Helping Your Child Build a Healthy Body Image - Topic Overview
Children of all ages are exposed to ideas about thinness by parents, peers, and other sources. Starting in grade school, children may become more aware of body image as they compare themselves to others. Adolescents often become extremely concerned about their
bodies and their weight. This is understandable since dramatic physical
changes are occurring. Unrealistic media
images of the ideal body also add to their concerns.
There are many ways
adults can help children and teens develop a healthy view of themselves and
reduce their risk for an eating disorder:
- Compliment children about the things they do, not
always on how they look. When commenting on how children look, focus on their
eyes, hair, or smile, not on their height, weight, body size, or body
shape. Talk in terms of your child's health, personality, achievements in school, activity level, and other healthy lifestyle choices.
- Avoid making comments that link being thin to being popular
- Teach children to take good care of their
- Take some time to look at your own beliefs and attitudes about dieting and weight. Are you always on a diet? Do you get upset or anxious if you miss a workout? Remember that you are a powerful role model for your child.
- Try not to say negative things about your own body or compare your body to other people's bodies.
- Avoid criticizing other people, including family members, for the
way they look, especially in front of children and teens.
- Avoid pushing children and teens to excel beyond their
abilities in school, sports, or other activities.
- Give children and
teens some freedom to make choices that are appropriate for their age and
- Hold children and teens accountable and responsible for
- Talk with children and teens each day to find out
what is happening at school and with their friends. Listen to their
- Give children and teens support. Help them solve their
own problems in ways that they think will work. Avoid giving too much advice or
trying to solve their problems for them. Be prepared to help them if their
solutions do not work.
- Talk with children and teens about their
heroes and favorite adults in their lives. Encourage them to have many
different kinds of heroes.
- Praise children and
teens for the things that make them different from other people.
Eating disorders are associated with being unhappy
with the way your body looks and having low self-esteem. For
information on eating disorders, see the topics Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating
Disorder, and Bulimia Nervosa.
For more information on eating habits, see the topics Healthy Eating for Children and Weight Management.