Several studies suggest that children can start having body image issues as early as 3 years old. Imagine––that’s even before they completely grasp the concept of spoken language! This is why it’s never too early to start teaching our kids about having a positive body image. Here are seven easy ways to help your kids have a healthy body image.
1. Set a Good Example
As parents, or even just as more knowledgeable adults, we must always be aware of our actions and the things we say around children—whether it is about ourselves, other people, or things. Sometimes we tend to joke about the way our body looks and our kids pick up on it! As difficult as it may be, try and avoid negative thoughts about the way you look in your swimsuit, how you haven’t lost that baby weight or how you don’t look like you did pre-children. Your body is beautiful and that’s what we want our kids to know.
2. Build Up Confidence Through Compliments
Telling your children that they are beautiful contributes to their positive body image, but complimenting them on their talents, good behavior, or unique character, instead of their physical attributes is always a good idea, too. This will help them develop a sense of what’s really important about themselves.
3. Focus on Healthy Bodies- Not “Beautiful” Bodies
As a family, make a commitment to eating healthy and building a healthy lifestyle, instead of discussing the issue of weight by dieting. Make physical activity about having fun, not losing weight! The real goal should be to feel strong and capable, regardless of shape and size.
4. Help Your Children Avoid Body and Sexual Stereotypes
With so many forms of media accessible to kids at such an early age, even the most vigilant parent may find it hard to completely shield their children from unhealthy body stereotypes. Be mindful of characters and shows that do not promote stereotypes (such as girl characters only caring about looking pretty or boys caring too much about being buff) and always have open conversations with your kiddos about healthy expectations.
5. Have Open Communication
A child’s self-esteem—and their level of confidence—is significantly affected by their body image. Have frequent and open discussions with your kids about a positive body image and let them know it’s ok to bring up when they aren’t feeling comfortable in their own skin.
6. Celebrate Differences
Different hair color, eyes, skin color and body shape––no two of us are alike! Use opportunities to celebrate how everyone is unique and beautiful, and it’s because we are different from each other. Yes, our kids perceptions of the body will change over time (especially in the teen years), but an acceptance and understanding that we are all made to be different will go a long way in having a healthy body image.
Melissa Lobo is a young and energetic writer, a mom to a sweet little boy, and a fur-mom to two perfect pooches. Before becoming the Associate Content Director for Project Female, she was a journalist specializing in topics related to women in politics and policy affecting women.