Create A Healthy Body Image Before Obesity Affect Kid’s Self-Esteem
It is no wonder kids today are confused about their identity. If you watch television for any time at all, it is easy to see the double standard in the advertisements. On one hand they show skinny models as the standard of beauty and the next commercial shows a mouth-watering triple-patty hamburger complete with large fries and a Coke.
Those models wearing size 0 jeans don’t stay thin by eating super-sized meals. These two types of ads are at opposite ends of the scale. Kids, especially girls, want to fit in and if their measurement of beauty are the models they see on TV and they don’t measure up, it will damage their self-esteem.
As a parent, it is your job to paint a more realistic picture of beauty early in the child’s life, so they grow up knowing that beauty is not a measurement of how they look, but how they feel. If they are self-confident and feel good about themselves, then it doesn’t matter what number is on their clothes size tag.
Building that self-confidence in an overweight child is difficult at best. While they may get the encouragement at home, the rest of the world they come in contact with can be cruel, thus further eroding their positive image of themselves. Normal weight kids will poke fun at them. In gym class or swim lessons where they wear more form fitting clothes, it isn’t easy to hide their body. In team sports an overweight child may be the last to get picked. These are all events that can be devastating to a child who has low self-esteem to begin with.
And ironically, what does a child do that comes home emotionally distraught – eat. And most likely not something healthy. So over time, they pack on even more weight, their self-esteem drops further and the cycle continues – unless you choose to help your kid stop it.
The way to do that is by introducing healthy lifestyle choices to your child at an early age. Not only will they learn to eat healthy, but they might not become overweight in the first place, thus avoiding much of the mental anguish that goes with being an overweight kid. It is hard being a kid today when they are at a normal weight – it is twice as hard if they are overweight.
As part of your family’s healthy lifestyle, introduce your kids to physical activity early on. Team or individual sports help develop healthy bodies and minds; they will learn leadership and coping skills that will support their self-esteem and carry them into adulthood feeling good about themselves.
What to Do If Your Child Criticizes Their Own Body
As your child approaches their teen years, their whole self-image will start to change. All of a sudden they spend more time in front of a mirror trying to get the “right” look. Clothes now matter as they experiment with new styles and combinations. They are trying to find their identity – something that will say to other people who they are.
Unfortunately in the process sometimes things go awry and they can all of a sudden start to not like themselves. Whether fueled by ads on T.V. featuring models that are too thin, peer pressure or just self-criticism, they can develop a negative image of their body as it goes through puberty and changes dramatically.
Many times body and self-image negativity is short-lived and passes with time, but it can in certain people develop into an unhealthy and unrealistic view of themselves. As parents, what can you do?
First, have patience. While something may seem inconsequential to you, it can be of terrible importance to your child, such as the shape of their nose. Be supportive but yet point out how that that is not bad and it makes them who they are.
Compliment them on their other physical attributes. Maybe they don’t like one particular feature of their body. Negate that pessimistic view by pointing out other positive features and physical attributes like speed, balance and grace. This is especially easy to do if they are involved in sports or dance.
While s/he may not think they look good on the outside, point out how “beautiful” they are on the inside. Maybe they volunteer time at a nursing home or readily share with a sister or brother, etc. Complimenting on these inner attributes helps negate negative feeling about the outside of their body.
While it may be important to your child to spend an hour in the bathroom getting ready, it can be an inconvenience to the rest of the family if you only have one bathroom. Emphasize the importance of managing time, sharing limited resources and how taking unusually amounts of time inconveniences others.
What you do and say has a powerful impact on your child (even if you don’t think it does). If you have a negative self-image of yourself, how can you expect your child to have a positive one? Be a good role model by being happy with yourself and your self-image.
Once your child is at school or away from your house, there isn’t much you can do to control what is said or done. However, when they are home, all of the above things can go a long way to improving how your child views themselves.
Create A Healthy Body Image Before Obesity Affects Their Self-Esteem
Every child is a beautiful, unique creation. However, society often dictates what is considered a “normal” body image in your child’s mind. Encouraging individuality and uniqueness from a young age is very important so that your child grows into a mentally strong and happy adult with a great self-image. Practice the following tips to encourage a healthy body image in your child, and you will be proud when he grows into a healthy and happy adult.
Open Up Lines of Communication
From a very young age, you should let your children know they can talk to you about anything. Your child is never too young for you to promote two-way communication. Talk with your children frequently about the unique differences in all people. Point out examples of children, teens and adults the same age that look starkly different. Support individuality, proper nutrition and exercise, and always be there when your child needs to talk about whatever is on his mind.
Lead by Example
Children absorb everything. If you have a child, you are no doubt amazed on a daily basis by the things she says and does. Have you ever had to ask your child, “Where did you hear that?” Children always have their ears and eyes turned to high alert, so make sure you lead by example, encouraging your child to view herself and her body in a positive way.
Teach Your Child That the Hormones Are Raging
In the tween and teen years, the physical move to adulthood begins. So many internal processes are on overdrive, your child may speak and act irrationally in relationship to his body image. Explain to him that his body is going through so many important physical changes that things like pimples, oily hair, lack of coordination, skin conditions, growth spurts and voice changes can spring up out of nowhere. Your child will be more successful in developing and maintaining a healthy body image when he understands that this is a natural process all children his age go through.
Promote Exercise and Proper Nutrition
It is easier for your child to have a healthy body image when he is actually healthy! Promoting proper nutrition and frequent exercise at a very young age can pay incredible dividends as your child moves from toddler to tween to teen to adulthood.
As much as 60% or 70% of your physical fitness and health is determined by nutrition alone, and regular exercise just makes it that much easier to stay fit and healthy, and maintain a good body image.