Ten Tips for Raising Kids With a Healthy Body Image
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Advocates for Youth.
- Teach your kids that their body size and weight is but one part of who they are.
- Speak up! Share your thoughts and ask your kids' opinions about how bodies are depicted in the media. Engage in dialog by asking questions like, "Does that look real?" "Do a lot of people really look like that?" "What do you think might have been done to that picture to make it look that way?"
- Watch what you say! Do you put yourself down? Do you criticize your own body? If you do, stop it! There is no value at all to hating your body. Equally important, when you put down your own body in front of your kids, you are giving them a clear message that it's okay not to like yourself.
- Teach your kids about health, weight, nutrition, and exercise! When you do, make sure that you share the facts, not myths, and talk about health not social expectations! Let your kids know that body size alone is NOT an indicator of health! People with big bodies may be healthy and people with thin bodies may not.
- Look around! What kinds of magazines do your have in your home? Do you buy diet products? Ask yourself if the images and products you have readily available in your home match your commitment to body acceptance and diversity and to raising a child with a healthy body image? Make sure that your home is place that communicates alignment with what you believe and say.
- Educate yourself about the myths and facts about body shapes and sizes. Our society does not provide balanced messages about health, nutrition, and body diversity; however, there are people, organizations, and books that do. Find them. Read them and tell your kids what you learned.
- Don't lie or sugarcoat anything! It's a harsh world out there regarding anyone's relationship to his or her body. Acknowledge that it can be hard to love your body while also explaining how important it is to love your body. Follow up by helping to create an action plan to fight the limited, narrow images of beauty that hurt everyone.
- Teach your child skills for dealing with the American obsession with size and weight. Teach your child critical thinking skills. Ask your child's school to incorporate media literacy programs into their curricula. Teach your kids to use their voices early and often, whenever they see oppression, intolerance or prejudice.
- Teach your kids about injustice. Tell them that many groups of people suffer discrimination and prejudice, including people whose bodies don't match the cultural ideal of beauty. Then teach them what they can do to help stop it!
- Never, ever, ever say anything that supports narrow concepts of beauty or health or that is discriminatory based on body appearance. Expressions like, "But I'm sure she's pretty on the inside," undercut everything you are trying to teach your kids.
Reprinted with the permission of Advocates for Youth.
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