How to encourage a Healthy Body image in Children
A harsh reality of our society is that it is very judgmental. This is especially true when it comes to judging how a person looks. Often the terms, fat or ugly are used to refer to other people and this creates a sense of negativity in the minds of our children from a very young age. Being Parents, we are often more concerned about making our children feel good about themselves and to allow them to promote the same sense of positivity in others, to cancel out this negative aspect of our society.
First and Foremost, the language used with your child to describe things is very important
Whenever having a conversation regarding bodies, parents should always focus on the health and wellbeing, how a body functions and helps us, not what it looks like. So whenever you choose to speak to your child about their body, speak about the astonishing things it can do like run, play, dance, think, imagine, etc. For example, parents can say, “Look at your healthy arms and legs! They help you dance so perfectly to the rhythm” or “The picture you drew is so beautiful – your brain is so artistic!”
As parents, when we take out the time to point out how our child’s body assists them in doing incredible things, rather than praising their physical beauty, it sends a very positive message to our children, that we value their strengths, abilities and wellbeing rather than their exterior appearance.
The outside environment
Apart from our very own, our children face multiple environments and interactions throughout the day – friends, teachers, school, media, relatives, neighbors, etc. It is one thing to control what is said at home, but kids will hear things you wish they wouldn’t from these interactions. This is a great chance to teach them why those words can be hurtful. For example, we can do this by telling them that people come in all shapes and sizes, which is a good thing because otherwise everyone would look the same and it would be difficult to tell each other apart. With that said, everybody has a different quality, something they are great at and therefore, all of us can do incredible things. Sometimes, though, words can be hurtful. Talking about what someone looks like, or calling someone fat, can sometimes hurt people’s feelings even if we don’t mean to. We shouldn’t use that word to refer to a person’s physical characteristics even if we don’t plan on being mean.
Encourage taking care of the body
If we, as parents, keep the spotlight on what our child’s body can do, we can use that as a means to support our children to take very good care of their body by eating well, exercising and sleeping. If a child feels like their body is precious and it is what allows them to do all the things they love, they will be thankful for it more rather than choosing to disapprove of it.
Be a Role Model
On the contrary, it won’t do a whole lot of good if we, as parents, praise our child’s abilities, persistence, healthy behaviors and what their body can do if we complain that we are fat, or talk about trying to lose weight or have an unenthusiastic self-image of ourselves. Actions speak louder than words. We should also think about how we want our child to see their own body and project that image themselves.