A family’s home should be a safe haven where children feel comfortable and secure. A home is a space of comforting tranquility where children play, grow, learn and escape. A home environment also influences how a child sees the world and his or herself in it. It also develops his or her image of their individual self-worth. You can’t control how your child internalizes the outside world, but you can encourage positive intrapersonal skills within your child by fostering a healthy intimate environment. A child who learns about how to have a healthy body image from a young age will more easily transition into a happy teen and adult.
Supporting Your Child
Children are met with and filter through massive amounts of stimuli while figuring out where they fit in the world. As kids enter school, they have to manage a social landscape with peer pressure along with academia. New challenges, like starting college can create even further stress. Teaching your child how to prepare for new challenges and ask for help in college, says www.collegeonline.org, will help them succeed.
The way a child views himself or herself at a young age can be easily determined by how he or she is treated by others, which can even affect mental health in adulthood. The worst outcomes are severe low self-esteem and eating disorders that take over their innocence, happiness, academic learning and sense of self-worth. Your job as a parent is to create a home environment that embraces your child’s strengths and weaknesses. At home, your support can counteract the effects of negative stimuli from school, extra-curricular activities and the media.
Setting an Example
What children see and hear gets stored into a mental filing cabinet. They draw from this place as they evaluate and measure their appearance. Monitor at home what your children becomes exposed to by drawing awareness to your own actions. You’ll help put positive influences into that cabinet over the negative.
A young girl who becomes a chronic dieter probably spent years observing her mother with the same bad habit, explains Womensheatlth.gov. Proactively promote positive body images or healthy objectives by accepting and loving your own body. A young girl pays attention to how her mom reacts to her own body in the mirror. She hears the comments “I feel so fat” or “I need to lose five pounds.” Parents are role models — heroes — in the eyes of a child, and they’ll mimic your behavior, dialogue and logic. Tune in to how you pass along messages about body image to your child. For example, avoid using words such as fat, skinny, diet and ugly.
Advocating Health Over Looks
Show kids that eating nutritional meals and being fit for healthy weight management is more valuable than dieting and being thin. Staying active and nutritious as a family can help develop a lifelong commitment to a healthy lifestyle and way of thinking that negates self-pity and poor self-esteem related to appearances. Invest in the relationship between your child and his or her body with the following tips:
- Avoid negative comments about yourself and other people. “She looks fat in those pants.” “I have to stop eating so much.” These messages undoubtedly make an impression that affects how your child sees him or herself in the mirror.
- Discuss weight management in a positive way. Open up communication surrounding how much our bodies impact our lives. Also, emphasize the normalcy of a child’s fluctuation in weight. A changing body and weight gain are part of growing up and maturing.
- Replace drawing attention to the negative with focusing on the positive. For example, excite about physical activities your family can do together or the deliciousness of nutritious foods, rather than complain about fatty foods and snacks high in calories. Also, make it a point to praise your child for talents and attributes that aren’t related to their appearance.
- Pay attention to external environments and influences. Monitor what they watch on TV or encounter on the Internet. Encourage the school to enact policies regarding discrimination and bullying, as well.
Above all, parents must master the art of communication. Initiate discussions with your kids about their bodies. Ask them how they feel about their body. What do they want to change and why? Always encourage them to accept their uniqueness as the one thing that makes them special.
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