5 ways to build a healthy body image in children. Self-acceptance starts at home.
Previously, we talked about how adults can develop body positivity. But because body image concerns can begin as early as childhood, it’s also important for parents and other adult role models to promote a positive body image to the younger generation
Why? Studies have shown that young people with a positive image of themselves grow up to be more confident individuals. They are more likely to succeed in their goals because they do not spend time worrying about calories, food, or weight. On the other hand, kids with negative body image feel more self-conscious and anxious. They are at greater risk for excessive weight gain, eating disorders, depression, and other mental health issues.
Here are the things you can do cultivate body positivity in your children:
- Be a good role model
Children pick up cues from their parents, so be conscious about the way you talk about bodies to your children. Does she see you constantly stepping on the weighing scale or measuring your waistline? Do you often complain about how certain clothes make you fat? If yes, your child might begin to become conscious of her appearance as well.
How about how you describe others? Do you often describe relatives and friends as “the fat one,” “the one with bad skin,” or “the sexy one”? Refrain from doing so, or, if possible, make positive comments about people of all shapes and sizes or point out other forms of beauty.
- Stop obsessing about numbers.
Instead of focusing on a target weight or clothes size, aim to live a healthy and active lifestyle. This means encouraging kids to play instead of “working out,” and eating balanced meals instead of “dieting.” This teaches kids that taking care of their bodies is more important than needing to look a certain way.
- Praise strength over sexiness.
Show like “American Ninja Warrior” and “The Titan Games” showcase people of different shapes, sizes, and color doing amazing feats of athleticism. These are the people your children should be emulating.
- Watch out for body shaming.
No one is perfect, but if you look at the comments on social media you would think that everyone should be perfect lest they get teased or bullied. Tell your child to either ignore these nasty comments, or, if she’s old enough, to respond simply with “I try not to talk negatively about bodies” or “What a weird world we live in where people feel they can judge each other’s bodies.”
- Educate them that there is no such thing as the “perfect body.”
Help your child be more critical and observant. Explain to them that the pictures of models they see on tv, magazines, or online have been retouched or changed so that the bodies appear “perfect.”
Remember that a healthy body image begins at home. Focus on healthy living and not on outward appearances, so that your child will grow up confident and comfortable in her own body.