Growing up can be tough. The challenges of school, relationships with friends, sports and other activities can be stressful for children. Peer pressure, along with what they see and hear daily via social media, TV, movies and video games, can cause them to stress out about how they look. Comparing themselves with their friends—or, worse, with supermodels, movie stars, or pro athletes—can then lead to a negative body image.
- An obsession with their size, shape, weight, and muscles (or lack there of)
- Spending time looking in the mirror looking for and pointing out flaws they think they see
- Talking negatively about themselves
- Constantly looking for ways to improve their looks
- Comparing themselves with others
If you know a child who's struggling with their body image, here are some things you can do to help:
- Start a discussion about body image.
- Talk about the messages we get through media.
- Try to avoid using judgmental terms like "fat" or "skinny."
- Stress the importance of healthy eating and physical activity.
- Support their efforts and praise achievements.
- Set a good example
If you think there's a serious problem
When a child or adolescent has serious issues about the way they see themselves, it can lead to depression, negative behaviors, and eating disorders. Watch for these signs:
- Skipping meals, fasting, constant dieting, or binge eating
- Obsessive exercise/weight training
- Using diet pills or laxatives for losing weight or growth hormones for developing muscle mass
If you think your child has or may have an eating disorder or other serious body image issue, talk to a doctor or health care professional. Getting the right treatment can make all the difference.
ACOG. Media and Body Image. June 2016. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Media-and-Body-Image (Accessed 3/21/2018).
Mayo Clinic. Healthy body image: Tips for guiding girls. August 11, 2015.