Encouraging Healthy Body Image in Kids

body-image

Children are amazing at mimicking their parent’s and older sibling’s behaviors. This can be a great thing, if they are seeing positivity and productivity displayed around them. However, when they see negativity, inappropriate behaviors or unrealistic ideals, they will still have tendencies to mimic those behaviors.

It is imperative that parents take on the role as teacher and example. If you don’t, there are others who will.

Common Sense Media conducted a research study in 2015 to better understand the relationship between the media and body image. What they found may seem surprising; but it does, unfortunately, represent many children around us.

  • First, they found that children were aware of what dieting was and may have tried it by the age of 6.
  • Next, 26% of 5-year-old children surveyed said dieting was the appropriate solution for someone who has gained weight.
  • Shockingly enough, they found that by 7 years old, 1 in 4 children have engaged in a dieting practice of some sort.
  • Additionally, they found that child hospitalizations for eating disorders under the age of 12 spiked 112 percent between 1999 and 2006.

Body image may be difficult or even awkward for some parents to openly discuss with their children. But it is so important, and even crucial, that parents discuss and shape their child’s body image so that the media doesn’t. No parent wants to hear their 7-year-old daughter say that she feels fat and overweight, and she needs to go on a diet. It is up to you, as the parent, to let your children know how beautiful and precious their bodies are. Also, they must learn how to take care of their bodies to keep them healthy and strong. Remember that healthy has many different looks, and that is okay.

Parents can help shape their child’s body image by finding and sharing media that promotes positivity, healthy lifestyles, and uplifting environments.

dad-talking-to-son

Do not allow your child to be pulled into the media world that teaches children that ‘real’ men and women look, dress, walk and talk a certain way and that if you are not keeping up, you are inferior. Following are some additional suggestions as to how you, as a parent, can help promote a positive body image for your child.

  • Attempt to avoid the stereotypical female and male characters in the media that your child is exposed to. When you do come across them, talk about them with your child and share your beliefs and values.
  • Dare to challenge beliefs surrounding heavyset and slim characters. Help your kids identify characters that foster positive or negative ideas surrounding weight.
  • Help your children see the differences between actors and celebrities who use their bodies to be healthy and fit or to simply look good for the crowd.

Remember that your beautiful child is growing up in a world that is ever seeking to influence the way children live and what they aspire to be and look like.

Take every precaution to protect your child from unrealistic and harmful ideals so that they can blossom into the wonderful individual they are meant to become.


References:

Tatangelo, G., McCabe, M., Mellor, D., & Mealey, A. (2016). Review article: A systematic review of body dissatisfaction and sociocultural messages related to the body among preschool children. Body Image, 1886-95. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.06.003

Commonsense Media Research Brief (2015) Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image.  www.commonsensemedia.org/research/children-teens-media-and-body-image

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