Promoting Positive Body Image While Parenting
Society bombards us with messages about the ‘perfect body’, which can start shaping our feelings about ourselves at an extremely early age. Perhaps you are considering what your role is as a parent, in countering societal influences about food, exercise and striving to attain a certain body shape or size. Throughout this article we will look at what constitutes healthy body image and strategies for modeling positive body image in your household.
What is Body Image?
Body image is defined as an individual’s thoughts and attitudes about their physical appearance. This encompasses how someone feels in their body as well as the beliefs they have about various aspects of their appearance.
People of all genders struggle with distorted body image which directly impacts one’s self-esteem and mental health. Poor body image is linked with anxiety and depression, and can lead to disordered eating behaviors or developing an eating disorder.
Healthy body image involves learning to embrace one’s unique body while acknowledging that their self-worth is not intertwined with the number on the scale or physical appearance. Let’s take a look at how you can promote positive body image while parenting.
4 Tips for Promoting Positive Body Image as a Parent
- Model healthy behaviors when it comes to food and exercise.
Your own behaviors and attitudes around food, exercise, and your body can significantly influence your child’s perceptions. Model body acceptance by avoiding talking negatively about your own body or about other people’s bodies. Instead, discuss the importance of accepting one’s own unique body, and embracing body diversity.
Aim to provide healthy meals incorporating a variety of foods, and demonstrate the concept of moderation. Avoid labeling foods as good or bad, or making comments that evoke guilt around eating certain foods, such as ‘being bad’ for eating dessert. Talk with your child about the many dangers of dieting and lead by example by not engaging in restrictive eating behaviors.
Think about ways you may develop physical activity into your family’s weekly routine. Doing this will showcase the importance of moving one’s body in a way that feels good without connecting exercise to altering body shape/size.
- Avoid talking about your child’s appearance.
Rather than commenting on your child’s appearance (positively or negatively), place more emphasis on their strengths, abilities, and passions. This will teach them that they are so much more than what they look like and have so much to offer to the world.
- Encourage your child to talk openly about their concerns around body image.
Offer a safe space for your child to come to you and share the pressures they may be feeling around attaining a certain body standard. Normalize what they are feeling and validate their emotions. Having this open line of communication can provide the opportunity for you to educate your child about society’s unrealistic body ideals. Teach them to critically think about the messages they receive from TV, movies, or social media about what the ‘perfect body’ should look like.