The other day I caught my daughter looking very closely at herself in the mirror. At first, I carried on with making dinner but, there was this look on her face that told me that she was worried about something. So I came closer and asked her.
“What’s the matter, honey? You’ve been looking at that mirror for quite some time.”
“Mommy, do you think I’m fat? Girls in Year 6 keep making fun of me. They keep calling me a fatty.” my daughter replied, with a concerned look on her face.
I had the urge to tell her that those girls are just silly. They don’t know what they are talking about. That they are jealous because they know you’re stronger and healthier than them. But instead, we both sat down to have a long meaningful conversation about our bodies and what it means to be healthy.
What is a healthy body image?
You’d be surprised to know that kids as young as three years of age worry about how they look and how their bodies appear to others. Mostly, girls suffer from a poor body image but boys can also suffer from low self-esteem when they feel they are thinner, less muscular or shorter than their peers. Girls often feel that they are not thin or pretty enough as the people they see around them or on TV.
Media also constantly sends them messages of what perfect bodies and faces should look like, so instead of focusing on their own qualities, they start comparing themselves to the people they have seen on TV or the internet.
Having a poor body image as a child can result in low self-esteem, poor confidence, depression, anxiety and health disorders such as bulimia and anorexia as they grow up. If children see themselves negatively, it can impact every aspect of their lives and the effects can last a lifetime.
Here is how you can help your kids achieve a healthier body image:
- There is no such thing as ‘perfect’.
Have open conversations with your kids about what they think a healthy body is and what they can do to achieve it. It is important to emphasize that there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to someone’s appearance and that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others.
- Talk about health, not looks.
Encourage exercise, diet and cleanliness to promote good health rather than focusing on just their looks. It is imperative for children to know that being a good person and being healthy is far more important than having good looks.
- Be confident in front of your kids.
If you suffer from a poor body image, your kids will easily pick it up and absorb it. Maybe you stare at yourself for hours in the mirror with disapproving looks. Maybe you refuse to take pictures with others because you don’t like the way you look. Maybe you constantly focus on your outer appearance. Remember, you are your child’s biggest role- model. If you behave confidently around them, they will learn to be confident too.
- Eat a balanced diet.
It is extremely important to eat a variety of foods and get your kids to start eating healthy meals too. You can encourage your children to make better and healthier food choices which will automatically make them healthier, stronger and more confident in their appearance.
- Choose your words wisely.
If you constantly speak badly about how you look, or how you need to lose weight or that you don’t like the way you look, you’ll naturally pass that onto your children. Remember, children are easily influenced and they are watching and listening to every word you say.
Try not to be highly critical of yourself in front of your kids and choose positive uplifting words around them.
What You Can Do Next?
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ABOUT THE FOUNDER
Internationally Recognised Emotional Literacy & Mindfulness Expert Tenille Bentley is the founder of The Emotional Literacy and Mindfulness Academy and the author of the children’s emotional literacy books with Jazzy and Pinky and The Energy Ball. Giving children a wonderful introduction to understanding their emotions and what do with them.
Tenille has been featured on Channel 9 News and other major outlets. Her work has been recognised in the community by The Governor of Western Australia, The Prime Minister of Australia and Australian Financial Review.
As a child she experienced severe anxiety and emotional traumas as well as bullying which left her feeling isolated, and unable to understand why she was feeling the way she did. As an adult this impacted her ability to make healthy decisions because she didn’t have the tools to understand her emotions.
Which is why she is passionate about equipping parents with the tools to support their children to make better decisions in life and healthy ones to help support and create a balanced home life.