Castlewood Eating Disorder Treatment Center Blog
How Role models Help

How Role Models Can Help Instill a Healthy Body Image

It can be an impossible task as a parent to shield kids from the mass media, distorted advertising, television, movies and Internet, but the messages kids receive at home can have a great impact in counterbalancing this. As role models and guides to children, we can respect our bodies for what they do instead of focusing on how we look, living healthy active lives free of the obsession to be and look perfect. As a parent, aunt or uncle, youth group leader, teacher or coach; we play a crucial role in helping children develop a healthy body image. When a role model speaks negatively about his / her authentic body and beauty, there is a great influence over young people’s understanding of what is acceptable. Children will pick up on our comments about dieting concepts and self-image, and this can cause unnecessary concerns about eating habits in potentially harmful ways. Speaking negatively about our bodies, or others’ bodies, teaches children a dangerous message about focusing on appearance, judgment and self-worth. Body image can be an especially vulnerable territory during preteen and teen years because our appearance changes so much during this time. As we mature mentally and emotionally into young adults, we begin to develop a self-image which includes interests, aspirations, talents, unique qualities, relationships and values. But learning to be overly self-critical about appearance can interfere with the development a healthy self-image. Social and cultural messages fueling dissatisfaction can be very strong as well, and must be discussed as a family. The messages kids and teens will encounter from the media tend to demonstrate achieving a certain beauty and body type as the key to happiness, while at the same time, defining an unrealistic standard of beauty perpetually out of reach. It’s important to start recognizing the messages about our bodies we have internalized and communicate to young people who are just beginning their path to developing a healthy body image. By following healthy eating and physical activity patterns we would like children to follow, and speaking in encouraging and accepting ways about our authentic self, then there is opportunity to change the pattern and help children develop a healthy self-image.