How to create a positive body image in children?
Have you ever thought that by making your kids think that eating junk food is “terrible” or by labeling some foods as “good” and others as “bad,” you might hurt their body image? “Sugar is bad”, “Fats make you gain weight”. “Chocolate causes acne.” or “Junk food ruins your teeth.” Such negative judgments can lead to the perpetuation of negative perceptions of body image in children who are exposed to these discourses from an early age.
In the same way that we as adults care about how our body looks, we can have different opinions about our body, we can be obsessed with our weight and physique, the same is true for children from a very young age. Even young children who are just beginning to speak and understand something can develop a sense of body image. According to research, a three-year-old child may feel uncomfortable because of their appearance. A 2016 study by the Association for Professional Child and Early Childhood Care (PACEY) indicates that one in four children ages 3-5 have body image problems. The study also shows that body preoccupation today begins at a much younger age than in the past, and that girls are at the highest risk.
While it’s hard to believe that a three-year-old girl can be dissatisfied with her appearance, PACEY consultant and child development expert Jacqueline Harding notes that television shows, storybook characters, and adult conversations about diet, plastic surgery, and one’s own body can influence children’s body images. “Regardless of what we teach them, children are acutely aware of the ideals of refinement and beauty that our society cherishes.” This is why we need to do much more than we think to protect our children. Otherwise children;
- eating disorders,
- Anxiety and stress
- mental problems,
- Excessive weight gain/loss
- Shame and guilt
- Low self-esteem,
- low self-esteem
- They may be at risk of experiencing many negative emotions and situations, such as social isolation.
So, how do we protect children from social pressure, imposed beauty and traditional “food culture” and how do we help them develop healthy habits and strengthen their body image? Here are suggestions for strengthening children’s body image:
- First, think about your relationship with your body; it may seem difficult, but understanding your own body image can help you be aware of the messages you may be giving to your child.
- Encourage your child to talk about what he thinks and feels about his body; create a safe, impartial and unbiased environment. Teach her to respect her body and gently accept her physique.
- Explain to your child that our sizes come in many types, shapes and sizes, and that their size is worthy of acceptance.
- Don’t put too much emphasis on appearance, or your child may develop that attitude, whether you realize it or not. Instead, try talking about all the different aspects that make up a person, such as personality, skills, interests.
- Take a critical look at and share with your child “supposed” uniform body messages such as weakness or muscularity; encourage them to question social beliefs about beauty.
- Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad”. Instead, focus on the nutritional value and benefits of foods and encourage variety. Food labeling can lead your child to develop an unhealthy relationship with food and develop negative emotions such as guilt and shame when eating certain foods. It can also increase the risk of developing unhealthy diets, eating disorders, and eating disorders.
- Encouraging children to be physically active and participate in fun and physical health activities can help them appreciate what their body is capable of, rather than focusing on the appearance of their body. In this way, you can support your child to participate in physical activity. You can even make your whole family more “active” by participating in various activities together, hiking, cycling or playing sports.
- Remember to prioritize fitness, health, social interaction, and fun as motivations for physical activity, rather than emphasizing weight loss, weight control, or body type change.
- Pay attention to the news your children see, their social media posts, the toys they play and the cartoons they watch, and make sure they stay away from sources containing items that could negatively affect their body image.
- Create an environment that encourages healthy eating and healthy eating habits, but remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. Prepare nutritious meals such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and be sure to participate as much as possible at meals with the whole family. Shared meals are a great time to practice healthy eating.
- Try not to go overboard with processed foods in your family, but don’t put them on the “no” list either, as banning certain foods can backfire on kids and increase their cravings. Instead, explore different food groups together, learn what nutrients are needed for a healthy diet, and discuss why some foods are better than others.
- Finally, remind your child that self-confidence and self-love are not dependent on physical characteristics such as “weight, body type, appearance” and to raise children with high self-confidence, check out the tips in our article on moments, on which should be paid attention to by parents in order to raise children with high self-confidence.
You can also benefit from books that support body image for yourself and your children. Our recommendations are as follows; Beautiful girl, it’s enough for me, what I like about me, maybe her body.
You may be interested: You can help your child love his body: 3 things to consider
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