Wellness Matters

In Pursuit of Perfection: Kids and Body Image

April 25, 2017

Kids and body image
Body image is a multidimensional construct or idea that includes how we perceive, think, feel and act toward our bodies. Understanding how to cultivate a positive body image is an important skill to help you be successful, and it’s very important as parents to help your children to develop those same skills from an early age. Body image can range from health to unhealthy, changing with time and influencing their behavior. A negative body image can affect your self-worth and your perceived value, encouraging a person to participate in unhealthy or destructive behaviors, such as over-exercising, not exercising at all, developing an unhealthy relationship with food, discouraging yourself from something you want or creating relationship problems with others.

There are many different things that can influence our body image, including age, race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, individual experiences and differences in our brains and the way we experience our bodies. Puberty and adolescence can be an especially difficult time for teenagers emotionally, socially and psychologically, and it can be tempting to make body comparisons during this time. Try to remind your children that everyone develops and grows differently, physically and otherwise. The media can also impact our body image, which is why it’s important to be “media literate,” by being aware of the practices used to perfect the images we see, and develop strategies to counteract the desire to compare your body to the most often altered images in magazines.

Fortunately, there are steps parents can take to avoid issues with body image in their children and teens. As a start, parents should be mindful of how they talk about their own bodies around their children, and model positive self-statements and behaviors. Other ways to encourage positive body images in your children are:

  • Stop comparisons, it’s lose-lose
  • When you compare yourself to be “less” than someone else, you feel bad.
  • When you compare yourself to be “more” than someone else, that momentary ego boost might fade into feeling judgmental and isolated from that person.
  • Challenge hurtful thoughts
  • Ask yourself, is what I’m thinking the objective truth or a judgment Would I say the same thing to my best friend?
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Use stickies! Put sticky notes on the mirror in the bathroom to remind you everyday.
  • Everyday, remind yourself of 3 things that you like about your body or 3 amazing things your body can do.

If parents notice developing body image issues in their children or teens, it is important to seek professional help as well. Early intervention and treatment is key, and Cone Health has an exceptional network of behavioral health specialists, dieticians, primary care physicians and other related healthcare providers whom are dedicated to providing proper treatment to individuals in the community dealing with body image issues.




About the Author


Lauren R. Preston, MSW, LCSWA is a Behavioral Health Clinician at the Cone Health Center for Children

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