Discussing Body Image with Your Child

Being bombarded with images of beauty standards is an unhealthy aspect of modern society. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 40-60 percent of girls ages 6-12 are concerned about becoming “too fat” or gaining weight. This issue is not gender specific however, 25 percent of individuals who suffer from anorexia nervosa are male.

Discussing body image issues with your child can be daunting, as so many people past their teen years still struggle with body positivity. To help you navigate through this, here are our tips to help you through this discussion.

Don’t nit-pick
If you start noticing patterns where your child is changing their appearance or which foods they choose to eat, realize they are experimenting with their changing world. Teens are discerning their reality and finding out who they are. Avoid pointing out which habits are changing and how you feel about them. Instead, get at the root of why their appearance or body might be changing.

Empower your child
Lunch time can cause your child anxiety without you even knowing it. Many parents make their child’s lunch from elementary school into their teen years. Involve your child in which choices they are comfortable making for this meal. This way, you can discuss nutrition in a less abstract way. Showing them that you put importance on eating a balanced meal can be impactful on their relationship to food.

Be a role model
Never speak critically of your body to your child. The overwhelming majority of people feel dissatisfied about an aspect of their bodies, but these criticisms are not appropriate for your child to hear as they can internalize it and pick up the same habits. You share genes with your child, of course they are going to notice features on themselves that you both share!

Build their confidence
Comments like “you have a beautiful smile” or “that outfit looks great on you” matter a great deal to someone who struggles with confidence. Compliment attributes like the energy they emit, their grace, or their strength. Point out which personality traits you love most about them, like their generosity or kindness. Always reassure them when they make statements about their qualities they are self-conscious about.

Be persistent and present
Take every meal you have with your child as an opportunity to lead by example about how to deal with their anxiety about food. Normalizing balance where dessert isn’t always off limits maintains positivity. Eating meals slowly with them helps their body realize when it’s full without it needing to be pointed out. Always stay in tune with how they feel about their body image and notice patterns. Therapy can help your child greatly if you notice these negative habits around food persist.