Teens, pre-teens, even elementary school students are very aware of their bodies and appearances.
For some, they can become overly-aware of their body, and worry about being thin enough, even at a young age. This can stem for a multitude of concerns: bullying at school, well-meaning comments by relatives, or even commercials - but the impact can be huge. So what can parents do?
Body image/body positivity is crucial, and parents have a unique opportunity to help shape this before any other outside influences come in.
I recommend that parents model healthy body positivity and closely track the negative things they may say about their own bodies or the bodies of others. We're often especially unaware of the amount of criticism we level toward ourselves. And as any parent whose ever had their child start saying the "f-word" knows, children soak up all of this information around them even when parents don't intend for them to do so.
What you should avoid:
I specifically encourage parents to not talk about diets or wanting to lose 10 pounds around kids, and to focus on body health vs. thinness.
Promoting healthy behaviors.
It's also important to help your child develop healthy eating and exercise behaviors, so emphasize that going to the gym or eating vegetables are used to help your child feel strong or have more energy, rather than focusing on any impact on their appearance.
One change to make today:
Finally, I encourage parents to make one small change in their language around weight. Instead of saying something/someone is fat, instead make this small shift to saying that the thing/person has fat. Fat is a component of our bodies, but is not a value judgment. Every body needs fat on it to function.
Curious to hear more about ways to support your child's body image? Contact Kelsey at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk tips and more. Kelsey specializes in anxiety and anger management for kids and teens, age four through college. Her office is located in Webster Groves, and she works with clients throughout St. Louis, Town and Country, Des Peres, Brentwood, and surrounding areas.