Tag Archive for: body image

By Ellen Dippel, MSW, LSW – March 27, 2024

Body positivity is having its moment, and I think we should all be excited about that. Through the decades we’ve seen fashion change, and along with that so do beauty standards. It seems as though the bar is always moving and always out of reach.

In the world kids live in today, they are surrounded by images of what “beauty” is and constantly being told what they can do to achieve that standard. But as more people come forward and embrace their bodies with all of their beautiful imperfections, how can we capitalize on this to help grow body-positive children?

To start, we need to understand the harm caused by commenting on a person’s body, even our own body in front of our kids. Even when we think they are not listening, they are, and those little sponge-like brains internalize whatever message we’re putting out into the world. When we are constantly putting ourselves down in front of our kids, they hear that. In addition, making comments on a child’s weight has lasting effects such as decreased self-esteem, depression, body dysmorphia and disordered eating.

We should always encourage our children to live a healthy lifestyle. It is important to teach kids from a young age that weight does not equate to health. When kids see or hear their parents or other trusted adults talk about people with bigger bodies in a negative way and deem them “unhealthy,” they internalize it.

When teaching kids the power of body positivity, the most important thing to do is start by being a good role model. Be careful about the words you use to describe yourself and how you talk about your body. Be sure to speak of your own body using positive terms. Also, talk to your kids about how all bodies are different and their body isn’t expected to look just like anyone else’s. Make sure you set yourself up as someone they trust and can talk to when they are feeling self-conscious.

Trying to work on your own relationship with food and exercise can also be a great way to role model for children. So often we look at foods as “good” or “bad,” but really all of it is just fuel for our bodies. Some foods give us more fuel, while others might make us feel like they have drained the fuel. This is a great way to talk about food with kids. There is a time and place for all types of snacks and treats. Talk about fueling our bodies, what foods give us more energy, and what foods are going to make us feel stronger. It’s also important to stress that you never have to “earn” food through exercise. Be sure you’re showing your kids that exercise is there to make you feel good, get stronger, and have more energy, and not just to be thin or fit a specific body type.

Eating disorders for young people are on the rise every year, but with more people coming forward and actively loving their bodies at all different shapes and sizes, we are moving in a direction to allow kids to feel comfortable and confident. 

By Brooke Skipper, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 22, 2017 –

The word “FAT” …we’ve all said it about ourselves.  We eat a big meal or try on an outfit and declare, “I feel so FAT!”

Like all things we say and do, our children pick up on this “feeling” of being fat.  They watch us pinch and poke and criticize our bodies in the mirror; then they model that same behavior.

The end result is a new generation of kids with negative body images and all the consequences that come with it.

Young people with a positive body image feel more comfortable and confident in their ability to succeed in life.  They don’t obsess about calorie intake or their weight.  They understand that eating is about fueling their body to enjoy physical activity and remain healthy.  They see their body as beautiful for the things it accomplishes, not its outward appearance.

On the other hand, when children have a negative body image, they feel more self-conscious, anxious  and depressed.  They are at greater risk for developing eating disorders and unhealthy habits in general.

 So, what can we do as parents to help promote a healthy, positive body image in our children?  Here are five ways you can instill this in your child.
  1. First and foremost, we need to check our own body image issues.  Our children think we are beautiful. If they hear us constantly putting ourselves down or expressing a desire to change the way we look, they will begin to question their view of their own bodies.  Pay attention to how you talk about food and weight.  Model positive body imaging in all you do.
  2. Talk in terms of what is healthy, not in terms of weight.  Never use words like fat or skinny.  Use the words healthy and unhealthy.  (i.e.- It is healthy for us to eat nutritious meals every day to fuel our body for the energy we need to do our day-to-day tasks.  It is healthy for us to be physically active and keep our body functioning at its best.  It is unhealthy to restrict calories or starve ourselves.  Make eating healthy, balanced meals and getting exercise part of everyday life so it becomes routine habit, not just a way to lose weight.)
  3. Eliminate the myth of the picture-perfect body.  Children are inundated with media images constantly.  In television, movies  and magazines, they see unrealistic bodies and believe those images are what they need to attain.  Beyond the Photoshop world of standard media, children have a steady stream of social media on their electronic devices.  This makes it so easy to compare their body type to that of their peers and to obsess over the perfect selfie angles and filters to achieve the look that will garner the most “likes.”  Remind your child that beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes.
  4. Be holistic in your compliments to your child.  Particularly with girls, it is habit to compliment their appearance.  Instead, use compliments that address your child’s skills, strengths and personal qualities.  Remind your child there is so much more to her than the way she looks.
  5. Be aware of body changes at puberty  and avoid commenting on size or shape of body parts.  Children’s bodies can change dramatically at puberty, leading some children to feel insecure about their bodies.  Puberty also happens at different times for children, so lack of change can lead to your child feeling insecure as well.  It is important to talk to children about the normal changes to expect at puberty to help prepare them.  Being sensitive to these changes helps your child feel more comfortable with their body and you.
Remember, boys are just as susceptible to developing a negative body image as girls.  It is important to apply these tips to all children.  Like most things in parenting, a healthy, happy, body-positive child starts with you!