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Promoting a Positive Body Image to Children: A Practical Guide for Parents

Posted in Children's health

Children and teens need to feel happy about their body shape and size and to learn that there is more to their bodies than just how they look.

• Parents say things like “My thighs are huge!”; “I have a beer belly”; “I need to lose weight for that wedding”. When children overhear this, they pick up the message that a healthy body must be a perfect weight or shape.

• While we need to promote healthy children and teens, keeping the focus only on weight can lead to our children developing unhealthy ideas about what a healthy body is.

• Many parents worry about talking to their children about their weight as they are afraid their child might develop an eating disorder. Unfortunately, this means that many children who need to lose weight don’t get the help and support that they need.

• One of the best ways to help your child to be a healthy weight is to encourage your child or teen to be happy with their bodies.

Tips on how to help your child to have a healthy body image:

Focus on everything that the body can do, rather than just on how it looks.

Compliment your kids.

Become aware of how you talk about food and weight to yourself, family and friends.

Talk to children and teens about the media images they see.

Focus on health rather than weight.

Try not to ban ‘treat foods’.

Feeling fit, strong and capable is a great way to help kids have a positive body image.

Beware of body changes at puberty.

Allow your child to make some decisions about food, whilst guiding their choices.

Be a good role model.

For help and advice on childhood nutrition contact your GP for a referral to a community dietitian or please see our factsheet: How to access dietetic services for children: A guide for parents and guardians.

Created by the Paediatric Dietitians’ Interest Group (PDIG) of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) November 2015. Review date: November 2018

© 2015 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a dietitian. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.


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