Originally published October 11 2008
Is your poor body image being mirrored by your child?
by Lynn Berry
(NaturalNews) Recent findings of a study of preschoolers found that issues around self esteem manifest as parents worry about their own looks, their own weight and fitness. According to Marita McCabe, a professor of psychology at Deakin University who led the research, 4 year old's have picked up the message conveyed inadvertently by parents that fat is "bad" and muscle is "good".(1)
In 2004 a study on parents of 6th and 7th grade students and body image claimed that younger and younger children were developing distortions in body image.(2) The claim is supported by studies in the 90's that found girls aged 10 and 11 believed they could be thinner and the trend appears to continue in younger children.
Other research has found that over a third of girls in 1st and 3rd grade want to be thinner, and most 10 year old's fear being fat. It is around the ages of 11 and 13 that eating disorders can emerge in children that have such disorders. No doubt their fears of being overweight contribute to the eating disorders.(3)
Parents can influence their children about weight when they complain of being fat and/or of being unfit. Parents own view of their body weight and fitness influences how their children see their body weight.
Parents themselves are influenced by how image is manufactured in the media, in advertising. There is the emancipated "model" look, and the concern with obesity together with wonder diets that help you thin down. As obesity can lead to other illness such as diabetes parents have become fearful for themselves as well as their children.
Children then become concerned and worried about being fat and the desire to be thin becomes stronger. Some come to dislike their own bodies and eat less. Food is categorized as "good" or "bad". You are "good" if you eat food like salads without dressing but "bad" if you eat sweets or don't diet.
So focused have children at 6 and 7 years become that they check the nutritional labels on the food their parents pack for them. (4)
Psychcentral blog has suggestions to help your children create a positive body image.(4) These include promoting healthy eating rather than "good" or "bad" eating as well as having fun exercise activities – those that promote the fun rather than the exercise.
Other suggestions are to discuss what your children sees on TV encouraging them to be critical rather than accepting of body images. Consider yourself as a role model – modeling a positive image of yourself. We need to be gentle on ourselves and our children about the issue of weight.
About the authorLynn Berry is passionate about personal development, natural health care, justice and spirituality. She has a website at www.lynn-berry.com.
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