When Body Image Concerns Invade Your Kids
When it comes to weight issues, children are notoriously sensitive. They grow up observing “advice” from mom and dad only to be expected to learn something totally different when they’re older. It’s hard to know what to say to a child who’s struggling to get on track with their weight. What’s been the worst thing parents can say in the circumstance? To promote discussion of weight instead of problems, tempting as it may be.
However, the practice of praising children for being strong is a common and useful idea. Advice about getting into shape or big dreams or interesting pursuits all help help kids to self-evaluate and get inspired to set goals. When a child has the chance to learn self-discipline, it fosters feelings of empowerment and self-esteem. The importance of being fit even in adulthood shouldn’t be lost on parents. As such, the ideal way to help them is to avoid “teasing” and praise that detracts from their motivation and encouragement.
Defining healthy body image
Acting firmly to discourage body image concerns is good practice. When positive and encouraging messages are delivered to children, there’s less time wasted talking about needing to lose weight or stopping dessert. Negative or withholding messages can also be less effective because they will be dealt with as soon as they’re sensed.
“Teasing” (explicit criticism, mocking or teasing) is an important tool for long-term success. It’s okay to talk about body image, but usually it’s better not to explicitly judge it (complimenting the small changes in one’s eating or activity).
Family members can also play a role in helping children to form healthy habits. Though the routine may vary, older children need to be aware of whether they are affected by body image issues. Their roles as examples for younger siblings can be vital, too. “Thoughts” about other people’s weight and appearance can affect their confidence, including their feelings towards their own bodies.
Setting realistic goals
Parents can be so much help in this area by setting realistic goals for children (even once they’re older). Other suggestions are turning in-house meals into healthy, fun choices, organizing family activities, and putting food on the table by at least 8 pm.
Also, encouraging attempts to eat healthy can often be effective. Giving children small treats for healthy eating (like fruits, vegetables, or a nice selection of veggies) can make for a more enjoyable experience. Watching one’s diet can often be one of the best ways to encourage exercise.
Initiate conversation and help to build confidence
When kids are talking about weight, consider getting a snack. When parents share concerns and worries about how their own weight will affect other members of the family, they can build confidence by modeling how comfortable you are with your own body. They’ll appreciate the encouragement in case one day they need to feel the same way.
Family events, vacation trips, or special vacation times (like the weekend or summer school) are important occasions for parents to discuss the importance of moderation. Buying clothes so you don’t have to try on everything in order to pick out one you like (and understand your own body type) are good alternatives to teasing.
Another way to get children talking about weight is to approach as a conversation instead of a criticism. For example, for a child who really looks forward to looking at those new jeans, ask, “Can you wait for a while?” then let the child do as he or she chooses.