If you’re trying to figure out how to promote a positive body image in kids, you’ve come to the right place. We’re big believers in the power of self-confidence here at Meraki Lane, and recognize that when we’re not happy with ourselves, our feelings of inadequacy tend to spill over into other areas of our lives, which can have a negative impact on just about everything. And we don’t want that for our children! Keep reading for 11 body positivity tips and strategies you can start implementing today to ensure the little ones in your life grow up to feel comfortable and confident in their bodies.
What is Body Image?
Body image is a broad term that refers to the way you perceive yourself when you look in the mirror as well as the mental image you have of yourself. Body image involves the way you feel about the shape, size, and physical appearance of your body, as well as the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs you have about yourself.
Contrary to popular belief, someone with a positive body image doesn’t think of him- or herself as perfect. Quite the contrary, actually! Almost everyone has something they’d like to change about themselves, but if an individual is able to accept and feel good about him- or herself despite his or her flaws, he or she is thought to have a positive body image.
On the flip side, those with a negative body image have significant anxiety about themselves and their perceived flaws, which can lead to a whole host of challenges, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, relationship problems, and substance abuse.
11 Ways to Promote a Positive Body Image in Kids
While I like to think we’re turning a corner in the body positivity space, the reality is that many of us still struggle to achieve and maintain a positive body image, and we’re unknowingly passing these feelings onto our children. Social media makes this particularly tricky as it’s extremely one-sided, and thanks to photoshop and filters, our children are exposed to a very unrealistic view of the world. If you want to know how to promote a positive body image in kids, these ideas will inspire you.
1) Be a positive role model
It’s no secret that our children watch our every move, so if you want to know how to promote a positive body image in kids, it only makes sense that you need to model that behavior yourself. Of course, this goes above and beyond throwing your scale away and being mindful about how you talk about your body in front of your kids. It also means sharing your fears and failures with your child, showing him or her how you use constructive criticism to better yourself, replacing negative self-talk with positive self-talk, and engaging in regular self-care. Remember to be the change you want to see in your child, even if it pushes you outside your comfort zone.
2) Focus on your child’s abilities instead of looks
While I’m all for teaching our children to put their best foot forward each day, they need to learn that their value comes from within. Our kids are already exposed to an unrealistic portrayal of physical perfection on social media each day, and it’s up to us as parents to ensure they recognize the importance of all of their other attributes. Instead of telling your daughter she looks beautiful in her dance costume, commend her on the strength and coordination she demonstrated in her performance. Rather than telling your son he looks adorable in his soccer uniform, remind him that the goals he scored in his game were directly correlated to the time and effort he put in at practice each week.
3) Watch your language!
If you’re looking for tips to teach you how to promote a positive body image in kids, pay attention to the language you use. We’ve already talked about the importance of using positive self-talk and focusing on your child’s abilities instead of his or her looks, and I encourage you to take this a step further and exercise caution when speaking about others. We often use negative (and hurtful!) descriptive language when discussing the people in our lives without even realizing it. Words like, ‘fat’, ‘thin’, ‘aggressive’, ‘bitchy’, ‘bossy’, and ‘lazy’ come to mind, but there are tons of other ways we label people in our day-to-day discussions. Instead of using descriptions when referring to others, get into the habit of using their names. This will teach your children (and you!) to look beyond outward appearances and get to know people for who they really are.
4) Prepare your child for the changes that happen during puberty
The teenage years can be a tough time for girls and boys alike. Lots of changes are happening, and children aren’t always prepared. They’re probably aware of the basics, but do they know the changes in their hormones will cause the shape and size of their bodies to change? Are they aware they will sweat more? Are they prepared for abrupt changes in their mood? Take the time to sit and talk to your child about it all, reassure them that it’s 100% normal, and make sure they feel comfortable asking questions along the way.
