Body Image Basics for Kids (and Parents)

Kids with self-confidence become teens without hang-ups. Short of locking your kids in the house until their 18th birthday, what can parents do to help their healthy children grow up to become healthy adults?

According to adolescent psychologists, kids learn by example; as adults, we can send clear messages about body image through our own words and deeds. It’s best to start when your kids are young.

Here’s how you can do your part as a parent.

Keep your mouth closed about your own weight issues. That means no discussions about points, pounds, carbs, or unapproved foods. And never say diet. Food is food. In moderation, there’s no harm in eating.

Teach your kids to discover the functional versus the decorative aspects of their bodies. Get them to participate in a sport. Sign them up for a dance class. Or yoga. Find an activity that piques their interest and teaches them to appreciate their body’s physical power.

Discuss the smoke and mirrors. Let your kids know that the models in fashion magazines and the actors in movies are not “real.” Their flaws are artificially removed using makeup and special photographic and film technology.

Encourage your child to think about character over appearance. That means pointing out the positives in people, like kindness, compassion, helpfulness, and humor. If you don’t dwell on looks, your kids won’t either.

Compliment them on their achievements. Whether they received an A on their math paper or spent a minute on the soccer field give your children praise—and give it often. Building self-confidence in your children will enable them to overcome negative peer pressure.

Get them to talk. When things aren’t going right, you can usually tell by the look on your child’s face. If kids learn from an early age that it’s safe to open up, they’ll talk to you for a lifetime. Kids need to know that what they’re feeling is valid. Encouraging them to express themselves keeps little problems from escalating into big ones.

Become an active family. If you feel as though your child is becoming overweight, don’t tell him he’s going on a diet, try getting healthy—as a family. Stock the pantry and refrigerator with nutritious food items, and go for after-dinner walks or bike rides as a family. Call it stealth. You’ll be helping your child become more fit—mind and body—without even knowing it.

Need a Primary Care Provider?
The team at Bingham Memorial Family Medicine is here for you. We have providers in Blackfoot, Idaho Falls, Shelley, and Pocatello. To find a provider closest to you, please call (208) 785-4100. Same-day appointments are always available.

Our content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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