Help Your Children Form a Healthy Body Image

January 6, 2020
Adolescence is a complicated stage in which the physical aspect acquires great relevance. Hence, as parents, it's essential to help our children develop a healthy body image to avoid self-esteem problems. 

Our body image is what we think and feel about our body, which may or may not coincide with reality. As adolescence approaches, children pay more attention to their physical appearance and form an opinion about it. That’s why it’s so important to help your children develop a healthy body image.

A healthy body image means feeling comfortable and happy with our physical appearance, which will ultimately result in good health. Adolescence is a complex stage: it’s the time when we shape our identity. However, it’s also a stage of emotional instability and physical changes that directly affect our self-concept.

How can a negative body image affect my children?

According to Carmen Rodriguez and Antonio Caño (2012), adolescence is a relevant period for the formation of self-esteem, and in which individuals are vulnerable to experience a decrease in it.

Teenagers who aren’t comfortable with their bodies tend to develop a negative body image about their appearance. This dissatisfaction towards their own body can be caused by various factors that can generate serious self-esteem issues.

Risk factors

  • Being overly concerned about other people’s opinions. They care very much about how others see them and compare themselves continuously.
  • Perfectionist personality. Adolescents who, despite fitting into the facets of social beauty, continue to worry about their body, wanting to achieve perfection.
  • Belonging to a group of friends, a team, or dance group that emphasizes a specific body type.
  • Feeling under pressure from family members, classmates or, of course, the media.
Help Your Children Form a Healthy Body Image

Consequences

Feeling total satisfaction with our physical appearance is a difficult challenge that not everyone manages to achieve. In a world where looks are so important, we all want to look good and we want others to do so as well.

It’s normal for your children to want to feel happy with their bodies and to want others to consider them in high regard as well. However, when their concern becomes an obsession, serious emotional problems can arise:

  • Low self-esteem.
  • Isolation. They don’t want to leave the house or don’t want to go to events or parties.
  • Anxiety and stress.
  • Eating disorders. They relate the food with feelings of guilt.

How can I help my children develop a healthy body image?

Tips for developing a healthy body image

  • Teach your children to accept and value others regardless of what they look like.
  • Point out qualities in them that aren’t related to their appearance. Show them that you feel proud of their academic performance or their sense of humor.
  • Explain the dangers of fad diets. These types of diets are unhealthy and also tend to increase obsessive thoughts.
  • Be a role model for them. Let your children see how you focus on those qualities that aren’t part of your looks.
  • Help them make a list of positive aspects about themselves that don’t refer to their body.

Benefits of a healthy body image

Developing a positive perception of our appearance directly influences our mental health. That is, the level of acceptance of our body image is closely related to our self-esteem.

According to Dodgson and Wood (1998), young people with high self-esteem enjoy more positive experiences and also face negative experiences better. This means that they’ll generate more adaptive responses after failure. 

“Low self-esteem is like driving through life with the handbrake on.”

– Maxwell Maltz –

Help Your Children Form a Healthy Body Image

In short, a healthy body image means feeling comfortable and satisfied with our appearance. Although, nowadays, children and adolescents have it harder than ever due to social networks.

For young people, social networks are certainly their means of being in the world. Many times, they show us an image that isn’t realistic. Therefore, parents have the important task of teaching their children that, in order to please others, they must first like themselves.

  • Caño, A. y Rodríguez, C. (2012). Autoestima en la adolescencia: análisis y estrategias de intervención. International Journal of Psycholgy and Psychological Therapy, 12, 3. Facultad de Psicología. España: Málaga
  • Dodgson P.G. y Wood J.V. (1998). Self-esteem and the cognitive accessibility os strengths and weaknesses after failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 178.197