Help Your Kids Love Their Bodies

Parent – Child Activities for Better Body Image

Health Educator, Liz Barnes, shares her ideas for keeping kids self-esteem strong.

Myth #1: “How I look is more important than who I am.”
• Read “Beauty and the Beast,” and discuss the idea of objectification.
• Explore, together, the history of body ideals—corsets and Chinese foot binding are good places to start.
• Page through a magazine together, noticing the unrealistic images that predominate the pages. Search for realistic standards that promote self-esteem and healthy lifestyles.
• Watch a video that illustrates how the media’s images of beauty are often fabricated.
• Emphasize inner qualities in your children. Complement their accomplishments, good deeds and personalities.

Myth #2: “Everyone can be thin if they work hard enough.”
• Teach your kids that every person has their own unique body type, and that complete control over body type and weight is not possible. Teach them that body shape is a lot like height—there’s not much they can do to change shape but they can stay fit by being active and maintaining healthy body composition.
• Help them recognize and appreciate the wide variety of body shapes and sizes. Looking at the different body types of athletes make good examples—jockeys, swimmers, runners, wrestlers and baseball players all have different strengths thanks to their different body shapes.
• Help them understand that it is normal to experience an increase in body fat before and during puberty. Teach them that this increase has a biological purpose.
• Model respect for diversity by showing appreciation of your own body type. Don’t let your kids overhear you complain about your thighs or lament about how much you overate.

Myth #3: “Dieting is effective.”
• Help them understand that severe caloric restriction is ineffective and unhealthy in the long term.
• Focus on eating more healthy foods rather than eating fewer foods.

Myth #4: “Eating healthy and exercising is too hard, and no fun!”
• Teach the importance of a balanced diet, and the pitfalls of relying on meals that provide little nourishment. The best way to teach this is by example.
• Teach the importance of an active lifestyle, and how it can be fun as well as health promoting. Get active with your kids.
• Choose fun fitness activities that the whole family can enjoy.

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