Be safe. have fun. stay fit.
Are you being bombarded by social media content devoted to "New Year's" diets and workouts? Many people I know are...which means if your tweens and teens are on social media they are likely being barraged by it too. It made me realize that now is a particularly good time to check in with kids about body image. Kids as young as 9, of all genders, can start to feel insecure about their bodies. And let's face it, being in a swim suit can bring these negative thoughts out in the best of us.
If we're lucky, our kids will come to us if they have concerns about their weight, appearance or puberty shifts that can seem to happen overnight. but more likely it's up to us to start this conversation. Here's a good script-starter:
“You know, I was looking at Instagram the other day, and I noticed how many posts this time of year talk about diets, exercise and appearance. Are you seeing them too? What do you think of them?”
Sharing this may be enough to start a conversation immediately, or it may not. Either way, by trying to address body image head-on with our tweens and teens, we let them know that we’re here to listen and support them in their whole health. Your child doesn’t need you to have all the answers. They need a listening ear so they know they’re not alone.
Whether or not that direct conversation works, here are some tips to use in your daily interactions to help promote a positive body image:
1. Focus on the whole person, and health.
Emphasize the importance of health and self-care. This can help them focus on overall well-being and positive self-image. Avoid commenting on their appearance, and instead focus on their unique qualities and strengths. Encourage them to think about their whole person, and of their body in a more positive or functional way.
2. Listen and validate their feelings.
It's essential to listen to your kids' feelings and validate their experiences. This can help build trust and open communication around all kinds of sensitive issues.
3. Be a positive body image role model.
Model acceptance of your own body to help your child accept theirs. Avoid "diet" language, and refrain from making negative comments about your body or others', or physical appearance ideals. Instead, focus on positive and functional aspects of your body.
4. Encourage positive self-talk.
Model positive self-talk in your own behavior. Sit down with your child and make a list of positive self-talk statements. This helps them understand what positive talk sounds like, and how it can be applied in different situations.
If you begin to notice warning signs such as constant self-criticism, changes in eating patterns or social withdrawal, address these concerns with care and support, and speak to your child's pediatrician. For a lengthier article on this topic, read this.