5) Encourage healthy eating and physical activity
This can be a sensitive topic, particularly with girls, and probably deserves its own blog post, but if you’re looking for tips to teach you how to promote a positive body image in kids, there are subtle ways you can encourage a healthy lifestyle, which will naturally lead to a more positive body image. Teach your kids the purpose of different types of foods and how they fuel our bodies, prepare wholesome and nutritious meals, get them involved in the kitchen, and help them find a sport or activity to keep them active. You can do all of these in a positive way, which can have a profound impact on the way your child will approach nutrition and exercise as he or she gets older.
6) Teach your child how to deal with negative influences
I believe our lives are a direct result of the choices we make and the people we surround ourselves with, and if you’re trying to figure out how to promote a positive body image in kids, teaching them to surround themselves with people who lift them up is a great strategy. Of course, this isn’t always possible. They may be other kids at school who treat your child unfairly and/or a family member who seemingly goes out of their way to say hurtful things to your child out of jealousy. Teach your child that the way others treat us is often a reflection of their own insecurities. It very rarely has anything to do with us!
7) Write down 3 positive things about each other
Another great way to instil body positivity in your child is to create a morning (or evening) ritual whereby you list 3 things you like about yourselves and each other. This is a great activity you can do as a family, and will train your child’s brain to focus on his or her positive qualities and features.
8) Monitor your child’s social media use
Social media can be…complicated. It helps us stay connected to the ones we love as well as those we aspire to become, and while I’ve definitely seen a shift in people sharing more honest and raw glimpses into their lives on Instagram, that still seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Social media can be especially damaging to kids who are going through body changes and struggling with their body image. Consider monitoring – or at least limiting – your child’s social media usage and encourage them to follow accounts that are supportive and up-lifting.
9) Fight negativity with positivity
Another great tip for parents who want to know how to promote a positive body image in kids is to get them into the habit of challenging every negative thought they have about themselves with 3 positive ones. This can seem silly and even a bit tedious, but with your guidance, your child will eventually train his or her brain to focus on the positives instead of the negatives, which can have a profound impact on his or her internal dialogue.
10) Practice daily gratitude
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m a big believer in the power of gratitude. It took some getting used to, especially since I thought my gratitude list had to be filled with huge and awesome things. But once I started focusing on the little, seemingly inconsequential stuff, it just sort of had a ripple effect. I found myself searching for the positives instead of the negatives, and if you’re trying to figure out how to promote a positive body image in kids, this should be high on your list of things to try.
Of course, this is something you will have to practice yourself and model for your children, and if you’re looking for a guided gratitude journal to help you get started, I highly recommend The Five-Minute Journal. It’s a simple yet powerful tool you can use to train your brain to start and end each day with feelings of gratitude so you can learn how to be a happy and positive person. And it only takes 5 minutes to complete! The Five-Minute Journal is also available for kids, so you can purchase a set for the entire family and make it a ritual you complete together.
11) Teach positive affirmations
Positive affirmations – a practice of positive thinking and self-empowerment – are another fabulous way to boost your child’s body positivity. They are short and simple phrases that can help you overcome negative, self-sabotaging thoughts and replace them with positive, self-affirming beliefs. In order to be successful, positive affirmations must be present-tense statements. Instead of saying ‘I will…’, say ‘I am…’, and repeat your positive phrase of choice over and over until you start to believe it! CLICK HERE for our favorite positive affirmations for kids!
I hope these tips and ideas help you in your quest to learn how to promote a positive body image in kids. Remember to be a positive role model, to remind your child of his or her positive attributes, to discuss and monitor social media usage, and to practice daily gratitude. Teach your child to fight negativity with positivity, and to surround him- or herself with people who lift them up instead of tear them down. Lead by example and remind your child often that he or she is enough!
This post contains affiliate links.
If you found these tips to teach you how to promote body positivity in kids helpful, please share this post on Pinterest!
And if you’re looking for more parenting tips and tricks, please follow our Parenting board where we share all kinds of great ideas we find each day!