I wrote The Tortoise and the Hairpiece because there was a little turtle out there who wanted to look like everyone else. He was afraid no one would like him if he looked different. He learned that who you are on the inside is more important than how you look, and that true friends know that. The book is designed to help parents help their children to learn the same lesson.
In some ways, children today are much more sophisticated and precocious than earlier generations. Technology that previous generations could only imagine is now a commonplace part of daily life. But along with that technology comes a steady barrage of advertising and media influence that can’t help but shape children’s perceptions of themselves.
Advertising is designed to make you feel like you’re missing something in your life, that happiness is only a purchase away…and as any parent knows, young children are easily convinced of this. And children are absolutely certain that once they have that something, they will be happy. When that gets old, there’s always something new for them to want. Most families find a way to break that cycle and teach their children that happiness is not dependent on buying and having things.
But what about teaching children less tangible lessons about happiness?
There are more subtle influences that come from advertising and the media…the ones that subconsciously influence children to believe that if they just look a certain way or wear certain clothes or have a certain body shape that they will be like all the other beautiful people and they will fit in and be happy. These messages begin influencing children at an early age, and counteracting them can be difficult for parents because they are working with their children’s ideas and ideals, which are not always obvious.
It requires a consistent effort to draw up children’s thoughts on such subjects. Doing so helps keep the lines of communication open so that there are regular opportunities to talk about subjects like these that don’t naturally arise in everyday conversation.
That’s why The Tortoise and the Hairpiece addresses this issue and includes questions at the end to help start conversations about self-image. The story and questions are only a jumping-off point…each child is different and might have different concerns. So use the questions to help your children explore their thoughts and feelings on the subject of self-image…you may learn something new about them, and it will bring you closer together!
Next time: Some tips on how to help your children develop a healthy self-image…