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Want a Healthy Body Image for Your Child? 10 Ways to Cultivate It

By HERWriter
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Want Healthy Body Images for Your Kids? 10 Ways to Cultivate Them cherylholt/Pixabay

Both boys and girls can be unhappy with their bodies. Believe it or not, as a parent, you have more influence than you think to help your kids develop a healthy body image.

1) Teach kids about media.

Help them develop a healthy skepticism about the media. Make sure they understand the airbrushing, photo manipulation, personal trainers, cosmetic surgery, and other tricks used by the beauty industry and celebrities.

2) Limit exposure to television — particularly commercials.

Talk about what kids see, to counteract the effects of images that parade before their eyes.

3) Watch what you say.

AdvocatesforYouth.org asks, do you criticize your own body? When you put yourself down in front of your kids, you’re telling them that it's okay not to like yourself. Children pick up on anxiety you have about your body, and may internalize their own unhealthy body image.

4) Be a good role model.

Your kids are closely watching your eating habits, and attitudes about your appearance and weight. Pay attention to the example you are setting, and make changes if you don't like what you see. Seeing yourself through your children's eyes can be great motivation for everyone’s healthy body image.

5) If a child is upset about his or her body, stop and listen.

Talk about why they feel this way. They may have unrealistic ideals about what they should look like. Discuss this, and why they might be unrealistic.

6) Emphasize other qualities over appearance.

Support your teen to develop talents and skills that have nothing to do with appearance. Recognize other things you love about them, such their sense of humor, dedication to school, or how they look out for their friends.

7) Talk about who your kids are instead of how they look.

Compliment them on qualities other than looks. Say things like, "You were such a good student today," or "You handled that situation well." It’s good to compliment girls on their assertiveness, and even their anger, with statements like, "I like how you stand up for yourself."

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EmpowHER Guest

As an eating disorder survivor, I find your article well written and spot on. May I add, that a secure loving family is also paramount. Anxiety and perfectionism are often at the root of eating disorders, and home stability can go a long way in preventing an anxious child from numbing feelings with food. Also I believe it is important to find a balance with food. Occasional treats should be okay; no food should be forbidden. A healthy lifestyle is not 100% organic and clean. Our society by placing too much emphasis on health has actually created a whole new eating disorder– Orthorexia– in which a person feels guilt for eating anything that is not clean, organic and so on. Our children need balance in food, just as in life. I penned my memoir, in an effort to help others find their way out of the abyss of an eating disorder and back to life. I also currently speak to women's group about body image and eating disorders in children to help spread the word and stop the pervasiveness of this killer. –Author of "Swallowed Whole", Laurin Penn

September 3, 2015 - 1:16pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.