Cheerleading is a sport that, by default, centers a lot of focus on weight and body shape. Flyers are expected to be dainty, and bases are expected to be strong and have a body that can easily support flyers. It is easy to see how, without careful attention, cheerleaders can develop very dangerous complexes about their body. Below you will find tips that every parent, coach, or friend can use to ensure that your cheerleader is confident in her own skin.
1. Talk about who your cheerleader is and what your cheerleader does versus what she looks like. If you are constantly reinforcing that actions and character are more important than appearances, your child will act accordingly. This message must also be backed up by your own actions.
2. You are the first line of defense, and in many cases you will be your cheerleader’s first introduction into body image. Children in general are largely shaped by what they see on television and in magazines. Take time to discuss these images with your cheerleader. Let them know what are realistic images, and share facts about healthy body weights. Be aware of what your cheerleader is reading or watching, and discuss it openly. Encourage your cheerleader to talk about and question what is both seen and heard.
3. Be conscious of what the clothes your cheerleader is wearing say about her body. Allowing young children to wear clothing that is too tight or too sexy can open them up to unwanted scrutiny.
4. Don’t shy away from the tough topics. Explain the effects of puberty and genetics. Make sure your cheerleader understands that weight gain is a normal part of development, especially during puberty. Explain that body shape also is largely influenced by genetic factors.
5. Set a good example. Explain to your daughter that you eat a healthy diet and exercise for your health — not just to look a certain way. Also, think about what you read and watch as well as the products you buy and the lessons your choices send.
We hope that you will take these tips and incorporate them into your life, as well as share them with other parents and coaches. Cheerleaders that have unaddressed negative body images are subject to many harsh consequences. Prevention is always the best solution.