Many children, from toddlers to teens, can struggle with body image to some extent. Fortunately, as a parent, you can help your child develop a good body image even from a young age.
Model a Healthy Image
Children learn by watching. Modeling a healthy body image is the first step in encouraging their healthy mentality. Start by considering any insecurities you have. Examine your relationship with food and exercise. For example, if you make negative comments about your appearance, your children will begin to adopt that mindset. Or, if they see you dieting a lot, they might view food in an unhealthy way. The first step to helping them accept their bodies is by accepting yours. You should also talk with them about body image. For example, explain how their bodies can change through puberty. Take the time to regularly counteract the messages they hear in the media about how they should look.
Teach Them About a Healthy Diet
Often, unresolved body image issues can lead to eating disorders. Teaching your kids about a healthy relationship with food can prevent that from occurring. Start by discussing how to have balanced meals. For example, you can talk about foods that should be eaten regularly, and the nutritional value they have. Teach your child to pay attention to their body’s messages about hunger and satiation. Also, get them involved with meal prep, shopping, and cooking. For example, give them some freedom to choose what they eat, but make sure you have healthy foods available. The key here is to not place too much emphasis on counting calories or dieting practices. Just teach them about how to appreciate food and its value.
Encourage Physical Activity
Appreciating the things bodies are capable of can help promote healthy body image. To encourage more physical activity, consider making it a family event. Regularly do active things together. This gets them moving and also teaches them what they’re capable of. For example, you can go to the park and play tag. Or, kick a soccer ball around in the backyard. Also, try to choose age-appropriate activities. For example, your toddler will need activities that develop motor skills. Your teen has many more options for physical exercise, such as joining competitive or team sports.
These are just a few ways you can encourage a healthy body image for your child. Most importantly, just be their support! Cheer them on and encourage them to love who they are.