Body image and kids: Your body image plays a role in theirs
Parents are the best teachers for their children. If you don’t think your kids are watching your every move and listening to every word you say, you’re wrong. Parental influence can be a positive factor in many ways for kids, but it can also have damaging negative effects, especially when you don’t realize your kids are watching you.
Among character traits and behaviors kids pick up from their parents, for many children, their perception of diet and exercise is largely influenced by their parents’ own diet and exercise routine. Research has shown that kids — especially daughters — are more likely to have ideas about dieting when they see their mothers dieting.
In other words, if your child sees you constantly counting calories, cutting out fat and restricting your diet, they are more likely to do the same. If your daughter hears you obsessing over your weight, she will be more likely to be obsessed with hers. If she sees that you never think you are good enough, she will likely feel the same way about herself.
For girls especially, this can be damaging, especially as they approach their teenage years. Many times a teen’s concern about her weight as well as unhealthy eating patterns and compulsive exercise habits is sparked by how her mom’s concern about weight and dieting.
Teenage years are difficult for many reasons, but they can be especially difficult when it comes to body image. A parent’s obsession about weight, constant dieting and exercise will teach a child that restrictive eating and constant exercise are the keys to feeling good about his or her body. As a parent, you can influence your child’s body image in a positive way. Follow these steps to help positively shape your child’s own body image:
- Teach your child that weight gain is a normal part of his or her physical development, especially during puberty.
- Avoid making negative comments about your own body size or shape.
- Avoid obsessing over calories or fat intake, especially in front of your kids.
- Teach your kids to focus on eating healthy and staying active, rather than restricting their diet and continually exercising, never leaving room for time for play.
- Compliment your kids on their accomplishments, talents, efforts and personality, rather than focusing on physical appearance.
- Closely monitor your kids’ exposure to media, and take time to discuss images they may see on TV, in movies or magazines. (Remember, most magazine images have been airbrushed and retouched.)
- Keep the lines of communication open with your kids.
Your children may learn more from what they see you do and hear you say when you think they aren’t watching. They’re always watching you, even when you think they aren’t. Stay focused on positive body image and living a healthy lifestyle and your kids will be more likely to develop a healthy body image as they reach puberty and their teenage years.
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