6 Ways to Promote Healthy Body Image for Kids

little boy looking at himself in the mirrorStories about negative body image, body dysmorphia and eating disorders have made headlines for years. Even so, unrealistic body images still prevail in the media. As parents, this presents a challenge when trying to raise children who have healthy, realistic body images. One of the best ways to combat this is by focusing on building your child’s confidence. Consider incorporating a few of the following methods, every day: 

  • Zoom in on your child’s interests: If your child loves pets, then encourage them to read animal books, watch wildlife movies, volunteer at a pet rescue or go to a horse show. Digging deep into a child’s interests allows them to develop self-confidence and gives them purpose.
  • Be positive: Compliment people of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities so that children have a realistic idea of what it means to be beautiful and valued.
  • Monitor the media: Hang out with your child and watch their television shows with them. Pay attention to which characters they are drawn to and why.
  • Praise your child: Boost your child’s self-esteem by commenting on their body’s achievements. Praise your child’s eyes when they spot something, compliment their brain when they share a thought or idea, or thank them for using their strong arms to help carry in a bag of groceries.
  • Move with your child: Play tag, swim, go for a bike ride or take a stroll around the neighborhood with your child. Make sure the activity is something they enjoy doing and comment on how well their body serves them. For example, tell them: “You’re so coordinated; I can’t tag you!” or “Your legs are so fast; look at how well you pedal that bike!” or even “Your heart is getting so strong that you swam for an entire hour!”
  • Learn together: Speak to your child about which nutrients are included on their dinner plate and how each benefits their body. For example: “That salmon you’re eating is packed with omega-3s that make you smart,” or “Those berries have antioxidants that keep you from getting sick.”

It’s also important to be aware, not only of what we say to children, but what we say about our own bodies. If mom is commenting on her chunky thighs, her children may start sizing up their own thighs. Also try to avoid nicknames or comments about yourself or others like “beefy,” “chubby” or especially “fat.” Lastly, shift the focus of your compliments on the way your child helps friends, their hard work at school, their cooking expertise, or anything other than looks.