Three Ways Parents can Shape a Child's Body Image

Three Ways Parents can Shape a Child's Body Image

A positive body image is about respecting your body whatever its shape, size or colour. It is important to enjoy what your body can do and feel, because when we feel good about our body, we are more likely to care for it. Studies show the way parents feel and talk about bodies and eating has a big impact on their child’s self-esteem and feelings about their own body. To grow healthy and strong children need know love. They need to feel good about themselves.

By taking care in what we say and do as parents and caregivers, we can teach our children to be confident in their own body.

  1. Speak kindly about our own body
    • Even if you’re not quite there yet in loving what your body looks and feels like, you can show it a healthy level of acceptance and respect. Focus on what your body can do, whatever that is, rather than what it looks like.  "I love that my arms can lift you up high"
    • Talk about strengths, skills and qualities more than appearance. "I am good at cooking" or "I like to be kind to others."
    • Show your child how you enjoy eating and moving your body. Choose foods that nourish you and physical activities that make your body feel good. "I’m going for a walk because it helps my body feel good."
    • Don’t talk about weight, or body parts you dislike, especially in front of children. Remember too, children hear things we do not always intend for them to hear.If you are not having a good body image day (and let’s face it, we all have days like this) talk about something else.
  2. Speak kindly about your child’s body
    • Show unconditional love and acceptance of your child’s body, no matter what. For example don’t allow nicknames or comments based on appearance in your family as they can be harmful. If you hear of bullying in your child’s school, bring it up with the teacher or principal.
    • Try not to compare your child to others. If your child notices something different about himself or herself or someone else, try to talk about it either in a positive way or in a neutral matter-of-fact way. "We all have something about our body that is unique" or "I’m not tall either but I’m a fast runner."
    • Talk about what’s on the inside more than what’s on the outside. It’s important that most of the praise your child receives from you doesn’t have anything to do with what they look like. "You’re great at giving things a go" or "you’re so creative."
  3. Speak kindly about other people’s body
    • Use everyday situations to talk with your children about diversity in our society. This helps them understand differences in body shape, colour and size as just ways that makes us unique and individual. Choose books, media and TV shows that include people of all sizes, abilities and cultural backgrounds. "Everybody’s body is different and all bodies deserve respect."
    • Take care with your choice of words when talking about other people, even when you think your child is not listening in. By using words that describe appearance or are unkind, we are saying what a body looks like is more important than who the person is and what they can do. When people comment about body shape or size try removing yourself from the conversation or try changing the topic.
    • Very few of us look like the images we see in the media. For older children, teach them about being critical of media and social media images.

    Seek help if needed. As parents, it can be tricky to role model being body positive if you don’t feel great about your own body. It’s okay and important to ask for some help with this. Contact The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673 for more information.