How To Raise Your Children To Be Positive About Their Bodies

In July, a video about a girl in Shandong, China misconstruing her father's wish for her to shed some kilos as his own took the Internet by storm. The viral video shared via South China Morning Post captures a brief conversation between the father and his daughter as they're walking. Believing his daughter to be slightly overweight for her age, the father made her walk by the river after dinner daily, secretly hoping to help her keep fit. However, the daughter misunderstood his motivation and thought that it was he who was trying to lose weight. Flipping the script, the girl comforted his father that he didn't need to slim down because she would always love him regardless of his look. Needless to say, the girl's sweet reaction has warmed the hearts of untold millions. While this is a lovely illustration of how family members should assist one another, it also draws attention to a potentially unhealthy issue: body image awareness.


With the rise of social media, today's society is saturated with an image-driven culture that affects both adults and children. Children with a good body image by conventional standards rarely have self-esteem problems. But children who are not happy with how they look tend to grow up having some serious confidence issues, per KidsHealth. As children are constantly bombarded with unrealistic beauty standards these days, it's imperative to teach youngsters self-love and body positivity while embracing healthy lifestyles. Here are some suggestions on how to raise body-confident kids. 

Don't make physical activity and diets a burden

The most important thing to keep in mind is to always bring up the body image concerns with your kids gently, rather than force them into some weight loss boot camps. Exercising is the key to fitness, but you shouldn't make it sound like torture. If your children are having a weight problem, try to make them see the benefits physical activity brings to their physical and mental well-being, per Mental Health America. For instance, help them enjoy a breezy walk or morning runs in the park by talking more about nature and something fun than nagging about their body shape. Or, you can try to expose them to uplifting sports characterized by swift paces, concentration, and team spirit, like soccer, basketball, or roller skating. Children tend to stick to sports that are enjoyable and give them a sense of accomplishment. However, sports aren't for everyone, and it's important that kids love themselves no matter the number the scale reads.


The same goes for food. Keep the diets understandable and kid-friendly, says the author of "Trim Kids," Dr. Melinda Sothern (via Parents). To reduce your kids' sugar consumption, fill your refrigerators with bowls of sliced fruit or fruit smoothies instead of ice cream. If your little ones can't find sugary stuff to fill their little tummies, they'll have to snack on what's available. Also, experiment with various dips and dressings to make nutritious but vapid veggies more appealing. Compared to boiling sliced veggies, baking, sautéing, or roasting them with olive oil helps retain more nutrients and enhances their taste profile.

Reassure your children their worth goes beyond their appearances

As humans, we are wired to pay more attention to and compliment people for their looks rather than what they are on the inside. It's because looks are what capture our attention before anything else does. Therefore, it's important to remind your children that inner qualities such as their character, kindness, and talents, matter so much more than their appearances, per Crystal Karges. Your kids don't need you to remind them what they can see in the mirror. Instead, point out the less discussed strengths that you see in them. For instance, tell them that their appetite and metabolism are many people's desires; or, their sense of humor is what makes your day. Once your kids are assured that they'll always be loved no matter their body size, they'll grow more aware of their self-worth. 


If possible, make your child media literate and watch TV with them, says Dr. Steiner-Adair (via the Child Mind Institute). The goal is to help your child use social media selectively and fine-tune their ability to filter media messages. To discourage the use of undesirable social media apps or TV programs, point your children in the direction of uplifting and educational programs. At the same time, consider setting limits on TV and social media time to protect them from potentially harmful content and help them become less reliant on electronics and virtual entertainment.  

Lead your children by example

Numerous studies show that children begin developing body image awareness as young as pre-school. Societal opinions play a big part in determining how children perceive themselves, which makes it very easy for youngsters to succumb to unwholesome beauty standards. Since children tend to watch and copy what their parents do, parents should be the ones demonstrating to their kids that life is good even when you can't fit into skinny jeans or slim-fit shirts. Per body confidence coach Cliona Byrne, you can kickstart a body positivity campaign at home by putting away old clothes that don't fit, weight loss books, or scales. Stop bashing about your body in front of your children, and learn to savor every meal without talking about how many miles you must run afterward to burn some calories. To keep your spirits up, unfollow any social media content that makes you doubt your self-worth. Insecurity has a knock-on effect. If you're always talking about getting lip fillers, your kids will grow up believing that voluminous lips are the only lips that last.


Instead of letting the world shape the way children perceive themselves, parents should proactively teach their kids to value their bodies for their functions rather than their looks. One way to do this is to get the kids into exciting activities, eat healthily, and limit their screen time. Most essential, set a good example for your children by cherishing your body and leading a healthy lifestyle.