How a child feels about their body can affect them throughout their life. We share what body positivity is, what affects a child's view of their body and how to talk to them about negative feelings.
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 it’s not just a topic for girls. Boys struggle with body image too.
What Is Body Positivity?
Body positivity, broadly, is about loving yourself and others regardless of physical appearance. It’s about encouraging 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 Boys, Too?
Boys shouldn’t 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.
Is It Different for Boys and Girls? If So, How?
The pressure to maintain a certain weight, shape and size is consistent among boys and girls. However, boys are more likely to develop insecurities about being too short or not having big muscles, while girls are more likely to worry about being overweight.
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 negative body talk or “fat talk” is important for everyone in the household. Confident, comfortable and healthy parents inspire a positive atmosphere and a more secure child.
How Should Parents Respond If Their Child Talks Negatively About Their Body?
- Ask your child why they feel this way about their body; be sure to 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!