Self Esteem: Building a Positive Body ImageFebruary 11, 2014
By Lorena Villa Parkman
How can you help your child or teen develop a positive body image, good self-esteem, and maintain a healthy lifestyle all at the same time? This is a challenging issue for all parents, but we are capable of helping boost a child’s self-confidence and help him or her keep it for life.
For many people, especially preteens and teenagers, body image is closely related to self-esteem. Since their bodies are changing, preteens and teenagers are usually more self-conscious and vulnerable to what others might think of them. Remember that as a parent you have more influence than you think in helping your child get through this confusing time of his or her life.
Here are five tips to help your child have a healthier body image:
- Be a role model and accept your own body. Remember that both young children and teens model the behavior they see and hear at home. This means he or she will probably also model your attitude toward your body. So if you're complaining about your belly fat, your frizzy hair or your bad skin, your child will follow and find similar flaws in his or her body. Also be mindful of how you talk about other people’s bodies.
- Encourage activities that make your child feel good. This will shift the focus to your child’s abilities rather than to his or her physical appearance. Exercise will help your child feel good about his or her body. Remind your child that this is about being fit—not necessarily thin—and about focusing on health rather than appearance.
- Help your child understand that bodies change and that there is no ideal body shape. Help your teen recognize that we all come in different shapes and sizes. Focus on how strong, agile, or healthy his or her body is and talk about all the things that it’s capable of doing. If you believe your child is over or underweight, check with his or her health provider instead of making assumptions.
- Praise your child. Children, as well as teens, need to hear you tell them how good they are at the things they like. Describe exactly what you liked about something that your child accomplished and use praise to highlight positive character traits and talents. Your child will soon focus more on his or her character and values than on his or her physical appearance, building a healthy self-image.
- Encourage your whole family to be healthy. If your child sees that the whole family is trying to have a better and healthier self-image, it will be easier for him or her to follow. You can make simple changes like avoiding fast food, buying or cooking nutritious meals and exercising together.
If a healthy lifestyle becomes part of your family practices, your child will model these good habits throughout his or her life and keep a positive self-image thanks to a wholesome approach.