Boosting Self-Esteem When Kids Are Worried About Their Weight continued...
"The goal should be healthy behaviors," Tiongson says. Positive changes might include watching less TV, getting more active play, cutting out sugary drinks, or eating more fruits and veggies. Changes such as these add up to noticeable health and fitness changes over time.
Be a good example.
Small kids are like sponges, says Elizabeth Ward, RD, a dietitian in Reading, Mass. They absorb everything around them. "Stop talking about your body image and other people's looks in front of them!" she says. When parents have a negative body image, kids pick up on that and may start to doubt their own.
You can also set a good example by eating better and getting more exercise yourself. While they may not choose the same activities as you, they can find healthy habits they enjoy when you lead the way. For example, you may decide getting fitter means jogging, but your child may love riding her bike or playing in the park. Either way, you both win by developing healthier habits.
Understand media influences.
Pay attention to the media messages that are aimed at young kids and help them identify when messages are negative and unhealthy. Also look at your own reactions to messages about attractiveness and self-worth and to terms like "fat" and "ugly." Do your kids hear you agreeing with the messages or using those words?
Reinforce your child's sense of self-worth.
Make sure your kids -- no matter how old they are -- understand that people come in all shapes and sizes, and that good health is the ultimate goal, says Ward, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler. This can be especially important if your child’s shape is different from that of others in the family -- for example, if she has a stocky build, but her mom, dad, or siblings tend to be tall and lean.
Improving your child's nutrition and getting him to be more active is only half the battle in helping him have a good body image and self-esteem. Ultimately, you want to remind him of all the great things he is besides a "body" -- such as being friendly, strong, or smart. "As parents, we need to be cautious [so] that we're focusing on the positive and that kids understand that no matter what your weight, you're a valuable person," says Stone.