Body image has been a growing concern recently, as social standards of beauty have continuously shifted and become increasingly unattainable. This subject has taken a toll on people of all ages, but children are especially vulnerable. As they grow and develop, they constantly get exposed to images and messages presenting an idealized version of beauty that is not attainable for most people.
In a recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 35% of children aged 13-19 have said their body image caused them to worry almost often. So it’s essential to prevent body image issues in children, or at least help them cope with any negative feelings they may have. Here are some things you can do to support your child:
Encourage a healthy lifestyle
Help your child develop a positive relationship with food and exercise by modeling healthy habits. Children raised in a household that values healthy living are more likely to take care of their bodies similarly. Plus, focusing on leading a healthy lifestyle instead of trying to achieve a specific body type takes the pressure off your child.
That said, avoid making comments about your own body or dieting in front of your child. Doing so will only add to their anxiety and pressure to meet unrealistic standards. You don’t want your child to grow up thinking that they need to diet or punish themselves with exercise to be happy and healthy.
Instead, lead by example and focus on taking care of your body because you love it—not because you hate it. This way, your child can learn to develop a healthy relationship with their own body.
Talk about body diversity
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but children don’t always get this message. By discussing body diversity, you’re helping your child understand that there is no perfect body type. Point out that beauty comes in many forms and emphasize that what’s most important is a person’s health, not appearance.
Often, what looks good on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is healthy on the inside. Help your child understand that health is more important than appearance and that people can be beautiful in any size.
When your child is aware of different body types, they’re less likely to compare themselves to others. Doing so will help them accept and appreciate their bodies more.
Teach positive self-talk
One way to prevent negative body image is by teaching your child to talk to themselves positively. In a study on self-compassion and body image, researchers found that participants who practiced self-compassion had more positive body image than those who didn’t.
So, how can you encourage your child to be more self-compassionate? One way is by teaching them to use affirmative statements. For example, if your child is feeling down about their weight, they can tell themselves, “I am worthy and lovable just as I am.”
Another way to promote positive self-talk is by helping your child reframe their thoughts. For instance, if they’re thinking, “I’ll never be good enough,” you can encourage them to think instead, “I am doing my best.” It’s a simple change, but it can make a big difference in how your child feels about themselves. When your child has positive self-talk, they’re less likely to focus on their appearance and more likely to feel good about themselves.
Show the benefits of expression
If your child is struggling with their body image, it’s essential to encourage them to express how they’re feeling. You can teach them to express themselves in many ways, such as through art, writing, or even just talking.
Sometimes, children may not feel comfortable expressing themselves directly. If this is the case, you can try to show them the benefits of expression. For instance, you can tell them that expressing themselves can help them understand their feelings and make them feel better.
When children feel like they can express themselves, they’re more likely to feel comfortable in their skin. They’re also less likely to hold onto negative feelings about their bodies, leading to better body image. If you can help your child find an outlet for their feelings, you’re helping them in more ways than one.
Seek professional treatments
There could be times when a significant factor causes your child’s negative body image. In such cases, you may seek professional help to ensure your child gets the necessary treatment.
Dental conditions are among the most common physical appearance-related concerns that affect children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7% of people aged 17 in the United States have lost at least one permanent tooth due to decay. Suppose your child is self-conscious about their missing teeth. In that case, you may consider taking them to a dentist for a quality same-day dental implant or other treatments.
Children can also develop negative body image due to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. If you think your child may have a mental health condition, it’s essential to seek professional help. A therapist can help your child understand and manage their feelings.
Whatever the cause of your child’s negative body image, there’s always professional help available. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re concerned about your child’s wellbeing.
Body image is an essential issue for children, and there are many things you can help them have a positive body image. The above tips are some ways you can help your child feel good about themselves and their bodies. Your child can overcome challenges and develop a healthy body image with your support. So, don’t hesitate to start teaching your child self-compassion and encouraging positive self-talk today.