The way your child feels about their body has a direct impact on their self-esteem. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, a negative body image has been associated with poor and unbalanced nutrition, low self-esteem, and impaired social interaction. Amy Hanson-Akins, Licensed Independent Social Worker, sees local clients in her Perrysburg office and specializes in eating disorders and body image. She has provided the following tips for Findlay Area Family to promote a healthy body image at home.
1. Increase awareness of your own body image. Examine how you feel about your own body. We live in a world with a thin ideal and this puts pressure on everyone, not just teens. Seek to heal your own body image first.
2. Promote normal eating patterns. Provide healthy meals for your family and teach children to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. This will help your child to stay in tune with their body’s natural process. Don’t force children to clean their plate or eat past the point of fullness.
3. Model movement. Our bodies are made to move, so keep kids active. Our goal in being active should be to feel energetic and experience the joy of activity, not to burn calories or “work off” our food.
4. Pay attention to how you talk about body image. Focus on being healthy and don’t comment about your own or a child’s body or weight. Affirm that they do not need to change their body to feel better about themselves.
5. Help pre-teens and teens accept their changing body. As your child goes through puberty be present to talk with them about the changes their body is going through. Be validating of emotions, yet reassuring.
It is important for parents to also know when professional help is needed. Signs of an eating disorder may include rigid eating patterns, skipping family meals, social isolation, and making negative comments about one’s weight. Hanson-Akins recommends the National Eating Disorder Association website for help or more information: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.