Children want to be thinner. According to new research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, by nine years of age, boys and girls experience negative feelings about their body image.
Alarmed by the onset of children dissatisfied with their body size, clinical psychologists Dr Louise George and Ariana Elias said parents needed to be more vigilant about unhealthy weight control behaviours such as dieting and skipping meals, substance abuse and over exercising.
“Mass media sells an unattainable beauty ideal that causes children to feel bad about their bodies, which can have an impact on their social, emotional and physical wellbeing,” says Ariana. “However, the good news is that parents can help protect their children from body dissatisfaction – they just need to know how!”
After attending a parent workshop at St Anne’s Catholic Primary Strathfield South, Family Educator Bernadette Bridle said she felt more competent to address body image disorders with her children thanks to the knowledge and practical advice provided.
“I was amazed at how obvious some things were, like educating our children from 8 years of age to become ‘critical viewers’. At this age, they are still more likely to be influenced by parents and not their peers,” Mrs Bridle said. “Ariana and Louise armed us with some tools to best talk to boys, who experience body dissatisfaction just as much as girls and how it often goes undetected.”
Here are 5 golden rules:
Teach your children media literacy so that they are able to ward off unrealistic messages.
Stop talk about appearance and weight, and ‘fat talk’! Develop your children’s identity beyond their physical appearance by talking about the characteristics that make them unique and special, not those they might be publically acknowledged for, like being a ‘great athlete’, ‘intelligent’ or ‘beautiful’.
Discuss the physical and emotional changes your child can expect during puberty, so that they are prepared.
Teach your children about the risks of dieting and the serious consequences it has in childhood. Explain how it can interfere with metabolic efficiency, destroy the capacity for intuitive eating and lead to serious physical and psychological damage.
Eat nutritious meals and encourage them to be active for fun, health and well-being.
For more helpful tips go to www.raisingbodyconfidentkids.com.au.