Help Your Child Develop a Healthy Body Image

Every parent wants to raise a child who feels comfortable in his or her own skin. A key to achieving this is fostering a healthy body image.

Simply put, body image is how you feel about your body. A positive body image means that you have a realistic perception of how your body looks and accept and appreciate your natural body shape.

Believe it or not, problems with body image can begin as early as the preschool years. The good news is that you can do a lot to help your child develop a positive body image from a very young age.

Be a role model. As you’ve most likely already witnessed, children pick up on everything you say and do. Consider the message your child may receive if you’re always talking negatively about your own features, constantly dieting, or putting yourself through grueling workouts in an effort to change your appearance. Your child may begin to wonder whether he or she should be doing the same things. Talk about and treat your own body exactly how you’d like your child to treat his or her own.

Emphasize health. In today’s world, there’s a lot of focus on weight, calories, and dieting. You can change this conversation. Rather than talking about weight, emphasize health, physical fitness, and good nutrition. Talk about these things in terms of the benefits they provide for your child. For example, encourage your child to eat a tasty, nutritious meal so that he or she will have plenty of energy to play.

Foster a love for physical activity. Help your child discover that being active is about having fun. Support your child’s interests in any physical activity that he or she enjoys, even if it’s different from what you’d choose. For some children this may be soccer or hockey. Others may choose dance or karate. And still other kids may enjoy walking or riding their bikes around the neighborhood. Allow your child to try many different activities until he or she finds those that feel like a fun and natural fit.  

Talk about it. It’s nearly impossible to avoid images of “perfect-looking” bodies in the media. Since you can’t completely shield your child from them, use these images as an opportunity to have a conversation with your child. Let your child know that these images are often retouched or changed in different ways to appear that way and they don’t represent the wide range of shapes and sizes that bodies come in. If you hear your child talking negatively about his or her own body, start a conversation about why your child feels that way. Talk about what you see that makes your child special.

Ultimately, body image is about more than how your child feels about his or her looks. Kids who have a good body image feel comfortable and confident in their own skin. So taking these positive steps can have a lasting positive impact.

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