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Brittany Michael

Body image and your children: What does this mean?

Let's start by talking about what body image is. Body image refers to the way your child views himself in the mirror and imagines in his mind - meaning he sees the body either how it really appears to others or distorted. He can either have a positive body image, where he feels comfortable and confident in his own skin and understands that there is more to a person than what is on the outside. Or your child may have a negative body image - this leaves him with low self-esteem, unhappy, depressed, or having a negative attitude toward being active and eating food.

We all have a certain impression about what our bodies do or do not look like, which is completely normal. However, when your views are expressed verbally around your children, it sort of rubs off on them, causing your child to look at what is good/bad about himself. This is why it is important to remember kids are like sponges ... they absorb what is around them, influencing their perceptions and behaviors positively or negatively. So keep negative comments away from them and have optimistic attitudes in the home.

What else can your child's body image lead to? Unfortunately when your child's perception of himself is kept low for a period of time, and his peers/family do not express what is good about him, some children go to more drastic measures like eating disorders to change their bodies. Someone suffering from an eating disorder will either eat in an unusual manner, or not eat at all. How can you tell if your child might have an eating disorder? Here are some signals: skipping family meals to do something else, bathroom visits after eating, weakness or dizziness, anxiety about food or eating secretly. If you feel this may be happening to your child, contact your doctor immediately.

Want to help your child's body image stay positive? Reiterate that there is no "normal" body type. Things like genetics play a major role in physique regardless of what you try to make your body look like. Fashion models are 98 percent thinner than the average American woman! Celebrities have an army of people to make them look the way they do on TV, photographs and the red carpet. It is not realistic for anyone to appear "flawless." Discuss what your child can do and the positives about their body type. Maybe they are built to be a football player or ballerina, maybe their size is perfect to be a jockey or body builder!

Regardless, it is important to discuss their inner strengths and what being a good person really means. Set an example at home and out by making good lifestyle choices and not criticizing yourself or others based on appearance and abilities.

Source: VCE Publication
Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids: What Should I Do if My Child Has a Poor Body Image?



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