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Encouraging a Healthy Body Image

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 8 May 2010 | comments*Discuss
Body Image Self Esteem Kids Body Image

Kids and teens get flooded with mixed messages, especially about what constitutes a healthy, attractive body. Unfortunately, if they believe the tabloid television shows and glossy magazines, they are likely to have a skewed notion of what is ideal. Developing a healthy body image is important, and parents can go a long way towards helping their kids to see themselves in a good light.

Start Young

The younger they are, the less that kids are influenced by popular media, so be sure to talk about healthy bodies and self esteem with your children long before they are teenagers. Talk about healthy and unhealthy food choices and eating habits rather than referring to certain foods as "fattening." Encourage physical activity for fun and to build strong, healthy bodies, but don't stress working out as a means to lose weight or to look a certain way. And one more important thing - try not to pass on any issues that you may have about your own body to your children. Kids who see their parents constantly dieting or complaining about their weight will be more likely to worry about those same things than kids whose parents are comfortable with themselves.

Self Esteem and Body Image

Kids who feel good about themselves are likely to be accepting of their bodies, too. It's important to teach kids and young teens that there is much more to them than the way they look. Celebrate the uniqueness of each child, just as they are, and focus on their individual talents. Kids who are encouraged to develop their skills in art, music, athletics, or scholastic endeavors will learn that they are valuable and worthy. Well deserved praise is a terrific way to boost your child's self esteem, and a healthy self esteem is a great deterrent to unfounded worries about appearance.

Looks Do Matter

Even if we tell kids that looks don't matter, the fact is that to them, they do. Everyone wants to fit in and for young teenagers, especially, peer acceptance is of paramount importance. It's not fair to discount how they feel, but at the same time, it's important to help them to keep things in perspective. Kids who are significantly overweight or underweight often feel very self conscious and may even isolate themselves socially, which merely compounds their feelings of not fitting in.

Role Models

More and more kids and teens (adults, too) are expressing discontent with their bodies. Sometimes, they have legitimate reasons for concern. Often, though, kids who are perfectly normal and healthy feel that they don't look right because they are comparing themselves to unrealistic role models such as pop stars, models, or other celebrities. This distorted view of themselves can lead to an unhealthy body image. Encourage kids to admire people for their accomplishments and kindness rather than their looks. And since your kids take their cues from you, be careful that you do the same!

How to Help Them

If your child has a genuine problem with weight, you can help by serving nutritious meals and finding ways to incorporate more activity into your family's routine. Start with a check up to rule out any medical conditions, but once you have the all clear, embarking on a healthier family lifestyle will benefit every member.

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