Kealy Whittaker is a Registered Social Worker and Therapist here at Laura Gatien & Associates.
She created an educational workshop recently to help promote body confidence in children. She shares the details, below.
In my practice I work with many individuals who struggle with their body image, disordered eating and exercise, and eating disorders.
Through my work with this population I see how much families influence the ideas we have about our body, food and exercise choices, and self-esteem. This sparked the idea for me to create an educational workshop for parents and caregivers to learn how to create a body confident home to help prevent the challenges I see daily.
Cultivating Body Confidence in Children was created with a goal in mind --to help prevent body dissatisfaction which is subsequently leading to anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, by educating parents and caregivers on what to do, and what to avoid, in the home.
There was great participation from those who attended. This gave the opportunity for rich discussion, validation, and learning from one another.
Research has shown that how a family talks about their body and others' greatly influences a child's own body image and subsequent mental health challenges. Here's why:
Children will internalize the comments you make about yourself or others and become more aware and self-conscious of their own body which can lead to an increase in anxiety, decrease in mood, and unhealthful behaviours. Instead of making comments about bodies (positive or negative), talk about strengths, qualities, and uniqueness. For example, "Aunt Suzy knows how to make me laugh, she has such a great sense of humour!"
When we talk about someone's body, children may start to believe that how they look is an evaluation of their worth. We know there are so many great things about children, make sure to remind them of this. "Thank you so much for sharing with your friend, you are so kind!"
Let's face it, our bodies are the least important thing about us. Focusing only on how someone looks disregards the other qualities that make them great. Ask your child, "what makes a great friend?" Chances are they are going to talk about their friend's personality, strengths, and internal qualities, not how they look.
To learn more about this topic and ways to promote body confidence in children, check out these resources:
No Body's Perfect by Dr. Vivienne Lewis
Shapesville by Andy Mills & Becky Osborn
~ Kealy, Registered Social Worker and Therapist
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