Your child probably thinks about the way her body looks -- a lot. Even if she doesn’t tell you about it.
Concerns about weight and appearance can start as early as elementary school or preschool. In many ways, that’s normal, says Alexandra Corning, PhD, director of the Body Image and Eating Disorder Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame. No matter how old they are, boys and girls want to fit in with their friends, and one way is to look “good” or like “everyone else.”
But when questions like “Are my thighs fat?” or “Am I pretty?” become something your kid thinks about often or all the time, it can be a sign of a bad body image. And that can affect her mood, schoolwork, and the kinds of choices she makes -- like what (or if) to eat during lunchtime or whether she’ll join in a game of soccer with her friends.
There’s a lot you can do to help your child feel good about herself and make the healthiest choices she can. Here are four easy steps to boost body confidence.
Start With Yourself
“You’re the biggest role model for your kid, even if you don’t realize it,” says Dara Chadwick, author of You’d Be So Pretty If… “If you’re constantly talking about how you’re fat or unattractive, your kid is going to internalize that appearance is really important, and that it’s normal to be self-critical.”
Do your best to be kind to yourself and curb critical comments about how you -- and other people -- look. If you slip up and make a negative remark, acknowledge that by saying, “I’m having a bad day, and shouldn’t have said that,” Chadwick says.
It’s equally important to focus on your health, rather than your weight. “If you want your child to eat well and get physical activity, you have to, too,” Corning says. Try to make health a fun family affair. You can cook with your child, or go biking together. “You want to show kids how good it feels to take care of your body,” Corning says.