If you, as a parent, have struggled with body image at any point in your life, it’s probably safe to say that you really hope your child or teen does not have the same struggle.
There are some DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to creating positive body image for your teen. So, here are five ways to help them have positive body image:
#1 Don’t criticize other people’s bodies – actually, don’t comment on other people’s appearance at all!
It is a normal desire for children to want to please their parents, and when they observe your critical attitudes toward certain body types, they take note!
Even if you only make positive comments (and no negative comments) about the physical appearance of others, your child is still learning that you place a high value on physical appearance in general.
INSTEAD, try recognizing the cool ways the body functions, rather than how the body looks! Instead of saying, “That ballerina has a beautiful body,” you could say, “Look at the cool movements our bodies are capable of!”
#2 Don’t criticize your own body!
Research has found a strong link between a mother’s dissatisfaction with her own body and a daughter’s development of an eating disorder. The way you talk about your body has a HUGE impact on the way your daughter perceives her body.
Dads, you aren’t off the hook either. Research has also found that a drive for thinness in either parent is correlated with a daughter’s development of an eating disorder. “Drive for thinness” can include the way you eat, the way you talk about what you eat, the way you approach exercise, and the attitude you hold toward your own body.
So, watch how you talk about your body and your food intake.
#3 Avoid having weight-related conversations with your child/teen.
Studies have shown that teens are more likely to use unhealthy weight-management behaviors and engage in dieting (see point #5 to read why you don’t want your teen to diet) when their parents have engaged in weight-related conversations with them.
Not only that, but they are also more likely to engage in binge-eating!
So, DON’T talk about your teen’s weight or size! Even if your teen has been told she is “overweight” based on our culture’s distorted perceptions, talking about their weight and size is not the answer. In fact, it can increase the likelihood of overeating and weight gain!
Instead, model intuitive eating, enjoyable movement, and body acceptance. Taking care of yourself in this way and modeling self-care is one of the best gifts you can give your teen.
#4 Get your own help with body image if you need it.
If you are thinking, “All of this makes sense, but how am I supposed to model positive body image when I struggle so much with accepting my own body?” then you are not alone!
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where body dissatisfaction runs rampant and dieting is everywhere. So, don’t beat yourself up for having difficulty with your own body image.
Instead, show yourself some grace and reach out for help. Think about the message you are communicating to your teen when you recognize an issue, take a stand against it, and reach out to seek help for it.
You are communicating there is a healthier way and that it is okay to ask for help.
If you are interested in getting help, contact me.
#5 Don’t engage in dieting, don’t encourage dieting, don’t believe in dieting!
There is no research showing that diets work in the long-term. There is only research showing that diets DON’T work!
For the majority of people, the weight that is lost while on a diet is not only gained back, but is also added to! Long-term weight loss doesn’t happen with diets. Because of this, researchers say people are better off to have never started a diet in the first place.
Bottom line, don’t engage in dieting yourself, and DEFINITELY don’t encourage your child or teen to engage in dieting.
How can you start to model body acceptance today?
If you or your teen needs help, contact me to start working towards positive body image.