Social media and the possible risks it poses to the mental health of young people has been in the media the past few weeks. In fact, the Surgeon General issued this advisory on the use of social media and youth mental health. We know one of the impacts social media can have on kids is potential harm to their body image. Luckily, there are some things parents can do to work on and improve body image in kids and teens. In our nutrition counseling practice, this is a common topic families bring up. Here are some tips we suggest to help promote a positive body image:
Teach media literacy: Help your kids critically analyze media messages about beauty and body ideals. Discuss how images in the media are often unrealistic and heavily edited. Encourage them to consume media that promotes diversity and body positivity, and to follow social media accounts that emphasize self-acceptance and healthy living.
Lead by example: Model a healthy relationship with your own body and food. Show your teen that you value and respect your body by practicing healthy eating habits and engaging in regular physical activity. Avoid negative self-talk about your own body and refrain from making negative comments about others' appearances.
Encourage balanced eating: Emphasize the value of eating a variety of foods from different food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Encourage them to listen to their body's hunger and fullness cues and to eat mindfully.
Avoid restrictive diets: Help kids to understand that a healthy lifestyle is about nourishing their body rather than following strict rules or focusing on weight loss. Encourage them to enjoy treats in moderation and to find pleasure in eating without guilt.
Promote positive body image: Discuss with your kids that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that their worth is not determined by their appearance. Encourage them to focus on their strengths, talents, and overall health rather than solely on their physical appearance.
Foster open communication: Create a safe and non-judgmental environment for your teen to discuss their thoughts and concerns about their body image or food. Listen actively, validate their feelings, and provide reassurance. Offer support and seek professional help if necessary, such as consulting a registered dietitian or a mental health professional specializing in body image issues.
Encourage physical activity for enjoyment: Promote physical activity as a way to have fun and feel good rather than solely for weight management. Encourage kids to find activities they enjoy, whether it's dancing, hiking, swimming, or team sports. Engage in activities together to make it a positive and bonding experience.
Remember, promoting a healthy body image is an ongoing process, and it's essential to provide continuous support, guidance, and positive reinforcement for your child. If you are struggling to manage this on your own, our pediatric dietitians can help. Schedule a complimentary Discovery Call today to see if we're a good fit for your family.