4 Ways to Help Your Kids Have a Healthy Body Image

Young-Girl-on-ScalesChildren are developing an unhealthy body image at younger and younger ages, said Cheri Harrison, MS, LCPC, pediatric program coordinator for the Memorial Center for Healthy Families at Memorial Medical Center. They feel there’s something wrong with the way they look and believe they need to change it.

“Kids are picking up what they’re seeing and what they’re hearing, and they’re taking that to heart, and it develops over time,” Harrison told Ray Lytle on a recent Ask The Expert program on radio station WTAX.

How do you help your kids have a healthy body image? Harrison offered the following suggestions.

Be Alert for Warning Signs:Watch out if children hyper focus on certain parts of their bodies. They may say things such as, “Have you seen my arms?” or “Have you looked at my waist?” They may pull back from social situations that they were previously enjoyed. They may not want to spend a lot of time with friends or go to family events. They might dress differently, perhaps wearing looser clothes, or stop eating certain foods.

Focus on What’s Inside: Body image deals with what you think about your external characteristics, the physical components of your body. Parents need to help direct their children to focus on their internal attributes. Point out how they’re a great athlete, a good listener or how they are kind to other people.

Make Positive Friendships: Help pair your kids up with other kids who share similar interests that don’t involve external characteristics. For example, if your child enjoys volunteering, help her connect with other kids who also like to volunteer. Encourage them to seek out friends with similar internal attributes to see if they mesh together.

We’re All Different: It’s OK to acknowledge that sometimes things in life are hard. It’s normal to notice things about your body that you might wish were different. Many people have things they would like to change, but it’s important to accept that you are who you are.

Cheri Harrison, MS, LCPC, is the pediatric program coordinator at the Memorial Center for Healthy Families. She has worked with children, adolescents and their families for eleven years and enjoys helping families learn to overcome areas they may be struggling with and work toward achieving their goals. Cheri earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Eastern Illinois University and her Master of Science in Clinical Psychology and Community Mental Health from Western Illinois University.