Parents have a huge impact on their children's self-esteem and body image.
The messages they send about themselves, as well as the messages they receive from others can influence how they feel about themselves.
This article will share some strategies to encourage healthy body images in your children so that you can help them grow up with more confidence and less insecurity.
Research shows that children who are exposed to positive body images grow up with a healthier attitude toward their own bodies which is excellent for parents; it means that we have the power to help our children develop positive body images and feel better about themselves.
Talk about what you like about your body and how it makes you feel good
One of the best things we can do is help children build a positive relationship with their bodies. This starts by talking to them about what they like and how it makes you feel good.
For example, if your child likes running because it clears her mind and helps her focus on school work, tell her that's great!
If she tells you she loves wearing skirts in summer, even though other kids make fun of her for dressing too "girly," assure her that there is nothing wrong with any type of clothing as long as it feels comfortable.
Helping our children develop an appreciation for all body types will help them appreciate themselves more throughout life.
This also includes focusing on healthy foods and exercise when discussing food choices or planning activities outside of the home.
If your child is struggling with her body image, this may be especially important to do more often than you think. For example, if they feel that they have a lot of weight to lose and don't feel confident about themselves, it's extra helpful for parents to emphasise healthy eating habits rather than focusing on losing weight.
Teach your child the importance of eating healthy foods and exercising
This starts by encouraging good choices around food but not attaching shame or guilt when talking about bad ones.
Parents can also lead by example in their own diets (if they want) as long as they are careful not to make negative comments about themselves either.
Next time your kid says something like "I wish I could eat whatever I want!" try responding with: "Yeah, that would be great!
It feels like we have all these rules about food." This will help your child feel less alone and more empowered to express their own feelings.
Share healthy meals together as a family and set an example of what is on your plate
Another way to help your child feel comfortable with their body image is to share healthy meals together as a family and set an example of what is on your plate.
If you want them to be more open about their food choices, this should start at dinner time!
Help children focus on physical activity instead of appearance while they're young
Teaching kids that exercise makes us feel good both physically and mentally will also contribute to positive body images later in life.
Make sure not to talk negatively about other people because it sends the message that we shouldn't ever compare ourselves since everyone else looks different too. Instead, emphasise how important it is for our bodies (and minds) to exercise regularly.
Tell them if something feels uncomfortable or hurts during activities and that's okay because everyone has different bodies and we all like doing things differently.
Read books together that focus on healthy living and self-esteem
There are many books out there that talk about body image and self-esteem. Some of the most popular ones include:
- "I Like Myself!" by Karen Beaumont,
- "Everyone is Different," by Todd Parr,
- "Nurture Yourself 101 Ways to Love Your Body, Feed Your Soul & Take Care of You." by Summer Sanders.
Children's books tend to be less focused on weight loss but more toward emphasising positive traits in our children such as kindness or humour.
This list only includes a few examples; there are hundreds of other great resources for parents looking to encourage healthy living in their child.
Rather than focusing on what they can't do (ie. eat certain foods), help them discover new ways to make better choices with food through exercise.
For example, if your child struggles with eating healthy foods like vegetables or fruits then rather than giving him an allowance every week for eating them (which will probably lead to more unhealthy choices), help them come up with a fun way to get active that they enjoy - this could be anything from biking around the neighbourhood at the weekends or swimming after school!
Encourage physical activity outside of the home as well by going on family walks and playing sports in your backyard.
It's also important that parents themselves set a good example about what it means to have a "healthy" relationship with food - so don't mention diets or weight loss goals unless they are positive ones!
Be your child's biggest cheerleader
This is especially important for parents who struggle with body image and self-esteem - it's always easier to encourage our children when we know that loving ourselves comes first!
Again, there are hundreds of great books available at the library or online about healthy living, so try reading one together as a family.
You can also sign up for an exercise class like yoga or dance where your child will have other kids their age to play sports with.
This helps them feel empowered while decreasing loneliness/isolation (both of which could lead to negative feelings around food choices later on in life).
The more confident they become within themselves, the less likely it'll be that something someone else says will affect their opinion of themselves too much.
Be supportive if you notice signs of disordered eating
If your child starts to engage in "crash" dieting, skipping meals because they feel fat or tell you that a certain food makes them look ugly, it's important for parents to step up and help.
This means keeping an open dialogue about healthy living even when difficult conversations need to happen. For example, if your child says something like "I'm so fat, I can't go out with my friends tonight!", try saying: "It sounds like you're feeling a little insecure."
Follow-up with questions such as : "Where did this come from? What do you think would make you feel better?" etc...
It may take time but the more support kids have around their feelings of self-worth, the less likely they'll be to resort to negative coping mechanisms like food restriction or over-exercising.
The key to raising healthy children who are comfortable in their own skin is fostering a positive self-image.
In order to raise healthy children, it is important for parents to be mindful of their own body image and self-esteem.
The more we can work on our own selves first, the better role models we will become for our kids. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below!