Some surgeries help develop confidence
By Dr Imran Tahir, Gulf News reader
There are children who suffer from congenital problems like a cleft lip, prominent ears — also known as bat ears — or minor defects of their ears or noses. In such cases, you would speak with the parent or child and tell them that we could perform the operation after the child turns 18.
However, in certain situations children do get harrassed or bullied in school because of these minor defects. If we feel that the child might go into depression or severe psychosis because of the continous bullying, we do look at performing the operation earlier, rather than later. It makes a big impact on their confidence. Their studies improve, they make more friends and become more active. But in certain cases where the problem could be more psychological than physical, we prefer to wait till the child turns 18 and is mature enough to make the right decision.
Unfortunately, the society we live in is one where everybody looks perfect. These children, who are growing and going through a lot of hormonal changes, are more aware of things because of the media, friends and pressure from society. Even a seven-year-old child knows about fillers and lip injections. If it is a minor problem like a prominent mole on your face or bat ears, some parents do book appointments at clinics during the summer holidays. This allows the children to recover from the surgery during the break. But it is also the resonsbility of the doctor to recognise the defect and understand the child’s psychology, feelings and peer pressure.
Gynecomastia — enlargement of breast tissues in males — is quite common among boys because of hormonal changes or teenage obesity. This forces a child to be more home-bound so much so that he even avoids going to the swimming pool or getting involved in sports because he does not want to change his clothes in front of his friends. Being a surgeon, I would call it a small physical problem that we can very easily analyse and correct with a minor liposuction procedure. If a child comes to me with his or her parent and says that there is a problem, I would first analyse his or her psychological status and then consider helping the child get rid of the problems.
- The reader is a consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon.
Surgery does not fix psychological scars
By Dr Tara Wyne, Gulf News reader
Can we really blame children who are being bullied because they are overweight or have fly-away ears or imperfect noses for wanting surgery? No. Children don’t have the problem-solving or self-soothing strategies we have. They often cannot cope with psychological distress.
Parents have to recognise that children will reach for quick-fix strategies that are widely advertised and modelled by their favourite celebrities. Children don’t have the emotional or cognitive maturity to make such decisions. They cannot properly weigh up the costs and benefits to their developing bodies, nor their psyche. What we must respect is that children are trying to come up with their own coping strategies — this is their own brand of problem solving. So, we should never mock or dismiss their attempts to stop bullying. We must help them see that there are other, more reasonable, options than surgery.
Children need our help to understand that it is the bullies who are at fault and need to change; not the victims. Allowing them to undergo medical procedures is telling them that they are the problem and aren’t really good enough. If we begin to condone plastic surgery to stop our children from being bullied, aren’t we effectively giving in to the bullies?
Parents and educators need to consider psychological therapy to address the pain and distress as well as self-esteem issues.
- The reader is a clinical psychologist working in Dubai.
Confidence is not based on how you look
By Faran Niaz, Gulf News reader
My immediate answer to such a practice would be a definite no. This insecurity, once developed, will never go away. When one problem goes away, there is no guarantee that another won’t come up. You could suffer from obesity or any other health or physical problem. I am a father of a daughter who is slightly obese. She is very clear that her way to manage the problem is a healthy diet and exercise.
I am quite surprised that children are opting for plastic surgery to avoid being bullied. Where are their parents? They play a big role in such decisions.
Also, plastic surgery will not make children more confident. Confidence is not based on how you look, and that is the only thing a surgeon can work on. If plastic surgery is their answer to bullying problems, then they will face a dilemma in every stage of their lives. I know of many friends who have had plastic surgery and they look at themselves in the mirror every day, questioning their looks.
If parents are supporting this, I believe they are looking for an easy way out. If a child comes home and says, “I’m being bullied because I don’t look good,” all they would ask is: “What do you want?” And the child will choose plastic surgery. I’m sorry, I may sound old-fashioned, but I don’t think I am. I am a single father and I’ve never stopped my daughter from doing anything.
She is shorter than average, and a little on the bulky side. But her confidence lies in how she is able to perform at school. She studies hard, is very creative and holds many awards. Children always want to be around her. That is where she gets her confidence — in her abilities and performance. I believe that if a child has plastic surgery done, such an action will stick with him or her forever.
If you don’t respect yourself, how can you expect others to respect you? That’s the message we give our children and that is why I am totally against this. I do understand the world is becoming tough, but look around you — I think there are more success stories because of people’s achievements than looks.
- The reader is the father of a 17-year-old daughter, living in Dubai.
Being a teenager can be quite complicated
By Zibah Fairooz Bari, Gulf News reader
Why do you want to change the way you look just because you’re getting bullied?
Plastic surgery is highly risky even for adults. You don’t know how your natural features could get changed and you might regret the decision when you grow older. It is illogical for children to go for plastic surgery. They have to think about what is going to happen in the future.
As for bullying, I don’t know about boys, but with girls I feel like they will do almost anything to make friends. Being a teenager is easy, but also quite complicated. There is a bit of peer pressure regarding how you look. Your friends don’t criticise the way you look, but you could get bullied for your weight. Girls say things like: “You’re too fat and it is embarrassing to go out with you.” I would tell girls facing such a problem to go to a dietitian or just follow a healthy lifestyle — that can bring us to a fit and healthy body.
Two years ago, when I was in grade seven, I was teased about my weight. Girls didn’t want to be nasty, but they did say things like: “We can be friends, but you need to lose weight.” I was hurt and I did take those words as an insult. I stopped talking to them, and thought to myself: “It’s okay, I don’t need such friends.”
Later, when I changed schools, I went to a dietitian who helped me with a diet plan. In just three months, I lost 10 kilos. To add to that, at the beginning of the year, I didn’t have any friends at all, but after I lost weight I noticed that I had a lot of friends. So, yes, people do go for your looks. They started behaving very well with me.
But even though I had such an experience, I still don’t agree with children going for plastic surgery. Why are you going for it just because you are getting bullied? Even those who bullied you should know that whatever you say or do, fate gets you in the end.
- The reader is a pupil living in Dubai.
• In situations where a child suffers from congenital facial abnormalities, a procedure carried out at an earlier age can help his or her confidence and in personality development.
• Parents should be cognizant of the bullying a child can face due to his or her appearance and provide positive, healthy solutions to the child.
• Children should be encouraged to perform well in school and gain confidence from their skills and performance rather than their appearance.