Teaching Your Child Body Positivity

Teaching your child body positivity is tough for most parents. Young children are continuously learning about the world but not all messages are clear or talked about when it comes to positive body image. Children are not only learning how to play and act with others but how others are viewing them. No matter what age you are we can all experience insecurities and discomforts when we compare ourselves to others.

Through my work with elementary-age students, I see these insecurities often starting with my 4th and 5th graders as they prepare for their transitions to middle school. They begin to care more about their presentation in clothing, hair, body size, etc. in comparison to their peers and the negative self-talk begins! The messages for how we should feel about ourselves are scattered with harmful messages throughout entertainment in movies, magazines, and social media sites, but those messages can begin at home too. When we look at our own families, we can pick up on the unspoken messages that have been passed through generations when it comes to body image and health.

Making intentional change begins with mindfulness practice and using compassion.  Ways you can begin teaching your child body positivity are:

  • Do not label food as “good” or “bad” Instead teach your kids about true hunger and fullness. Explain how eating healthy foods will make them feel energetic and prevent them from getting sick. 
  • Teach your child that how they look isn’t the most important or most interesting thing about them, talk about all the inner qualities that make them special.
  • Encourage individuality and expression in your child without judgment.
  •  When your child is displaying negative self-talk listen and ask questions. Sometimes just listening can help your child feel better about the negativity. Other times, you may need to direct them toward something positive about themselves.
  • As a parent, the best thing you can do to promote body positivity in your child is to teach by example. Build awareness of how you speak to yourself in the mirror. Try not to criticize or judge your appearance.

When we incorporate mindfulness practice consistently, we approach ourselves with less judgment and turn up compassion. Easy mindfulness practice is a love and kindness meditation to repeat when the negative chatter pops up.

Try repeating these statements in the mirror every day until they become a part of your inner dialogue:

May I be happy.

May I be safe.

May I be healthy, peaceful, and strong.

May I give and receive appreciation today.

To continue learning and exploring parenting with healthy body image take a look at  these resources below:

Website including podcast, book recommendations, and additional resources:

Family Activity: watch the video “ The Reflection in Me” and discuss it together.

Podcast: Peace and Parenting with Michelle Kenney, M. Ed. episode: Body image

About the Author: Brianna Cook is a School-Based Mental Health Therapist at Laurel Nokomis Elementary School. To learn more about our school-based therapy program, click here.