Learning About Supporting a Healthy Body Image

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How can you encourage a healthy body image?

Children start to form opinions about their bodies at a young age. Girls are more likely than boys to feel bad about their bodies. TV and movies, social media, and ads can all play a role. So can the attitudes of friends and family members, or pressures from certain sports or activities. But there are things you can do to help shape a positive body image.

  • Be positive about your own body.

    Parents are the early models for how kids learn to think about their bodies. Help your child learn to value their body by showing them how you value your own. Don't criticize what you see as your flaws. Instead, try to focus on what you like about your body. What are you grateful it can do? And be careful about how you talk about other people's bodies.

  • Model healthy habits.

    Choose healthy meals. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. Don't skip meals. Look for exercise you can do together. Make it part of your daily life. Try not to talk about dieting and exercising to lose weight. Instead, talk about healthy eating and physical activity as a part of being healthy for life.

  • Take your child's insecurities seriously.

    It might be hard for you to understand why your child is focused on things like their freckles, their kneecaps, or the size of their calves. Some childhood worries can seem silly to parents, or unfounded. But these things are very real to your child. So be a good listener. Ask your child questions about why they feel the way they do.

  • Compliment qualities that aren't about looks.

    This helps send the message that your child is much more than how they look. Praise traits like being kind, independent, or brave. And give compliments about what your child's body can do, rather than how it looks. Focus on things like strength, balance, and coordination.

  • Talk about media images.

    The way people are shown on TV, in ads, and on social media can have a big impact on how a child thinks about their own body. You can help your child learn to recognize problems with these images by talking about them.

  • Call the doctor if you're concerned.

    Talk to your doctor if you are worried about changes in your child's behavior or attitude. This may include things like changes in eating or sleeping patterns, school performance, or mood. It could also include an increased focus on dieting and weight. If you think your child may be feeling depressed or anxious, your doctor can share resources that can help.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.