Body image is one's perceptions, feelings, and behaviors toward one's body. No matter what their size or weight, children can develop either a positive or negative view of their bodies as early as preschool. Parents and other adult role models need to play a pivotal role in promoting a positive body image for children and teens. This page provides resources on how to help your child develop a healthy body image, and to provide support when issues related to body image and eating disturbances arise.
Families Connected Resources
Important insight for parents from Diana Lipson-Burge, R.D.
What affects your child’s body image?
The beliefs your child is raised with about how they should look, appear, and behave
The current societal norms about bodies, as depicted in the media or your community
How you and others respond to your child’s appearance and any changes it might be going through
Their emotions and moods
Their hormonal fluctuations
What Are Some Signs of Bad Body Image?
Looking in the mirror or weighing one’s self often
Excessive body checking (noting the sizes of various parts or comparing these parts to how they “used to” look)
Comparing size or shape with others, both in daily life and in the media
Making negative comments about one’s own appearance, whether out loud or in one’s head
Despair or anxiety about appearance.
How can we model positive body image?
Refrain from engaging in self “fat talk”
Refrain from body bashing or idealizing, and speak out against it when you encounter it.
Avoid weighing yourself in front of your child and commenting on weight loss or gain.
Have discussions about the body image messages your child may bereceiving from society and the media.
Compliment others on what they can do and who they are, not what they look like.
Blogs from experts and a teen
Eating Disorders: Definitions, Causes, Risk Factors, by Moe Gelbart, PhD
My 5th Grade Experience -- Harmless Boy-Teasing, or Bullying?, by a South Bay teen
Related topics on the Families Connected website
Our Curated Gallery of National Resources
Clicking on the logos, images, and links below will take you out of the Families Connected website and to the online resource indicated. Families Connected Is not affiliated with these organizations, nor have these organizations paid to have their resources shared here. Please note that, unlike the Families Connected website, some of the websites/articles included here may include pop-up ads. Families Connected will remain open in your browser.
Find help and support
The The National Eating Disorders Association’s NEDA Helpline is available Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM ET, and Friday from 9AM to 5PM ET. Contact the Helpline for support, resources and treatment options for yourself or a loved one. Call (800) 931-2237. We recommend their Parent Tool Kit featured in the resource section below.
The Eating Disorder Resource Center offers free online support groups to help individuals get control of their body image. Groups are confidential and led by a trained facilitator in a comfortable format where members can gain group support, learn new coping skills, and learn about local resources. Also visit their resource page.
Recommended videos videos
We highly recommend these two outstanding TED Talks from Meaghan Ramsey and Brene Brown
Visit the Common Sense Media website body image content for two short videos, on the addresses healthy body image for boys, and one for girls. There you will also find related articles and more videos. (Note: click on either image below to access.)
National articles and blogs
How to Help Your Daughter Have a Healthy Body Image (Child Mind Institute)
Boys and Body Image (Common Sense Media)
5 Ways to Promote a Positive Body Image for Kids (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)
Raising a Girl with a Positive Body Image (PBS Parents)
12 Ways to Raise a Confident Child (Dr. Sears)
National resources and tools
Helping your loved one recover from an eating disorder will take a lot of work from everyone involved. As with many jobs, having the right tools is crucial. Eating disorders have a steep learning curve, and you and your family member will need to develop lots of tools to work towards recovery. (National Eating Disorders Association).
Media messages play a big role in shaping gender norms, ideas about sex, and body satisfaction, from the time kids are in preschool to their adolescence. Common Sense Media's latest research paper Children, Teens, Media, & Body Image (2015) highlights the latest pressures kids are facing and offers helpful tips for parents. (Common Sense Media)
Celebrating Every Body: 20 Body Image Positive Books for Mighty Girls
Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance by Rosie Molinary
30 Specific Strategies for Overcoming Emotional Eating by Katie McLaughlin
Life Without ED by Jenni Schaefer and Thom Rutledge
Goodbye ED, Hello Me by Jenni Schaefer
Your Dieting Daughter by Carolyn Costin
Dear Ashley: A Fathers Reflection and Letters to His Daughter on Life, Love and Hope by Don Blackwell and Michael E. Berrett
Dad’s and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter When She’s Growing Up So Fast by Joe Kelly
The Ritteroo Journal for Eating Disorders Recovery by Lindsey Hall
Talking to Eating Disorders by Jeanne Albronda Heaton, Ph.D.
The Rules of "Normal Eating" by Karen R. Koenig
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tibole & Elyse Resch
Eating in the Light of the Moon by Anita Johnston