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Body Image - Children/Tweens

Puberty and body image

Puberty can be an especially difficult time. Some boys (external link) and girls can be:

  • Anxious.
  • Dissatisfied with body shape or size.
  • Embarrassed by their maturing.
  • Concerned about weight gain or rapid growth spurts.
  • Experiencing low self esteem and body image.

7 things parents can say and do to encourage a healthy body image

  1. Recognize and accept that "healthy bodies" come in a variety of weights, shapes and sizes. There is no perfect body shape!
  2. Let your child know weight gain during puberty is normal. Encourage healthy food and exercise.
  3. Be aware of your own attitudes about food, weight and exercise. Your children are watching!
  4. Discuss how media stereotypes are unrealistic and are created to sell a product.
  5. Encourage healthy eating and physical activity for the entire family. Compliment your child for the healthy choices they make.
  6. Focus on actions. What they do is more important than how they look.
  7. Be a positive role model.

Top 4 things to avoid:

  1. Focusing on your child's weight or height.
  2. Body based teasing or nicknames.
  3. Talking about your own weight and appearance.
  4. Comparing yourself or your child with others.

More tips to help your child feel good about his/her body:

  • Help your child understand that genetics can play a role in determining body shape and size.
  • Focus on your child’s strengths and abilities. Help your child focus on them too.
  • Be aware of the non-verbal and verbal messages you send when you either look at yourself or others.
  • Encourage your child to express his or her feelings, and talk about what your child deals with at school (e.g. teasing).
  • Listen to what your child says about him or herself and others. Use these opportunities to talk about feelings.
  • Don’t weigh your child. A child’s weight should be compared to his or her own pattern of growth over a long period of time.
  • Talk about media messages and stereotypes. Discuss how these unrealistic images can affect self-esteem and body image (e.g. how men and women act, ideal body shape for men and women). Point out that a “perfect” size and shape does not create talent, competence and love despite media promises.
  • Celebrate your child’s uniqueness instead of striving for sameness. Focus on accomplishments, abilities and values.
  • Respecting cultural differences in looks, activities and preferences are important for body image. This teaches children acceptance, tolerance and opens children to new experiences.