In this age of social media and reality TV it is so important for us as parents, guardians and role models to promote a more positive and healthy approach towards body image. Children and teenagers need to feel happy and confident no matter what their body shape or size and to learn that there is more to their bodies than just how they look.
While it is important to promote a healthier lifestyle, keeping the focus on weight alone can lead to our children developing unhealthy ideas about what a healthy body is. For many parents the worry is that talking to their children in relation to their weight may develop into an eating disorder. Unfortunately, this can mean that children who are overweight don’t get the help and support that they need. One of the best ways we can help our children to maintain a healthy weight is to encourage them to be happy from the inside out. Promoting a more positive way of thinking and learning to love themselves for who they are and to be happy in their bodies.
Here are some ideas for you to promote a healthy body image amongst our younger generation.
- Children learn from our behaviour so avoid negative comments for example ‘I look fat in this.’
- Put more focus on health and help them to understand the long term effects as they get older, rather than weight as this creates a negative focus.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about their weight if they do need to loose weight.
- Focus on what the body can do, dance, jump, run etc.
- Encourage your child to be happy with their body.
- Compliment children, it is so important to acknowledge their talents as well as their appearance.
- Let them know there is so much more to a person than just their looks.
- Make healthy eating a normal everyday part of family life, not just for weight loss.
- Highlight the benefits of healthy eating – stronger, faster, fitter.
- Try not to ban “treats” , have them in moderation and please do not reward good behaviour with food! Set a day whether it be a Friday or Saturday night as movie night and sit down as a family and have a treat.
- As a family do more activities that require some exercise. It can be so much fun going for long walks in local parks or trekking up the mountains, some warm clothes and a pair of wellington boots splashing about in puddles and mud can be great fun no matter what age!
- Teach children that the images in magazines etc. are un-realistic and photo shopped!
- Be sensitive to body changes that occur with puberty.
- Avoid unhelpful comments such as “puppy fat”.
- Involve children in food choice, preparation and cooking. They could make their own treats!
- Most importantly, be a good role model!
I hope you find this helpful!