Being on social media and the internet, in general, may be exposing your children to images and ideas that are negatively affecting their self-esteem. As a result, many young people suffer from an unhealthy relationship with food or some form of an eating disorder.
Anyone can develop an eating disorder. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, but men can have it, too.
People who have an eating disorder should be seen by a mental health professional. They will be recommended to undergo an anorexia or a bulimia treatment program. If the eating disorder remains unaddressed, it may unfortunately lead to tragic consequences.
As a parent, you can guide your child and help them develop a healthy body image as they grow up.
Avoid Fat Talk
You may not have heard the concept of “fat talk” before, but you and all the people in your life have, at some point, engaged in it.
Fat talk was a term coined in 1994 by researchers who observed that middle school girls, in particular, talk about their bodies in a self-abasing way. The most accurate description of the phenomenon is in the 2005 teen movie Mean Girls when the four female leads take turns pointing out their flaws in front of a mirror.
Obesity is a problem in the United States, but when people engage in fat talk, it is rarely about the aspect of their appearance that they can control. Moreover, fat talk does not help anyone. Just three minutes of doing it increase body dissatisfaction.
Be conscious about how you talk about weight and appearances in front of your child. Do not use the word “fat” as an insult or as the punchline to the joke. You need to change your child and your perspective of “fat.” Fat, after all, is not inherently bad.
Compliment Your Child
Replace fat talk at home with compliments. You are encouraged to say something positive about your child’s appearance, but do not stick to just praising their looks. You have to also acknowledge their talents and other traits.
Avoid criticism, even if it is in a teasing manner. Saying that your child is too chubby will not help their self-esteem. Nor will making fun of their acne make them more confident.
If you want your children to feel self-assured among their peers, you need to create a positive environment at home first.
Emphasize the importance of physical activity not to push them to lose weight, but to improve their overall well-being. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that school-aged children (6 to 17) should do around an hour of moderate-to-vigorous workout.
Exercising will help them maintain a healthy body weight which will help them be more confident about their appearance. It also pushes them to be more social and to improve their physical skills if they engage in team sports.
Be a Good Role Model
Your child looks up to you for guidance. If you want them to see themself as beautiful, you have to stop criticizing your appearance in front of them.
Work on creating a healthy body image of your own. Drop the negative adjectives when you talk about your own body or another person’s body. Do not go on extreme diets to lose weight (they rarely work anyway), especially not in front of your child.
An unhealthy body image affects your child’s physical and mental health. Do not be afraid to talk to your child about positivity.