The July issue of Vanity Fair hit the shelves of newsstands Tuesday, and with it came the much talked about cover featuring Caitlyn Jenner. But it also came with an excellent opportunity for parents to teach their children two extremely valuable lessons, which have more to do with the future of a child’s overall health than one may think: The importance of being true to yourself, and the importance of accepting others.
A person’s health is dependent upon maintaining homeostasis. Homeostasis is the self-regulating process by which our bodies maintain a constant, stable, internal environment while adjusting to external stressors that can threaten survival. The most common stressor in our society is diet. Another stressor that can affect homeostasis is when we are faced with a perceived threat. When this happens it activates our fight or flight stress response, which can increase blood sugar to provide energy and shift blood flow from non-essential processes such as digestion. This is great when you are being attacked by a saber-toothed tiger. The problem is that this same fight or flight response is also triggered by other threats. Things like anger and fear can have the same physiological effect on the body as dangling from a cliff by your fingertips.
When these stressors are constantly present in a person, the effects can be detrimental to overall health. When blood sugar levels rise, the body releases insulin. When this happens on a regular basis, it plays havoc on homeostasis, and can lead to elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes.
When we teach our children to love themselves and be comfortable in their own skin we help to eliminate a stressor like fear. If they can learn to love themselves and be proud of who they are, they won’t be so afraid of letting people down or being made fun of. Additionally, when we teach our children to be accepting of others, we help to eliminate a stressor like anger. If children learn how to accept people for their differences, they are less likely to develop negative feelings towards others, or get angry when they are in the presence of those different from themselves.
Teaching your children the importance of being comfortable in their own skin, loving themselves, and accepting others can help eliminate negative stressors in their lives, which will help their bodies to maintain homeostasis, contribute to overall health, and reduce the risk of obesity and chronic illness.
The transformation of Bruce Jenner into Caitlyn Jenner can be a difficult thing for children to understand. It comes with a big how and, maybe more importantly, a big WHY. Your child’s ears will be filled with explanations and gossip from other kids, other kids’ parents and the media. As challenging as the WHY is, it’s best if the objective answer comes from you.
The Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair cover introduces a topic you might not have envisioned yourself addressing with your child at such a young age. Sure, it might be easier and a little less awkward, to skip over it and pretend that it doesn’t exist. If, however, you take the opportunity to have a discussion about it with your child now, you can start them down the road to a fulfilling, loving, and healthy life. A life where they can be proud of who they are, and accepting of others.
Opinion by Justin Noble (Edited by Cherese Jackson)
Justin Noble is a certified nutrition coach, children’s book author and long time lover of children’s stories. He created the ‘My Body’ Village series with wife Le-Anne.
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