It may be hard to believe, but children as young as 5 years old can worry about their body image. “Am I too fat?” “I don’t look good” or “I wish I had a different body” are thoughts that can start to creep into your child’s head at a young age.
Body image and self-esteem can be closely related. If your child shows a positive attitude toward their body image they will show more confidence and lead a healthy lifestyle.
- Focus on being healthy. There are many sizes and shapes of people. The important thing for your child to focus on is how to take care of their body. Encourage your child to eat healthy foods and get physical activity each day.
- Minimize the impact of media images. Explain that the media often edits images to make models appear flawless. Their perfect appearance many times is not how they really look.
- Validate feelings and provide positive self-talk. When your child is feeling bad about their physical body, acknowledge the feeling and help them develop self-talk skills to turn their negative self-talk into positive. For example, “I know you are feeling sad because you want to be taller. Your body has a lot of growing to do yet. The main thing you need to do is make healthy choices for your body. Don’t worry about how tall you are.”
- Don’t focus on the weight. Take the focus off the scale and put it on making healthy choices. Help your child learn to make healthy choices in his day. For example, moving his or her body and drinking water instead of a soda.
- Minimize attention on physical appearance. Pay attention to the media messages that are aimed at your child and help them identify when messages are negative and unhealthy. Praise your child’s abilities and personality rather than their appearance.
- Don’t compare. Avoid comparing your child with other children in terms of height, weight, color of hair, etc. Keep the focus on your child’s uniqueness.
- Watch yourself. Stop talking about your body image and how other people look in front of your child. When a parent has a negative body image, a child easily picks up on that, and may start to doubt their own body image.
- You are more than a body. Remind your child there are other things to focus on besides just their body, things such as being friendly, strong or smart.
It is never too early to talk to your child about a healthy lifestyle. Focus on being healthy and positive. Talking to your child about this issue can prevent negative self-esteem when it comes to your child’s body image.