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Tips for helping kids develop a better body image


Children are like sponges, picking up and absorbing the messages and social cues of the most important people in their lives: their parents.

Certified holistic health counselor Jacqueline Banks says that teaching children how to love and respect their bodies at a young age is the key to a healthy body image later on in life. Here are four of her tips:

1. Don't criticize yourself in front of your children

Finding fault with your own body and vocalizing that in front of your kids teaches them to internalize the anxiety you have about your looks. Instead of complaining about having large thighs, for instance, Banks advises to express to your kids how grateful you are to have strong legs. Focusing on the positive features of your body will teach kids to do the same.

2. Make exercise a daily habit

Kids learn whether or not to enjoy exercise from their parents.

"If you talk about how much you dread exercising or it being a punishment for eating a slice of pizza the night before, chances are your children won’t be too excited about it, either," Banks wrote in a recent Fox News article.

Incorporate fitness into your daily routine - and make it fun. When children see you enjoying yourself on a bike ride or walk, they'll start to associate these healthy habits with a sense of happiness, not dread.

3. Don't use food as a punishment or reward

Promising ice cream or candy for good behavior or withholding dessert for bad behavior is a big no-no, Banks says. This teaches kids to use food in the same way, and it can set them up for eating disorders later in life. Food should be presented as the thing that helps nourish us and maintain health, not a system of reward or punishment.

"Allow children to be part of the decision-making process and let them help you prepare healthy meals as often as possible," Banks said.

4. Explain why certain foods are bad

Banks says that explaining why certain foods are unhealthy is important, instead of just calling it "junk" or "bad" food. The more a child can understand the "why" behind food choices, the more you empower him or her to make the best decisions. Banks also says that children shouldn't feel deprived, otherwise they're more apt to rebel and eat what's forbidden.

Source: Fox News