Sometimes, we as parents pave the way for our children’s body image issues. “If you think that your own preoccupation with diets and appearance has not contributed to the problem, I urge you to think again,” Carol Cottrill, certified nutritional consultant and author of The French Twist, shared with us. “Children learn most everything from their parents. The little they don’t learn from you, they pick up from the media or their friends who have been influenced ahead of them. These prevailing influences combined with the pressures of youth serve as the perfect Petri dish in which obesity and eating disorders grow, thrive, and ultimately kill.”
Girls, in particular, are subject to even more pressure and expectations about their physical worth than boys are. “From the time baby girls come out of the womb, we put pink on them and all the expectations of what it means to be a girl,” said Erena DiGonis, licensed therapist and certified health coach. “This is definitely influenced by socioeconomic status and ethnicity but all girls have a lot of pressure. I see girls putting so much pressure on themselves to be brilliant and physically perfect.”
Change begins at home, with you, the parent. Emphasize your child’s core strengths, and be an ear if she’s fretting about her size compared to her teammates or friends. “Revisit your values,” explained Carol. “Be a role model and a mentor for all of the young people you encounter and affect. Help prevent obesity and eating disorders in America by fostering only healthy eating attitudes. Let go of the harsh scrutiny and unhealthy obsessions you inflict on yourself, for these are handed down to your young ones. There is no time like the present to make a difference in the lives of our children while creating a lasting footprint for future generations.”
You can’t control the media, but you can help shape your child’s sense of being. Offer fresh, healthy food and adequate exercise, but don't overemphasize weight. Also, it’s a good idea to learn how to recognize the signs of an eating disorder and seek treatment promptly if you suspect your child is suffering.
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