It’s like everywhere you look, there’s a magazine or a TV show telling you how you should look and how you can only be happy if you look a certain way or dress a certain way or even eat certain things that will “make you thinner”! We are all guilty of looking at ourselves in the mirror and criticizing the imperfections that we perceive in our bodies.
Children especially, can begin to have body image concerns as early as pre-school! So how can we, as parents help them maintain a positive attitude about their bodies and not get sucked into negative body talk or feel anxious and self-conscious about their body image?
Model a Healthy Self Image
How parents feel about their own image has a strong influence on children as well. Sometimes we don’t even realize that children are listening when we talk about how fat we are or when we diet unnecessarily in order to get that “perfect figure”. This influences the way they start to perceive their own bodies and measure their own insecurities. So the next time you feel the urge to complain about eating that extra slice of chocolate cake, turn it into a more positive message like “I ate chocolate cake this afternoon which was really yummy! So, I’m going to make sure that I eat more protein and veggies tonight”.
Make Health the Focal Point, Not Weight!
“I am so fat!”, is a word that we often hear people use and we ourselves use it at times. Cut it out! Shift your focus from weight to health and you’ll see how it vastly improves your physical and mental health. Kids don’t need to “work-out”, they need to play with their friends and family and enjoy regular meals and learn how to make smart and tasty snack choices. Whatever our age or size maybe, teach kids to be active and take care of their bodies instead of watching out for weight gain. Embrace diversity in body shapes and sizes and teach your children that what they show on TV and in the media is not how people look in the real world!
Tailor the Physical Activities
Children and adults alike need regular physical activities that we can enjoy doing. There is no point in forcing a child to do an activity that makes them miserable. While some children find playing football or regular sports enjoyable, others might find their niche in dancing, or martial arts or yoga! It doesn’t matter what they do for physical fitness, what matters is that they do an activity that they enjoy doing.
Call Out the Bullies
Even as adults we might face bullies who might talk down to us or make us feel bad about ourselves. Weight-related teasing is a major cause of bullying among children, so, encourage your child’s school to address the issue and promote a more healthy attitude towards embracing and including various body shapes and sizes. Also, ask your child to speak up and seek help if they ever feel that they are being ridiculed or bullied for their body shape or size.
Bust the Myth!
There is no airbrushing in real life so help your child see through the “perfect” images that the media shows them on TV or on social media platforms. Explain that most of these images are retouched or changes so that the bodies appear “perfect”. Open a free flowing dialogue about healthy body imagery and encourage a healthy and positive conversation where your child can voice his/her opinions.
We can blame the fashion magazines and society to a certain extent, but ultimately, it all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to will have power over you, so stay healthy and stay happy!
Written by: Arathi Aravind