Do you want to ensure that your child has a healthy body image? Here are ten ways to encourage a healthy body image in children. Note: This post contains an affiliate link for a book I recommend on positive thinking.
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t always had the healthiest body image.
It’s easy for a young girl to look at herself with scrutiny – but you probably already know that.
It’s been the female way for far too long.
Luckily, you can stop that cycle, starting with your own kids!
What Is Considered A Healthy Body Image?
I think that everyone’s idea of a healthy body image is different. That’s okay. We all have different hobbies and values that will affect what we consider to be “healthy.”
But I think that most of us can agree that feeling bad about yourself/your body is not healthy.
Spending a lot of time worrying about your weight or outward appearance to a point that it controls your actions is not healthy.
And making many decisions based on how you look is also a no. (For example, if you decide not to participate in a given activity because you’re afraid you aren’t physically “good enough.”)
A healthy body image can be as simple as appreciating your body and not having negative thoughts about it! You don’t have to think it’s perfect, but you shouldn’t hate it either.
Want to read about eradicating negative thinking? I started with The Mind Connection by Joyce Meyer.
Body Image Starts At A Young Age
I believe that you have to be very conscious of how you’re raising your children in order to instill in them a healthy body image. I also believe that it’s impossible to be perfect at parenting at the same time.
However, every little effort you make to be a healthy roll model is important!
You’ve probably heard that kids are, “sponges.” Especially at a young age.
This just means that they learn from everything. They watch others – that’s how they learn. And before kids hit school age, they are mostly learning from their parents.
That means that what you do between the time your child is born and the time you release them into the (aka send them to school or childcare) is super important.
So today I want to discuss several ways to help your child develop a healthy body image from Day 1.
Ways To Encourage A Healthy Body Image In Children
1. Don’t Weigh Yourself In Front of Them
This one seems like a no-brainer, but even I forget about this sometimes. It is NOT healthy for your kids, especially girls, to see you weigh yourself. This is my personal opinion, so I try not to let my daughter see me weigh myself.
The reason is that your health is so much more than that number. Health also entails cardiovascular health, cholesterol, blood sugar, lung capacity, body fat percentage, bone density, muscle mass, and more! Think about all of those non-scale victories we should all be celebrating!
So while it is important to weigh yourself occasionally, there is no real reason for a growing child to focus on a number. (Unless of course, your doctor is concerned about weight – at which point you’d want to weigh your child only at the doctor’s office.)
You know that you shouldn’t obsess over the scale’s numbers – you know how discouraging it can be. So if you want to encourage a healthy body image, don’t let your child think that the scale more important than it is.
2. Limit Mirror Time
I think that you shouldn’t be overly vain in front of your children. There, I said it.
Now, I think that everyone has to find a good middle-ground here. For example, I want my daughter to see myself practicing self-care and taking care of myself. However, I don’t want her to see me spending hours of my time in front of the mirror.
Because the more time we spend looking in the mirror, the more opportunities we have to scrutinize ourselves.
Kids, in my opinion, shouldn’t be worried about a small blemish or how their hair isn’t *perfect.* It’s nice to be able to share some self-care with your children so that they do value it a little bit. (I think this is part of developing self-love and self-respect.) But to instill a healthy body image in your children, try not to focus on it too much.
This doesn’t mean that you have to stop your regular beauty routine. This doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to try on five outfits in the morning. This just means that you try to do some of it in private.
3. Refrain From Negative Comments About Yourself
This one is hard, since so many of us are the in the habit of hating on ourselves. But to instill a healthy body image in our children, we have to be careful about what we say about ourselves out loud.
We shouldn’t be participating in any negative self-talk either way, but we definitely shouldn’t do it in front of our kids.
We want to raise confident, self-loving kids that enjoy life! The thing is that kids learn mostly from their parents. What we allow becomes acceptable and even normal to them.
So if you have to, “fake it until you make it,” do it. Your kid deserves to live their formative years (and all of their years, really) believing that they are perfect just the way they are.
If you need help eradicating negative self-talk, check out The Mind Connection by Joyce Meyers.
4. Discuss Healthy Foods & Other Healthy Habits
It may seem strange, but there are a lot of people out there who have no clue what foods are considered healthy.
Obviously, there is a lot of debate on the topic. However, most experts can agree on foods that definitely aren’t healthy, as well as many that are.
Typically, foods that are processed and can be found in a can, box, or bag, and contain more than a handful of ingredients are considered unhealthy. We are talking about ultra-processed foods chock-full of refined sugar, bleached flour, synthetic ingredients like artificial colors, and more.
If you aren’t sure what’s considered healthy or not, check out MyPlate for dietary information. Otherwise, talking to your kids about food is as simple as talking about how certain foods have important vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients (like protein) to help us grow. Just do this as you are preparing a meal, grocery shopping, or getting ready for a snack.
If you don’t teach your kids what’s healthy, they’ll take cues from TV, school, and friends!
5. Explain Why You Exercise
If you want to instill a healthy body image in your child, exercise shouldn’t be about vanity. It should be about having fun, feeling good, and strengthening your body! Spend some time exercising with or in front of your child and talk about it! Kids love to move and they will love it if you include them. Try what I call my “laundry day” workout with them!
6. Focus Your Praise On Strength & Health
We have a tendency to tell our daughters that they’re, “so pretty”, and tell our sons that they are, “so handsome.” Even though we see our children as beautiful, it shouldn’t be the only thing they hear as far as praise from us parents.
If you want to instill a healthy body image in your child, praise your child for their strengths. (Like character and brains!) When your child does something nice for others, make sure they know that they did a good thing. If your child is doing well at school, make sure they know they are smart. If your child helped you move something big, tell them they are strong! You get the idea.
7. Be Choosy With Screen Time
Kids are easily influenced. The are still developing values and discretion. Therefore, be careful what they see on TV, YouTube, and more.
For example, I remember my mom didn’t let me watch things like Miss America and The Rugrats when I was a little girl. Why? Because Miss America IS a lot about looks, and Angelica was FRICKEN MEAN!
The point is that we really do have the power to protect our children. Even if the messages being sent are subtle, we need to be careful.
My daughter loves watching YouTube videos put out by veterinarians – and that is something that I can truly get behind because they are focused on helping animals and science!
8. Consider Extracurriculars Carefully
I know this sounds a little weird, but hear me out.
Activities your kids participate in matter.
Try to think about what is best for your child – not just what you would have wanted to do/did do. For example, I was a dancer and cheerleader through middle and high school. But now that I’m a parent, I don’t plan on letting my daughter participate in either of those activities unless she begs me.
The reason is that while both are great physical activities, both sports are a lot about LOOKS. In dance, you literally look at yourself in the mirror ALL DAY. If you ever get to the level of “serious” dancer, you could be staring at yourself – scrutinizing every look and movement – for several hours per day.
And cheerleaders? Let’s just say that we were encouraged to tan, forced to wear loads of makeup, fake eyelashes, short skirts, and we were on pretty serious diets. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen for my daughter.
Plus, I personally want my kids to ENJOY every sport or activity they get into. My daughter is in love with soccer, and I’m gonna roll with it. It’s more likely to stick, but it’s also going to build confidence and teach her a million lessons with time.
Do you have any other ideas on instilling a healthy body image in children?
Tell me about them below!