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Nurture Your Children's Positive Body Image for Healthy Outlook

Children pick up behaviors by watching grown-ups. If you show your children nutritious eating habits, they’re more likely to follow your example. If you’re constantly dieting and criticizing your body, they’ll begin to disrespect theirs, too.

A study conducted by Glamour magazine on 4,000 young women examined the effects that their mothers’ dieting had on their eating habits. The subtle messages that daughters of dieters received from their parents greatly affected them. The more often a mother dieted, the greater the likelihood that her daughter dieted, too, regardless of the child’s age. The study also revealed that a father’s teasing about his daughter’s body often had a stinging effect on body image and dieting behavior.

Letting your children know that they are loved and perfect just the way they are is a good strategy. If they don’t feel criticized by you for their size or shape, they’ll become able to accept and feel good about themselves. Let them share their thoughts about their size with you. Help them to discover that people come in all shapes and sizes and that their outsides have nothing to do with their insides.

Focus on the tangible things that the child excels at — notice and acknowledge when her room is cleaned, she helps a friend, or finishes her homework without being told. This allows the child to view herself in a positive way.

You know many wonderful and unique things about your child. Have you shared them with him lately? Consider the following list. Your opinions can color your child’s body perception in subtle ways.

  • Examine your expectations of your child’s body.

  • Examine your own beliefs and prejudices about body weight.

  • Link respect for diverse body shapes and sizes with diversity of race, ethnicity, and so on.

  • Realize that it’s okay to criticize a child’s behavior, but it’s not okay to criticize the child.

  • Take the opportunity to praise a child’s behavior, and make the compliment specific.

  • Don’t model poor behavior by criticizing your own body shape, make excuses for not exercising because of your weight, or talk about your need to diet.

  • Encourage eating only in response to hunger.

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