Children pick up messages and habits as they grow. Through the media, their peers and their parents they learn about the world around them. This means parents have a very important role in the early years of their child’s life. You can help your child develop a healthy body image when they’re young and avoid many issues when they’re teens and young adults.
What is a Healthy Body Image and Why is it Important?
The media to a large extent is blamed for giving children and teens an unhealthy body image. They grow up believing that the people they see on television and in magazines are real. It sets an almost impossible standard to compare themselves to. Thus many children feel ugly, inadequate and undesirable. This can lead to eating disorders, inappropriate or destructive behavior, and depression.
Yet, when children are raised to love and appreciate their body, they grow up healthier mentally and physically. There are many things you can do to help.
Top Tips for Teaching Children a Healthy Body Image
#1 Eat meals together as a family. When the entire family gets together for mealtime children make a positive association with food. They learn to appreciate food.
#2 Limit media exposure. When your child is exposed to magazine and television images discuss the reality of those people they’re seeing. Explain air brushing, lighting and Photoshop to them. Let them know that the people they see do not look like that in real life.
#3 Be a good role model. Speak positively about yourself, your weight and health, and about the physical appearance of others. If your child hears you speaking negatively about weight or food they will absorb that message. This also means taking good care of your own health. Don’t talk about dieting or restrict foods around your children.
#4 Give your child choices about what they eat. When you give your child choices it helps put them in control of their health. They’ll learn to take care of themselves at an early age.
#5 Provide your child with a healthy assortment of foods to choose from. This makes it easy for them to make smart choices. If a home is packed with junk food, children often choose the junk.
#6 Don’t reward with food. Food rewards create an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead offer your child praise, your attention and enjoyable activities.
#7 Praise your child on their appearance and also who they are inside. When they achieve something notable, praise them. When they get dressed up, praise them. Helping your child learn that the inside counts as much as the outside will help them grow up balanced and confident.
Your child’s body image may be challenged as they grow. This is particularly true in their teen years. Providing them with a solid foundation will help them grow up confidence and strong. They’ll love themselves, take good care of their body and value others for who they are, not what they look like.