".
- The trivialization of oral sex or of certain more marginalized sexual practices.
- Sex chat ("chat rooms").
- Consumption of cyberporn.
- Pronounced concern about sexual performance and expertise.
A few intervention approaches
In regards to younger adolescents, remind them that this XXX universe (pornographic films) is not meant for them and it is important to explain why.
It is also essential to provide them with skills to enable them to debunk stereotypes and the hidden goals of the commercialization of sexuality and, in particular, sexual consumerism. To refocus that which can represent for them pressure to "be experienceed" or to "do the same as..." but, also, so that they can choose responsibly within their sex life, as stressed by Durham (2008).
It is important to make them realize that the act of exposing their emotional and sexual intimacy so easily and demonstratively does not mean that they are "cool", or that they are open.
The naivety of some, the overexposure of the privacy of others, and the desire to manipulate or even abuse, can create an explosive cocktail. It is very important for adolescents to acquire and develop their critical sense and their ability to determine the contexts (criteria) where caution is required.
Here are some tips for intervening effectively with your child in relation to eating disorders:
- Take a look at your attitudes and your behaviors with your own body and that of others. Teach your children to accept physical differences (body shapes, defects, disabilities, etc.).
- Encourage your children regularly and avoid constant reprimands.
- Avoid any attitude that reinforces praise of weight loss and denigration of excess weight. Do not tease children based on their appearance and do not make remarks to them such as: "I'll love you more if you lose weight", "Don't eat so much, you're going to get fat", etc.
- What kind of life do you dream of for your children? Do you stress beauty and fitness a lot, especially with girls? Help them instead to appreciate themselves, regardless of the models conveyed in the media.
- Do not vilify certain foods by describing them as bad, calorie-loaded, or "fattening". If you diversify the meals, all of the foods can be part of a balanced diet.
- Discuss regularly with your children the dangers of strict diets, the benefit of physical exercise, and the importance of a diversified diet. Don't forget to set an example by eating everything (always at the table), getting exercise, and accepting yourself as you are.
- Do not blackmail using food, for example: "Eat well to make Mom happy", "If you're not good, you won't get any dessert", or "You're sad, have some candy". To eat: it is to eat and love, that is something else.
- Offer different activities for your children: sports, drawing, music, etc. When we do what we love, we care less about our weight and appearance.
- Do your best to strengthen self-esteem and self-respect of girls around you. In addition, give the same opportunities and encouragement to boys and girls.
- Accept being a bad mother or a bad father from time to time. A too good parent anticipates the desires of his or her child without giving him or her time to feel them. The child then runs the risk of wanting it all and all at once, without coping with lack or delays. Yet, frustration is often constructive.