If you notice that your child lacks confidence, constantly talks negatively about her own looks and is always envious of other people's physical appearances, then it's time you help teach her how to be body positive.
Influence from media exposure (TV shows, fashion magazines, celebrities, etc) could be sending her unhealthy and distorted messages about what the "perfect body" looks like and what is deemed as beautiful.
So how can you as a parent teach your child to love herself and be more body positive?
1. Fat is not a dirty word
Imagine turning up at a family reunion dinner and your great-aunt loudly exclaims that you've gained a lot of weight since the last time you met, while your relatives sit there nodding their heads in agreement.
Why does this automatically feel like a stinging insult which makes you silently stew in humiliation as you use a fork to angrily stab at your dinner because you've lost your appetite?
When exactly did "fat" become a four-lettered word? Probably when people seem to use it as a derogatory remark towards someone to intentionally hurt them.
So even if others are using such terms as a way to cause offence, empower your child to let negative comments roll off her back and also ignore such small-minded individuals.
But at the same time, also remind her that some people genuinely might not have even meant it as an insult, so she should try not to take it to heart.
Teach your child that there's nothing wrong with being fat or thin, short or tall, dark-skinned or pale, because you love her just the way she is and she should too!
2. Be comfortable in your own skin
Are you guilty of looking in the mirror and muttering to yourself that you're "so old and fat now" as you poke your belly rolls, or how much you "hate your big nose" as you pinch it with your fingers?
You might not realise this but such negative comments about your physical appearance can influence your child's self-concept of body-related issues.
Your child looks up to you and learns a lot from you, so be mindful of what you are teaching her, even if you don't realise she's listening in to what you're saying or observing your actions.
How can you encourage your little one to love her own body if you're not comfortable with yours?
Remember that your child gets her looks from you and your partner, so by putting yourselves down, in a way you are also making her question her own appearance.
For your child to become body positive, you need to lead by example and embrace everything about yourself -- body hair, large feet, love handles and all!
3. Spot the Photoshop!
Are you amazed (or shocked) at the makeup skills of the average 16 year old nowadays?
Back when you were their age, you had no clue what contouring was or how to get your eyebrows on fleek!
But these picture-perfect girls and bronzed up muscular guys with heavy filters on Instagram, air-brushed models in fashion magazines, and gorgeous celebrities who have their own personal makeup artist and hair-stylist will most likely give your child unhealthy expectations of how she is supposed to look in order to be deemed attractive in the eyes of society.
The media also influences our perceptions of body image and beauty, so it is important that you point out the subtle (or sometimes very obvious!) photoshopped images of models and celebrities in the limelight to help your child understand the reality behind these seemingly perfect bodies.
Go to the next page for other effective ways to teach your child to be body positive
4. Food is food
Food is something that you eat to nourish your body, give you energy and delight your tastebuds.
There shouldn't be such thing as "good food" or "bad food" and it is advised to avoid using food as a reward or a punishment as this can actually cause your child to develop unhealthy eating habits.
She might think that every time she deserves a reward, she should reach for a big bag of chips, fistfuls of candy or other junkfood to treat herself, which can lead to overeating of such food with empty calories.
Don't make her feel guilty for snacking on such "treats" like chocolate chip cookies or gummy bears because this will make the "forbidden food" even more appealing (and she might secretly stuff her face with it behind your back!), but just make sure she does not over indulge.
Instead, give your child a good variety of food, make sure she has a well-balanced diet and use portion control to ensure healthy serving sizes.
5. Focus on what makes your child special
Most parents like to comment how pretty or handsome their child looks, but it's also important to give praises about other things besides physical appearances.
Make it a point to compliment your child on all her positive qualities, such as how helpful she is by taking care of her younger sibling, how kind she is for feeding a stray cat, or how responsible she is for studying for her upcoming exam.
She needs to understand that her self-worth is not just purely based on looks alone, but more on personal qualities and other talents that makes her who she is as a whole person.
6. No name-calling
Avoid picking on your child for how her body looks or imposing your own views of how you think she should look.
Even if she has put on a few pounds or can afford to gain some weight, your criticism could lead to eating and weight disorders.
Brian Wansink, Ph.D., Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab (Eating & Weight Disorders, 2016) advises, "If you're worried about your child's weight, avoid criticizing them or restricting food. Instead, nudge healthy choices and behaviors by giving them freedom to choose for themselves and by making the healthier choices more appealing and convenient."
Besides weight, you should not tease nor make fun of your child's other physical attributes in general, such as her ears that stick out, buck teeth, bushy mono-brow, short stature, curly hair, etc -- even if it's "just for fun", because it could still be upsetting and make her feel self-conscious.
On that note, perhaps just refrain from putting your child down about every little thing and maybe give positive parenting a try instead?
7. Dress to impress (yourself)
Go clothes shopping with your child and help her find the right clothes that is suitable for her body type and makes her look and feel comfortable in her own skin.
For example, if she is self-conscious about her muffin top, then skip the skin-tight shirts or crop tops; or if she doesn't like her lanky arms, then just avoid getting sleeveless shirts and dresses.
Teach her not to be a slave to fashion and that she doesn't have to blindly follow trends and try to fit in with the crowd, especially if the outfit she has on is not making her feel her very best.
What you wear is an extension of your personality and can affect the way you feel about yourself (in a good or even bad way), so it's important that your child is dressed comfortably in something that makes her happy and confident.
What else can you do to help your child become body positive? Keep reading to find out!
8. Create a list of what makes them awesome
Help your child make a top ten list of all her special qualities, talents or attributes.
Perhaps she has a lovely singing voice, or is great at playing basketball, or selflessly volunteers her free time at the local animal shelter?
Highlight all these wonderful points about her without focusing on just her looks and make her see how special she is as an individual.
Print this list out and let her decorate it then stick it up where she can easily see it every time she needs a reminder about how wonderful she is.
Let her know that all these positive qualities are what makes her a beautiful person inside and out!
9. Practice self-care
Another way for your child to be more body positive is to take time out for self-care and do things that makes her feel good about herself.
This can include:
- Listening to her favourite music
- Reading a good book
- Watching a funny movie
- Getting enough sleep
- Spending some time outdoors
- Keeping herself well-groomed
- Having fun with friends or family
- Meditating or praying
- Eating a nutritious meal
If your child is not stressed and feels happy in general, this could help with her body image and boost her self-esteem.
10. Make a positive change in the world
Instead of spending her time obsessing over how she looks or worrying about her weight, encourage your child to do some good deeds, volunteer her time for a charitable cause, lend a helping hand to others in need and just be a kind person in general.
The key to happiness can actually be found when you help somebody and participate in meaningful activities.
So the more good your child does for others, the better she will actually feel about herself which in turn could help with her journey to become body positive.
Let her know that the world doesn't really need more good-looking people, but could definitely do with more of those with beautiful hearts and souls.
What have you done as a parent to ensure that your child is growing up to be body positive? Let us know by leaving a comment below!