Body image matters. Children and teens who have a positive body image are more likely to exude confidence and have good self-esteem. Unfortunately, today’s culture and media are negatively influencing the way many people feel about their bodies. In fact, data suggests that more children and teens are dissatisfied with the way they look than are satisfied. Body dissatisfaction affects 90% of women and girls and, while research is limited in men and boys, epidemiology studies suggest near equal numbers. Teens who are dissatisfied with their bodies are more likely to engage in unhealthy eating practices, such as restrictive dieting and binge eating. Promoting a positive body image is key to supporting the overall health of your children or teens.
Your role is critically important. Although body image can be influenced by peers, the media, and other adults in their lives, it’s parents who help to build a strong foundation for their children. That’s why it’s imperative to take a good, hard look at your own attitudes towards food, exercise, and your body and the messages you’re sending. Do you express dissatisfaction with your shape, size, or weight? Are you always on a diet? Do you make negative comments about the way other people look? It’s important to be vigilant about the impact your attitudes and behaviors can have on your kids.
Try these strategies for being a positive body image role model:
- Place less emphasis on your children’s appearance and more on their abilities and skills.
- Make time for family meals and enjoy the time spent together.
- Encourage your children to think critically about messages and images they see and hear in the media.
- Help your children understand that their bodies will change, especially throughout puberty.
- Promote activities that make your children feel good about themselves and that don’t focus on their appearance.
- Spend time in nature with your kids. It’s a great way to relax the mind and focus attention on the outer world.
- Encourage problem solving, self-expression, opinions, and individuality.
- Help your kids to understand that each person’s body is different and we should respect, accept, and celebrate these differences.
Your children pay attention to what you say and do — even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes. As the most influential role model in their lives, the example you set can help them to develop and maintain a positive body image.