Be a role model
Whether they show it or not, your children watch and mimic you. Set a good example by valuing healthy foods, exercise, and a positive attitude towards your body. If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t obsess about it in front of your child. Instead, stress the importance of being healthy and physically fit. Avoid criticising your own body. Your children may see this as normal activity and begin to mimic these behaviours. Kids who believe their mothers don’t like their bodies end up not liking their own bodies.
Avoid negative comments
Refrain from mentioning your child’s weight or other features of his or her body in a negative light. If you’re concerned about the child’s level of fitness, sign the child up for activities like gymnastics, martial arts, or dance. Or, offer to take a walk together each day as a way to spend time together and exercise. If your child has a birthmark or other physical attribute that makes him or her different, don’t encourage shame or embarrassment. Say, ‘This is something that makes you different, and different is okay’. Provide compliments: Praise your child for having a beautiful smile, shining eyes, or a great fashion sense in clothes. More importantly, compliment character traits such as strength, perseverance, honesty, compassion, and harmony. Build up your child positively so that he or she can see the self in a positive light.
Remind your kids of who they are
A person’s body and appearance are but one facet of the self. Remind your children that who they are extends beyond looks; it includes the things they are learning, the things they excel at, and how they treat people. If your child begins to complain about his or her body, remind your child of the positive qualities, such as kindness, generosity, and playfulness.
Demystify body changes
Especially as a child approaches puberty, it’s important to take away the fear or mysticism about bodily changes. Talk to your child about the changes he or she can anticipate in the body. Listen to any fears he or she may have, such as being abnormal, feeling different because his or her body changed faster than other kids’ or hasn’t changed at all. Normalise the feelings and the changes in the body. Make sure you listen to your child. Show that you care by hearing the child out, not interrupting or just offering information.
Have a healthy home
Look around your house and ask, ‘What contributes to a healthy body image? What doesn’t?’ Look through your magazines, beauty products, or supplements. Do you have any diet products or fad items to lose weight? Ask yourself what products and images align with your values of body positive attitudes. If you have magazines or products that deter from a healthy body image, toss them. Don’t allow them to influence your child negatively.
Teach about media
Tell your children that celebrities are paid to look a certain way and not everyone looks like them. Show your children that magazines often use airbrushing and editing to make people look flawless. Remind them that comparing their bodies to those of celebrities is silly, and that photo editing is often used to sell products. Remind kids that celebrities and professional athletes have teams of people to help them look and perform a certain way. So promoting a healthy body image means helping your kids feel beautiful overall—the whole person that he or she is—and at the same time de-emphasising beauty and sexuality as the focus of their identity.