Your kids are never off their phone, and are exposed to thousands of adverts and images every day, it’s no wonder that so many kids struggle with negative feelings about their own body image. Our children can be prone to painful comparisons to the unobtainable perfection shown to them on Instagram. Sadly, the number of children treated for eating disorders by the NHS has increased by 50% in the last two years.
And, get it out of your head that this is a problem with daughters, your sons have feeling of inadequacy and self esteem too!
Fortunately, there are things we can do as parents to foster a healthy relationship between our children and their body image- and the current body positivity movement is encouraging us all to take a happier, more accepting view of ourselves and our bodies.
What Is Body Positivity?
Body positivity is about loving and accepting yourself and others regardless of physical appearance, and focuses instead on self-esteem and health, celebrating people for their strengths and non-physical characteristics.
Why Is Body Positivity Important for Boys, Too?
Boys shouldn’t be excluded from the body positivity conversation because it affects all kids, starting at a young age. Encouraging acceptance of self and others, regardless of body shape and size, helps decrease bullying and judgment among kids. It also helps protect against a negative self-image and unhealthy attempts at changing body shape and weight. The pressure to maintain a certain weight, shape and size is consistent among boys and girls. However, boys are more likely to develop insecurities about being too short or not having big muscles, while girls are more likely to worry about being overweight.
How Should Parents Talk About Body Positivity with Their Child?
Body positivity starts with us as parents. What we model, our children follow. Avoid making self-deprecating jokes about losing your beer belly or making comments about other people’s appearances. Be kind to yourself and promote self-care and exercise. Choose to talk about yourself with respect, and your kids will do the same.
Encourage your child to identify the things they like about themselves.
Focus on non-physical features, such as being smart, kind, funny or a good friend. Teach your child to appreciate themselves and others for what’s on the inside, not what they look like. Make it clear that you love them unconditionally, no matter how they look, or the results of the school football match.
Talk to your kids about wellbeing, focussing on health and not weight.
Let them know that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and focus on praising their strengths and abilities.
Address what they see on TV and social media in a critical way.
Discuss the promotion of unrealistic beauty standards and a dangerous diet culture and reinforce their knowledge that a perfect body is one that accomplishes things, not one that looks a certain way. It’s important to continue these conversations through puberty, and let them know they can come to you with anything they wish to discuss, no matter how tough it is.
Encourage your kids to get active in ways that they enjoy.
Inspiring them to follow their passions and stay active is great for their self-esteem, and there are all manner of activities they can try, from football clubs to karate to skateboarding. Even something as simple as throwing a ball to each other in the park is great, and be sure to praise them when they make accomplishments, like a great throw or catch!
Create positive connections around food by cooking or shopping together, and be sure that no foods are banned.
Teaching kids about healthy balanced meals and enjoying everything in moderation is important, as is never treating food as a reward. Avoid expressing any guilt about certain foods you eat, and instead focus on how we gain nourishment from food and how important it is to eat a varied diet.
How to Spot If Your Child Is Struggling
Some of the warning signs that your child is having more serious issues with body image may include:
- Constant checking or fixing their looks, or asking for reassurance
- Preferring to stay at home and not socialise, or keep to themselves
- Using an excess of makeup, or hats and clothes to cover up
- Anxiety around food, changing what they eat, or becoming obsessed with what they do or don’t eat
- Excessive exercising
- Skin picking
- Changing clothes repeatedly
- Changes in weight
- Appearing depressed or anxious, or withdrawn.
If you suspect that your child is struggling with their body image, then it’s important to speak to your GP about a referral for treatment, which may involve counselling.
If you need more support be in touch with our parent support team here – https://www.fegans.org.uk/parent-support