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Is your child displaying body image issues?

If you're a parent, it’s important to be aware that body image issues in children aren't just limited to girls – boys experience them too. It's not just about their self-perception but also about how they believe others perceive them.

Below we'll discuss body image issues in children - from understanding what these issues mean for children to learning how to talk to your child if they're experiencing challenges with how they see their own body.

What Are Body Image Issues in Children?

Body image issues derive from how you see and what you feel about your own body. It's the thoughts you have about your looks and what you think others see when they look at you.

For children, these thoughts can have a big impact. It can impact how much they trust themselves, their self-esteem, and how much they enjoy life in general.

What Are Signs of Body Image Issues in Children?

Looking for signs of body image issues in children can be tricky.

Here's what to look out for:

Finding Flaws: If your child repeatedly talks about body parts they dislike.

Skipping Fun: If they're not attending activities they once loved because they're concerned about how their body looks.

Food Changes: If your child shows changes in how they eat, such as eating a lot more or a lot less, this can sometimes signal body image issues.

Negative Self-Talk: When they repeatedly make negative comments about their looks this may be a cause for concern.

Alone Time: If they're spending less time with friends and family and more time alone than usual, this could be an indicator of a change in mood.

How to talk to your child about body image issues

It's incredibly important to ensure your child feels comfortable and heard when discussing sensitive topics such as body image.

Check out our tips below on what to say/what not to say to your child.

Ways to help your child with their body image issues

Focus on listening to your child. When they're talking, let them express their thoughts and feelings without jumping in or interrupting. It can often be tempting to reassure your child that they look beautiful to you, but it’s important to listen to their self-perception rather than offering your opinion.

Normalise their feelings. It can sometimes be helpful to share that we all have negative thoughts and feelings about our body sometimes. Be careful not to dismiss their feelings but sharing that they are not alone in feeling this way can be helpful.

Praise other aspects of your child: Instead of focusing on image, remind them of their talents, skills, and admirable personality traits.

Focus on feeling healthy and happy: Tell them that taking care of themselves is like a mood booster, rather than focusing on how their body looks. Moving and staying healthy can have a positive impact on their mental health.

Be their ‘safe zone’: Make sure they know you're their go-to person when they need to talk. Create a space where they can open up without any fear. Promise that you won't judge them. This makes them feel comfortable sharing even the tough stuff.

Celebrate uniqueness: Remind them that everyone is different and that's what makes us special. Embracing their uniqueness is way cooler than trying to fit in.

Laugh it out: Sometimes, a bit of humour (used sensitively) can help to put things into perspective. Laugh together about silly body myths and unrealistic beauty standards.

Have open conversations about what they see online: Talk about how social media can show edited versions of reality. Remind them that what they see online isn't always true or accurate.

Reassure them that your love and support is unconditional. They should know you're always on their team, no matter what.

What Not to Do

Downplay Their Feelings: Don't minimise or ignore their feelings or tell them that they're overthinking. Their feelings are important and need to be validated.

Comparison Trap: Steer clear of comparing them to anyone else or bringing up "perfect" body ideals.

Weight Worries: Avoid focusing on weight or body shape. It's about their mental and physical wellness.

Commenting on looks: There is no need to make comments about their looks, even in jest. Be mindful of the impact of repeated jokes about body image.

When do I seek additional support for my child?

While occasional body image issues are very normal, persistent, and severe issues require professional intervention.

If you notice that your child's well-being, academic performance, or social life is significantly impacted, consider seeking help from a mental health professional, counsellor, or therapist. Early intervention can prevent these issues from getting worse.

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