Like other values parents instill in their children, positive body image is something that should be taught. Children are surrounded with many factors that influence views of their own bodies and others, including the media they consume, peers and your own words and behavior. Fostering positive body image early in your child’s life can help them develop appreciation for health, moderation, tolerance and emotional wellbeing.
As a youngster, body image may not have been directly addressed in your household, but subtle comments and actions probably shaped how you felt about yourself and how you categorized others. Now much more information is available about the impact that parenting has on body image. While there are so many influences that will affect a child’s body image, beginning positive self-talk, neutral perceptions of other bodies and focusing conversations away from physical stereotypes can help your child grow up with a positive body image.
Here’s what the experts have to say about fostering positive body image:
Be thoughtful of what you say about your own weight. Your kids are always listening. When they hear mommy or daddy criticize themselves, they may project this negative body image on their own bodies. This includes talk of diets and weight loss programs too.
Always discuss your child’s body in a positive way. In order for your child to feel confident in her own skin, accept every inch of her without judgment. Your child’s body will change many times as she grows and this can be scary without complete parental support. Watch what you say about sliming clothes or complimenting weight loss. Instead turn your attention to efforts, behaviors and accomplishments like strength, dedication, and hard-work.
Focus the conversation on health rather than weight or size. Teaching healthy habits such as a wholesome diet, exercising and getting plenty of sleep are more productive topics than dwelling on weight or size. Sure, they impact weight but that’s not the message you need to send. Rather, talk about how these healthy habits will make your child smarter, more focused at school, better able to do physical activities, and so on. When you put it in terms of reaping a reward they really care about, it is much easier to digest.
Avoid negative comments about food. Sometimes making food the enemy backfires, leading to overeating or restrictive eating. Instead, set healthy limits for treats and explain why healthful eating is important.
Teach acceptance of every body. Even healthy bodies come in different shapes and sizes. Remind your children that the way someone looks is not what really matters. No one is better or worse of a person because of how they look.
Put the most emphasis on inner beauty. Try to focus your comments on character traits that truly define a person such as their kindness, intelligence, humor, passion and love. No matter what package people come in, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Sources: She Knows, Parents, Everyday Feminism, and Common Sense Media