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Help your child value their cultural background and uniqueness

Help your child value their cultural background and uniqueness

No matter what your family background or cultural identity is, it's important to celebrate diversity and respect differences. Our action checklist will help you and your child do just that.

Respecting differences

One wonderful thing about the modern world is the diverse cultural background many of us enjoy. Take a moment to reflect on your family background and what holds you together. Character traits, physical features, ethnicity, interests and more, all come together to make your family unique.

Different families have different definitions of beauty, expectations for behaviour and attitudes towards self-expression. These ‘differences’ can sometimes lead to negative comparisons and poor body image, when young people are desperate to 'fit in'.

Beauty in different cultures – how it affects body image

Studies show that where we’re from, our ethnicity and cultural background all have an impact on our body image. American magazine Allure polled 2,000 women in The Allure American Beauty Survey. When asked about their personal attractiveness, African-American women were three times as likely as white women to rate themselves at the ‘hot’ end of the spectrum.

This may be because some women are culturally more comfortable with appreciating their bodies, or have more flexible concepts of beauty. In parts of Africa and Jamaica, for example, bigger, curvier figures are associated with wealth and fertility.

Cultural differences around beauty

What's perceived as beautiful varies hugely across the globe. For example, in China hairy moles are admired as they're thought to be a sign of a long and happy life. And in the Middle East, belly dancers are considered beautiful for their curvy tummies.

Compare this to the Western preoccupation with thin, white, blonde beauty and it isn’t hard to see why our kids need guidance in learning to love their individuality.

Teenagers have a their own cultural identity

Children have to juggle family expectations with those of the wider culture they live in. “This is often a time when girls feel an overwhelming need to fit in,” says healthy body-image campaigner, Sharon Haywood. “Don’t be offended if she seems to reject her background – instead seek out ways to help her appreciate the value that comes from her specific set of circumstances and heritage.”

Try to understand your child's perspective and talk about their cultural background. Opening their eyes to where they come from and how this influences who they are will help them not only to accept their uniqueness, but also to celebrate and feel proud of it. 

Help your child to see beauty beyond the stereotypes, so they can apply a wider concept of beauty to themselves and others, and avoid appearance-related comparisons.

Use our action checklist below to start the conversation.

  • 1

    Ask questions

    Thoughtful questioning can help your child delve deeper into their own background and understand what makes them unique – physically and emotionally

  • 2

    Celebrate your family’s background

    Talk about how your family is different to others you know. How does your family define beauty – and how does your child? Ask what they admire in family members and those from other backgrounds.

  • 3

    Find creative inspiration

    Look at celebrities your child admires, and ask similar questions about them. For instance, musicians, film-makers and artists often draw upon their cultural identities in their work. It can be incredibly inspiring for a young person to see how they can embrace their background in a positive, creative way

  • 4

    Challenge the media’s narrow view

    Look through magazines together and talk about how often you see different races and sizes. How does this make your child feel? Why aren’t there more diverse examples of beauty?

  • 5

    Find role models who celebrate their difference

    Can you think of people who have used their background in positive ways? What makes the achievements of people with unconventional families or from different backgrounds so special?

next steps

  • Have a conversation with your child – have they ever felt torn between their teenage culture and your family’s culture? How did it feel? How could you support them to feel less torn?
  • Encourage your child to ask their friends about their own cultural background. How does it affect the way they feel about themselves?
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