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Teach Your Child About Self-Esteem and Body Image

Children are not born being self-conscious of their bodies or displeased with their appearance. Over time, some children develop a negative body image that can cause lowered self-esteem and a distorted body image.

Much of what your child will perceive and believe about their own body will come directly from what they hear you say about yours. Referring to yourself or others as too fat, too skinny, or unattractive will cause them to become confused about what is truly okay.

On the other hand, your own healthy attitude and habits will inspire them to view themselves with confidence!

Preschool

Helping your child develop a positive body image starts at birth and continues into adulthood. Babies naturally take pleasure in their own body and in yours. Watch any nursing baby! Preserving your young child’s delight in being inside their own skin will take thoughtfulness and conscious effort.

Every baby’s smiling face holds the image of true beauty!
Modern cultures have unfortunately held up ideals of beauty that are not natural or healthy. Issues of height, weight, skin color and muscular development have blurred our perception of what beauty really is. Media influences reinforce this.

Being careful with how we view others and how we remark about ourselves will keep young children from developing a skewed idea of what beauty is and isn’t. Valuing each child as precious, helping them develop their gifts and talents, dealing with each one in a generous way will help them build a strong sense of self.

Main points to address:

  • Developing a positive body image and good self-esteem starts at birth.
  • Protect your young child from the world’s idea of beauty.
  • Treasure your child the just way he or she is.

Grades K-3rd

Most children enter school having limited exposure to people who may be different than them. They will be playing and learning with others who will be more or less tolerant and kind than they. Confusion and hurt feelings in these early years out in the world can cause youngsters to develop doubts about their appearance and abilities.

As a parent you can counter this with by loving them and reassuring them that they are wonderful. Remind kids ages 5 to 9 that they are unique- formed just the way they were meant to be.

Make sure your family has healthy eating habits and that all family members get plenty of exercise. Avoid bringing issues of size or weight to the dinner table. Studies show that children who are told they must go on a diet or who are around others who are forever dieting may grow up to have eating disorders, such as bulimia, binge eating or anorexia nervosa.

All children go through stages during growth that may cause them to temporarily be “skinny” or “chubby”. If you keep your child physically active and provide healthy meals and snacks they will likely even out at maturity.

Main points to address:

  • Teach your child to be tolerant of the differences in others.
  • Remind them they are unique and wonderful just as they are.
  • Keep discussions of dieting away from the dinner table.
  • Serve healthy meals and provide opportunities for physical activity.

Grades 4-6th

Children 9 to 12 are probably beginning to enter puberty. Girls start earlier than boys. This can be a time of great self-doubt and confusion for your child due to the changes that occur in the brain, the body and the emotions.

Helping your child maintain good hygiene will save them from the unkindness of school mates. Make sure they have their own grooming supplies and that they have an opportunity to bathe each day. Take them to get their hair styled in a neat and age-appropriate style.

As you teach them about the changes they will experience during puberty, remind them that they will go through several stages that might feel strange or awkward to them. Reassure your child that everyone goes through these same stages in their own unique way.

Continue to promote physical activity and provide healthy and appealing meals to ensure they have what they need to feel good and develop healthy bones, teeth, skin and hair.

Letting your child have their own tastes and preferences, and encouraging their gifts, will help them build and maintain a good self-concept. Providing the resources they will need to follow their own natural bent will enable them to become more of who they are. Children who are good at their “own thing” have stronger self-concepts.

Above all, listen to your preteen. They need to be able to express their hopes and dreams, doubts and fears. Your child will appreciate your non-judgmental and open manner.

If you feel your child’s self-esteem is low, and does not seem to be improving after a bit, whether due to a negative or unrealistic body image or not- get the help of a counselor or physician just to be sure the problem is not serious. Most of the self-esteem and body image issues your child will encounter growing up will correct themselves in time if he or she feels loved and valued.

Main points to address:

  • Provide the supplies your child needs to maintain good hygiene.
  • Prepare them for the normal changes all children go through while growing up.
  • Promote your child’s self-esteem by encouraging their gifts and talents.
  • Listen to them!
  • Get professional help if you suspect an eating disorder or low self-esteem that does not seem to improve.

Resources
Resources that can help you in your venture include:

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