This is part I of ZisBoomBah’s original series “Understanding Your Child’s Body Image”
I am worried about my daughter’s body image. She is four years old. But as a child with Type 1 Diabetes, she’s already aware that she is different; that her perfectly cute body is somehow not perfect. So when, exhausted from an episode of hyperglycemia, she recently announced, “Mama, I hate my body!” I knew I still had so much more to learn about raising a girl with a “body issue.” That morning, though, in front of the bathroom mirror, I felt helpless. I told her that her body is absolutely beautiful and that it would be all right if she’d be mad at her little pancreas for a while as long as she continued to love the rest of her adorable self…
I can’t imagine that my mother, let alone my grandmother, was ever concerned about her children’s body image. What has changed in our society that our children’s body image has become an issue of concern?
For our original series “Understanding Your Child’s Body Image,” I interviewed psychologist and ZisBoomBah advisor Beth Lonergan, PsyD.
As adults, we certainly make the link between respecting our health and what our body can do for us, and so we treat it with more respect by eating healthy and exercising. “With kids, it’s not as direct a link,” says Dr. Lonergan. Children are clued-in to body image on a less conscious level, according to our expert. What we think of our bodies is very much reflected by society and our culture – that’s one of the reasons why the topic of body image is more predominant nowadays than it used to be when we were growing up.
There also has been this huge increase in childhood obesity. “People still have prejudices against people who are overweight,” says Dr. Lonergan. “It’s one of the last acceptable prejudices to have, at least in the US. I think that might be less true in other countries where certainly being obese is one thing, but where not being built like a model is more acceptable.”
Social acceptance is very important to children. An overweight kid, for example, might be less likely to be chosen for the softball game or to be included by peers in various activities. Stressing the social inclusion aspect, Dr. Lonergan points out that recent studies have shown that obese kids are at a much higher risk for depression. “What comes first, the chicken or the egg?” she asks. “But certainly being overweight can lead to a very poor body image.”
Trying to raise a healthy eater, parents are wondering: Does the desire for good body image or already having a positive image of ones body lead to proactive behaviors in terms of eating healthy and exercising?
“It’s complicated for kids,” says Dr. Lonergan. But she has an answer and very valuable insights. Continue on and read part II of ZisBoomBah’s original series “Understanding Your Child’s Body Image!” to find out about possible warning signs that your child might have a body image problem and how you can help him change behaviors in order to improve his body image.
ZisBoomBah advisor Beth Lonergan, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist with broad experience in the mental health field. As a psychologist who is balancing both research and practice, Beth is a well-versed expert in human behavior, including how people change and why they don’t – and “what makes people tick,” as she puts it herself.