Your child begins building a negative or positive body image at a young age.
You will recognize the signs of a negative body image as your child grows: they seem unhappy with their appearance, they are dieting, complaining about how they look, comparing themselves to other kids, or even joking about their appearance in an attempt to cover their true feelings. It is not unusual for a negative body image to emerge during childhood. And if it is not dealt with, it will continue to get worse.
Studies show that approximately 50 percent of preadolescent girls and 30 percent of preadolescent boys dislike their body. (Verywell.com)
A negative body image often leads to eating disorders in people who place a high value on their body shape and weight when determining their own self-worth. It may only begin with dieting and unhealthy eating habits but can progress to full-blown eating disorders. Besides eating disorders, a negative body image can also lead to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
You can help your baby or toddler feel good about their bodies by:
- being tender and cuddling
- give lots of smiles and praise as they move and progress
- play with babies by moving their arms and legs
- play with toddlers by teaching them new moving skills
As They Grow.
- Refrain from teasing them about their bodies
- Teach them about their bodies and how to care for themselves
- Praise how they look and how they perform
- Do active things with your kids, like biking, walking, and playing outside
- Limit screen time and TV and encourage your kids to be active
Preteens and teens are often obsessed with their looks. They may try new clothes, hairstyles, makeup, etc. Often they dress to fit in with their peers or to stand out from the crowd. It’s important to build upon what you’ve already done up to this point in helping them build a positive body image with these suggestions:
- Compliment their looks
- Allow them to experiment with styles
- Never criticize their appearance
- Make sure they are active every day
- Encourage adequate sleep and a healthy diet
Unfortunately, parents often contribute to a teen’s negative body image issues in subtle ways and yet don’t feel they are doing anything wrong. They give disapproving looks when a child asks for seconds. They continually suggest that their child work out or go out for a sport just so they can “stay in shape.” They raise their eyebrows when a teen who may be a little heavy partakes of dessert. When their child is on a “diet,” they may question, “Are you sure you’re allowed to eat that?” Or “Haven’t you reached your limit for the day?”
I’ve been guilty of all of the above. And unfortunately, I’m sure it contributed to some self-esteem issues that both of my daughters had when they were younger. Shame on me! Of course, I only wanted their happiness and health, but I was indirectly contributing to the opposite.
The best strategy is to focus on the positive: healthy eating, daily activities and refraining from any negative reminders or comments about food or weight. If you are truly worried about their health, take them to the doctor and let the professional talk to them.
Raising kids with a positive body image means focusing more on their insides–their character and values–than their outside. If you are struggling with this issue, please schedule a call here.