It is my personal belief that a positive body image is the result of how you feel about yourself on the inside; that fostering self-love creates inner peace and happiness, and the need to conform to societal and peer pressures diminishes. A negative body image can be a result of self loathing; the need to please others; feelings of hopelessness. But how much of it also has to do with society's focus on external and physical perfection?
Media influence is ever-present. Thin, flawless people are continually showcased to the point where the common belief begins to reflect this ideal as 'normal'. Young people are constantly exposed to these images in the media however, parents can aid their child's interpretation of these images and educate them about positive body image. Parents can also increase their child's sense of self worth by focusing on other qualities unrelated to size or appearance.
It is a known fact that dieting is one of the leading indicators of a future eating disorder. And the age of dieting onset is getting younger. According to the Children's Hopsital at Westmead, children as young as 5 are being diagnosed with early onset eating disorder.
With this in mind, and as someone who suffered anorexia as a teenager, I am very aware of the messages I send to my almost 5 year old son about food and body image. I praise my son in areas unrelated to physicality, such as his ability to draw or write his name. I also involve him in cooking where possible. He loves to stir scrambled eggs, even if they do slop over the side! I also make sure we eat together so our mealtimes become about enjoying food and each other's company. Most importantly, my son knows he is loved. I believe the need to feel love and approval from parent/s is at the core of every child's inner being.
There is much we can do to foster self-love in our children. But it starts with ourselves first and foremost. Our children look to us as role models so we need to lead by example.