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Focusing on healthy eating, exercise, and positive body image is important for children’s mental and physical health. There are many ways you can support healthy habits for your kids and the rest of your family. Here are some things to consider.
Although there are a multitude of cues in our environments for less-healthy habits (ex: advertisements for snack foods), there are also many things parents can to do, such as focusing on things you can control.
Parents play a crucial role in helping shape children’s body image and nutrition. Consider how you promote healthy eating and exercise for kids, as well as the language you use to describe bodies and appearances. Healthy bodies can come in a variety of weights, shapes and sizes. The goal is to promote an acceptance of all body types.
While parents govern a lot of food choices in childhood, adolescence is a time of increased peer influence on decision-making around health and lifestyle behaviors. As children age into adolescence and emerging adulthood, peers become more of an influence on body image attitudes as well as eating and physical activity behaviors.
Parents and caregivers can help build children’s resilience against diet culture and support positive body image by teaching children media literacy. Media literacy “involves critically examining media messages encouraging risky behaviors, stereotypes, and social ideals.”
It is normal and expected for there to be challenging times when working on health behavior changes. Practicing self-compassion is one way to help stay on track with goals and importantly can have a positive impact on both physical and mental health.
Finally, if you are concerned about a problem related to your child’s body image, eating habits, or health, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional assistance.
This article is a collaboration between SBM's Obesity & Eating Disorders and Child Health & Family Special Interest Groups.
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