Children of all ages are exposed to ideas about thinness by parents, peers, and other sources. Starting in grade school, children may become more aware of body image as they compare themselves to others.
Adolescents often become extremely concerned about their bodies and their weight. This is understandable since dramatic physical changes are occurring. Unrealistic media images of the ideal body also add to their concerns.
There are many ways adults can help children and teens develop a healthy view of themselves and reduce their risk for an eating disorder:
- Compliment children about the things they do, not always on how they look. When commenting on how children look, focus on their eyes, hair, or smile, not on their height, weight, body size, or body shape.
- Talk in terms of your child’s health, personality, achievements in school, activity level, and other healthy lifestyle choices.
- Avoid making comments that link being thin to being popular or healthy.
- Teach children to take good care of their bodies.
- You are your child’s first and most important role model. How you think and talk about your weight and your health have a lasting impact on your child. Take time to reflect on your words and actions.
- Give children and teens some freedom to make choices that are appropriate for their age and maturity.
- Talk with them each day. Find out what is happening at school and with their friends. Listen to their concerns.
- Help them solve their own problems in ways that they think will work.
- Talk with children and teens about their heroes and favourite adults in their lives. Encourage them to have many different kinds of heroes.
- Praise children and teens for the things that make them different from other people.
For information on eating disorders, visit My Health Alberta, or if you are concerned with your child’s body image call Health Link at 811 for more information.