Thursday, August 4, 2011

Healthy Body Image in Children

Sometimes it seems overwhelming to try and compete with media that displays distorted images of beauty. However, research supports that mothers actually make a huge impact on their daughters' body image. The key is to make sure that that impact is positive rather than negative. This post contains some pointers on both what to avoid, and tips how to boost your daughter's self-esteem.

You are the strongest influencer your daughter has! Here's a great explanation by womenshealth.gov:

“Your children pay attention to what you say and do — even if it doesn't seem like it sometimes. If you are always complaining about your weight or feel pressure to change your body shape, your children may learn that these are important concerns. If you are attracted to new "miracle" diets, they may learn that restrictive dieting is better than making healthy lifestyle choices. If you tell your daughter that she would be prettier if she lost weight, she will learn that the goals of weight loss are to be attractive and accepted by others.

“Parents are role models and should try to follow the healthy eating and physical activity patterns that you would like your children to follow — for your health and theirs. Extreme weight concerns and eating disorders, as well as obesity, are hard to treat. Yet, you can play an important role in preventing these problems for your children.”

Some things that spark weight/dieting concerns:
  • Having mothers concerned about their own weight
  • Having mothers who are overly concerned about their daughters' weight and looks
  • Natural weight gain and other body changes during puberty
  • Peer pressure to look a certain way
  • Struggles with self-esteem
  • Media images showing the ideal female body as thin
Some things to help with body image:
  • Make sure your child understands that weight gain is a normal part of development, especially during puberty
  • Avoid negative statements about food, weight, and body size and shape
  • Allow your child to make decisions about food, while making sure that plenty of healthy and nutritious meals and snacks are available
  • Compliment your child on her or his efforts, talents, accomplishments, and personal values
  • Restrict television viewing, and watch television with your child and discuss the media images you see
  • Encourage your school to enact policies against size and sexual discrimination, harassment, teasing, and name-calling; support the elimination of public weigh-ins and fat measurements
  • Keep the communication lines with your child open
Finally- and possibly most importantly- make sure to develop a relationship with your daughter. Even as a teen when she seems like she doesn’t need a parent, she still cares. Love her constantly and be a good example, even when she makes poor choices. Here are some suggestions from girlshealth.gov:
  • Spend time with your daughter and make sure she knows you care
  • Be a good role model for your daughter: Eat right, exercise, deal with stress in healthy ways, and don’t use harmful substances
  • Try to find a good balance between work and fun in your own life - this will show your daughter that she can have balance in her life
  • Teach her good values and a sense of responsibility, then trust her to make good choices
  • Set rules and stick with them, because this provides an understanding of expectation and keeps her out of high-risk situations with too much peer pressure
We can be our daughters' greatest assets!
    References and other resources:

    Ten things parents can do to help prevent eating disorders: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/nedaDir/files/documents/handouts/10Parent.pdf

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