Please welcome back today’s guest posters Abbie Kelley, MA, LCPC and Julianne Neely, MSW, LSW, licensed therapists specializing in child, adolescent, and family counseling at Individual and Family Connection. I reached out to them after I heard my tween and two friends discussing whether they should diet at lunch, and they have some great thoughts on how parents can promote a healthy body image with their children.
Helping your children establish a healthy body image begins at home. However, it’s impossible to shelter our kids from the unrealistic body ‘norm’ perpetuated in the media that becomes filtered through their peers. So the question arises, how do you address the issue of body image as a family?
Whether your child is indeed struggling with a healthy weight or is instead struggling with their perception of a healthy weight, try to avoid the word ‘diet’. Instead, listen to your child’s concerns and discuss positive measures you can help them with at home to promote a healthy lifestyle. You can remind them that you love them just as they are, but still validate how they feel. View this as another means to connect with your child and to teach them about healthy choices.
10 ways to promote healthy body image in your home:
1) Become more aware of how you talk about your own body and health. If you are criticizing your body or others expect that your children will mirror this thinking. You are the first window through which they view the world; evaluate what that looks like.
2) Make sure you build your child’s sense of self by celebrating their unique selves (including body types) at home!
3) Make meal times a positive experience centered on nourishing your bodies and souls. One of our favorite mealtime discussion starters is ‘highs and lows’… have each person go around the table and talk about their high and low of the day!
4) Avoid using food as a reward or punishment. Don’t create forbidden foods. Instead utilize moderation.
5) Teach your children to be mindful about what they put in their bodies by setting aside time to eat rather than eating on the run.
6) Educate your children about healthy foods and the positive effects they have on the body.
7) Have discussions about healthy body weight, different body types, and media influence on body insecurity. By initiating these topics you give your child a safe forum to share their thoughts and feelings about body image. Help your children learn to celebrate ALL body types. Further, help your children recognize beauty in a variety of forms, such as eye color, personality, and style.
8) Discuss your child’s struggles as they arise. Fight your knee-jerk reaction to immediately ‘comfort’ your child and dismiss their concerns with comments such as, “No honey you’re perfect”. Instead, respond with open-ended questions such as, “help me understand that comment” or “that surprises me, can you tell me more” in order to begin a dialogue about their concerns.
9) Engage in physical activity as a family. Come up with activities together and even allow the kids to be in charge of planning occasionally. Make it fun and physical at the same time.
10) Keep negative norms or images out of the house and off the tv. Your kids soak those messages up and can internalize them.
As always, TRUST YOUR GUT!
If you are concerned about your child’s weight or their perception of their body, consult a professional. This is especially important if you see changes in your child’s eating patterns such as restricting food consumption or overeating, a change in wardrobe such as wearing baggy clothing, or if they express repeated critical statements of their body. Don’t wait for this to become a long-term pattern; it is always better to provide early intervention than respond to a crisis. When parents are able to address a problem early on, the treatment can be short term and empowering.
My sincere thanks to Abbie and Julianne for sharing these steps with us.
You may also like these posts from Abbie and Julianne: Advice for parents: Understanding anxiety in your child or Trouble in Tween Paradise: Relating to your child under stress
Abbie Kelley, MA, LCPC and Julianne Neely, MSW, LSW are licensed therapists specializing in child, adolescent, and family counseling. They share a private practice, Individual and Family Connection, where they treat children dealing with behavior problems, anxiety, low self-esteem, ADHD/ADD, and more. Abbie and Julianne are interactive, solution-based therapists who utilize a variety of techniques to help clients effectively address personal life challenges. They understand that every person and family goes through periods where extra support is needed and they consider it a privilege to step into others’ struggles and challenges in order to offer a listening ear and a helping hand. For more information visit: http://www.ifccounseling.com
Please like Tween Us on Facebook.
If you would like to get emails of Tween Us posts, please type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.