How a child feels about their body can affect their mental health.
It’s no surprise that mass media and social media can affect everything from the products we buy, to our perception of beauty and body image. Unfortunately, children and adolescents are most vulnerable to the unrealistic expectations portrayed by the media. Children are exposed to thousands of messages every day about how to look and who to be.
As social media continues to play a major role in our society, talking to your child about body positivity is more important than ever and impacts individuals of all genders.
What Is Body Positivity?
Body positivity is about loving yourself and others regardless of physical appearance. It encourages self-positivity, acceptance and health. Body positivity takes the focus away from looks and identifies people by their strengths and non-physical characteristics.
Why Is Body Positivity Important for All Kids?
No child should be excluded from the body positivity conversation because it affects all kids, starting at a young age. Encouraging acceptance of self and others, regardless of body shape and size, helps decrease bullying and judgment among kids. It also helps protect against a negative self-image and unhealthy attempts at changing body shape and weight.
What Should Parents Stress When Talking About Body Positivity with Their Child?
- Encourage your child to identify the things they like about themselves.
- Focus on non-physical features, such as being smart, kind, funny or a good friend.
- Teach your child to appreciate themselves and others for what’s on the inside, not what they look like.
- When your child starts paying attention to mass media and social media, it’s important they learn to consume messages mindfully.
- Take the time to explain the pressures and unrealistic standards of our society.
- Teach your child to interpret the information presented by the media and tune out negative influences.
Is It Important for Parents to Engage in Positive Body Talk as Well?
Kids look up to their parents from a young age, so avoiding criticism about your own body or the body of someone else is important for everyone in your family. Try to notice when people in movies or shows that you’re watching mention their bodies in positive or negative ways and point it out to your child.
If you can find kind things to say about yourself and about others, you’re modeling healthy habits for your child. Confident, comfortable and healthy parents inspire a positive atmosphere and a more secure child.
Focus on discussions that appreciate what the body does or how it functions, rather than commenting on appearance. Even positive body-related comments put emphasis on appearance and can add unnecessary pressure or attention to physical attributes.
How Should Parents Respond If Their Child Talks Negatively About Their Body?
- Ask your child why they feel this way about their body; listen closely so they feel heard and understood.
- Explain that everyone can feel negatively about how they look sometimes, but it helps to think about the positive things.
- Encourage your child to identify their best, non-physical qualities. You might even write some down and stick them around their room as a reminder of how great they are!