How Do I Talk to My Kids About Plastic Surgery? — Psychology Professor Answers the Tough Questions

Jager Weatherby on 6 Aug 2014 at 11:50am

Talk to Your Kids About Plastic SurgeryAfter months (maybe even years) of consideration, you’ve finally decided to get a procedure that will boost your confidence and maybe even bring a little spice into your relationship. You’ve done your research, you’ve found the perfect doctor, and you’re surely excited to see the final results.

But there are a few more questions that need answering — questions that the even the best plastic surgeon might not be able to address. How do I tell my kids I’m getting plastic surgery? Will my cosmetic procedure affect the body image of my children? What do I say to my family if I’m worried they’ll disapprove?

RealSelf caught up with Dan Ariely, a three-time New York Times bestselling author and Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. We hit him with some of the toughest and most commonly asked questions regarding cosmetic surgery and how it might affect our relationships and communication. Read on to learn his interesting advice.


How do I tell my children what I'm having done and why I'm doing it? What age should my kids be when I tell them? Should I tell them? I don’t want to scare or upset them!

I actually think there’s no particular age at which to tell (or not to tell) your kids about your plastic surgery. Children have a very easy time getting used to things and thinking about them in very natural ways, so I wouldn’t wait. In fact, as time passes, it will only become more difficult to have the discussion. I think the right approach is to plainly explain that there was something you were unhappy with and you decided to fix it.

Negative Body Image

WILL MY DAUGHTER GROW UP WITH A NEGATIVE BODY IMAGE IF I GET BREAST IMPLANTS?

That’s hard to tell. It could work both ways. It could be that kids look at their parents and say, “I never want to do that.” It could be that the parents say, “I did this, but everybody has a different body type and different wants.” That said, I don’t think this will necessarily lead to a negative body image.


Should I tell my partner I had plastic surgery (or even Botox)? It’s my body do I even need tell them?

I think you should tell your partner in advance. A partner who finds out without knowing about it beforehand will likely think the betrayal is larger. There’s some interesting research suggesting that when one person betrays the other, the person who is doing the betraying can very easily justify it. They can say, “Well, it was just this one time.” The other person doesn’t see it in that context and could [...] have a harder time dealing with it. I would tell your partner sooner rather than later.


I found out my partner got work done behind my back. What do I do?

My Partner Got Surgery Behind My BackYou have to recognize how difficult it is to admit to having work done. It’s a very powerless position to admit that something bothered you so much that you decided to take a very serious measure to fix it. I think what you should do is recognize that difficulty and not take it too personally. You should accept that your partner was having a hard time and took a step that they couldn’t bring themselves to tell you about. I would make sure to bring up this topic in discussion, otherwise it will fester. Yes, it was hard for the person to be honest about it and they might not have gone about it in the right way — but once you find out, you can bring it to the surface, deal with it, and move on. 


HOW DO I REVEAL THAT I WENT UNDER THE KNIFE TO MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY, ESPECIALLY MY PARENTS? I’M PRETTY SURE THEY’RE GOING TO DISAPPROVE.

I would start with the reason. If you think about lots of things in life, it’s really about why we did what we did, rather than what we ended up doing. Even if you think about something like murder — which is clearly one of the worst things anybody can do — there are mitigating circumstances that describe the psychological state of that person. So rather than just saying what the outcome (your surgery) was, I would describe the reasons for it. Once people think about the reasons, it will become much more clear. This may be about getting back to the way you want to see and think about yourself, which is a straightforward thing people can relate to. If anything, talking about it will lower speculation and diminish it as a topic of discussion.


MY SIGNIFICANT OTHER THINKS I'M GOING TO FIND A NEW PARTNER ONCE I GET MY NEW BODY. HOW CAN I MAKE THEM BELIEVE THAT I ONLY WANT THE SURGERY FOR ME AND THEM TO ENJOY?

I think that’s a place where revealed preferences are a part of it. Economists don’t believe in what people say, only what people do. If the statement is about happiness with life and love for your partner, the best way is to think about how you show it and not just say it. Once this is done, life will become easier.


Dan Ariely

About Dan Ariely


Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty.









Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Pete Bellis; Some rights reserved by Ryan and Sarah Deeds; Some rights reserved by Guian Bolisay

Comments (2)

Don't tell them unless there will be a radical change. I stayed with a fiend for a few days, the came home when bruising could be covered. They thought I looked great anyway. I had a neck/face. In fact, no one noticed I did anything. The right surgeon does that. You look better. That's Dr. Talei and Andrew Jacono.
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This is a very relevant blog. It will make people think about how to deal with the family before undergoing a plastic surgery. If you are getting breast implants, make sure that your daughter doesn't grow up with a negative body image. Also, if you consider of undergoing a plastic surgery, do let your partner know that so that the life will be beautiful even after doing it. One of my friends recently undergone a breast augmentation surgery in a clinic in Toronto. She had already informed her husband about that and he didn't have any issues. In fact it improved their sex life. That's what she told me!
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