Promoting Positive Body Image in Children: Encouraging Self-Love and Acceptance

Father with children.

The Benefits of Positive Body Image

Your body image- how you think and feel about your body, is important to your overall wellbeing. Your body image may not have anything to do with your actual appearance, but when you accept, appreciate, and respect your body, you develop better self-esteem and self-acceptance. People with a good body image tend to take a balanced approach to diet and physical activity, while those with a negative body image are likely to experience negative effect on their physical, psychological, social health. Disordered eating, compulsive exercise, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem are all results of negative body image. Additionally, having a negative body image can cause a person to feel self-conscious or distressed, which can lead to avoidance of social interactions and disengagement from daily activities. This causes feelings of loneliness, isolation, and a lack of acceptance from others, further damaging self-esteem.

Helping Your Child With Body Image

Fortunately, you can help your child develop a positive body image and strong self-esteem.

  • Start by being a good role model. Be mindful of the things you say, and steer clear of negative talk about your body or the bodies of others. Work on your own relationship with your body, and encourage your child to talk about his or her feelings regarding body image. Talk about societal messages and images that promote unrealistic body ideals, and encourage your child to challenge narrow idea of attractiveness.
  • Encourage healthy habits. Proper nutrition and regular exercise are both important for a healthy body. Don’t encourage your child to diet, and never label foods as good or bad. Rather, work with your child on eating a healthy variety of nutritious foods. Teach children to reach for nutritious snacks, and listen to their bodies’ cues on when to eat and when to stop eating. When it comes to exercise, work to make your family an active one, encouraging physical activity as a habit, rather than a chore. Engage in activities that are fun and physical, and talk about how amazing our bodies are and what they can do.
  • Help your child build confidence and develop self-acceptance. Encourage self-expression, help your kids develop problem solving skills, and help them build confidence in their own abilities by showing your confidence. Teach healthy coping strategies, and encourage your children to assert themselves, learning to say no when they need to and not allowing others to mistreat them. Give your children age-appropriate household tasks, to help them feel they play an important role in the family.
  • Talk about body image, at home and in the community. Avoid making comments about other people’s physical appearance, instead mentioning characteristics like persistence, kindness, or optimism. Create an environment where there is no teasing about looks, and no hurtful comments. Work with other parents and people at your children’s school and other groups, to create a positive environment that encourages positive body image and self-esteem while discouraging bullying and negative peer pressure.
  • Monitor media consumption. Our children are exposed to so much negative information online and through movies and television. Pay attention to what your children are consuming, and help them develop a critical eye towards media messages.
  • Focus on health, well-being, and inner qualities. Talk about bodies in terms of what they can do, and how to keep them healthy. Discuss how a healthy lifestyle improves overall wellbeing, rather than how it impacts appearance. Celebrate your child’s creativity, resilience, and kindness, fostering an environment in which character traits are valued above external appearance.
  • Prioritize gratitude and self-care. Being grateful helps children develop a positive mindset, and that includes how they feel about themselves. Teach them to engage in self-care activities like hobbies, mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and just taking breaks.
  • Celebrate differences. Teach your children to appreciate differences in abilities, appearance, and backgrounds, valuing diversity as something that enriches our lives. Foster an environment of support and inclusivity, and encourage them to stand up against body shaming and bullying. When we teach our children to treat others with respect and kindness, we are helping to build a healthier world.

Helping Healthy Families Grow

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