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How can I foster a positive body image in my child?

siblings riding a bike and a tricycle

Key points:
1. Your actions and words influence your child’s body image.
2. Avoid negative comments about bodies.
3. Compliment actions and qualities, not just appearance.
4. Encourage physical activity and healthy eating.

As a parent, you are your child’s first role model and the biggest influence in their lives. So what you do and say matters when it comes to promoting a positive body image.

Kids are like sponges, they absorb everything provided to them by the environment, and that includes our actions. Our attitudes towards ourselves and others imprint on them and can provoke the occurrence of certain beliefs as early as toddlerhood. As parents, we play a very important role in helping build a healthy body image in our children that will make them appreciate and love their bodies. It’s never too early to start! If we start early on we can help build healthy self-esteem and, in turn, favor our children’s emotional and social well-being.

How do I foster a positive body image in my child?

Model a positive body image

Avoid making negative comments about your body or the bodies of others. Do not complain about your body in front of your kid or have them observe you act negatively towards your body. Your actions have power and, if you are not careful, those attitudes can be internalized by your child.

Provide specific compliments

Although it’s okay to tell your little one they are beautiful and great, don’t forget to emphasize their specific actions and qualities, not just their physical appearance. Try to compliment their bodies on what they do and their effort, instead of just their looks. You could tell your little one “Wow, look at how strong your body is, you learned to run” or “With your effort, you learned to put your shirt on all by yourself”.


Promote physical activity

Being active has a direct impact on health and well-being, so provide fun activities to get your little one moving inside and outside the house. Go on a nature treasure hunt or have a dance party. It doesn’t matter what you do, what’s important is that the activity you do is enjoyable, fun, and a natural part of everyday life.

Provide healthy food options and a positive attitude towards food

Focus on making healthy meals and tasty snacks instead of restricting or labeling foods. Avoid telling your little one that one food is good or bad. Instead, teach them about the benefits you get from eating certain specific foods. Moreover, treat as “sometimes foods” the ones that can be enjoyed in small amounts, and healthy foods as “all the time” foods that provide energy and help us grow.

Invite your little one to participate in independence-boosting activities

Ask your little one to help out in the kitchen, have them help out during laundry time, teach them how to get dressed, give them two or three options of clothing to wear. When children participate in independence-boosting activities their self-esteem and autonomy grow and make them feel good about themselves. This, in turn, creates a positive view of themselves.

Help your child to understand the media

Remember kids are exposed to many different messages and images in the media, and sometimes platforms can have wrong messages about health, so teach them to know which information is good and which is not okay for them to believe about bodies or health. Also help them understand that when you grow your body changes, so when they grow up they have this in mind. 

There are a lot of things you can do to help your little one grow up confident and secure about themselves. Hope these tips help! Let us know in the comment section your favorite ways to build a positive body image in your child.

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