How Young can children develop body image issues?
Children’s opinions of their bodies form at a very young age. Children as young as 3 years old can have body image issues. There are many things that influence how children see themselves. Parents can play a critical role in helping children develop a positive body image and self-esteem (how you see yourself and feel about yourself). It’s difficult to escape the “ideal” body image that is promoted in today’s media (on TV, in magazines, on the internet, and in social media). No matter how much you try to shield your children from it, the message is likely to come through. This can happen at school as they interact with friends or as they observe the adults in their lives.
Even body language is not lost on children. Something as small as frowning in the mirror when you are trying on clothes can have an impact. This reinforces the message that a body needs to be perfect. That belief is the foundation for these building-block beliefs:
- My body has to be perfect.
- I’m not satisfied with my body.
- A perfect body would make me happy.
- A perfect body would earn me acceptance from others.
- A perfect body would earn love and admiration, even attention.
- Perfection is defined by a number on the scale or a size on a tag.
- I will do anything to have a perfect body.
The problem is, a “perfect” body doesn’t really exist, at least not in the way it is defined in the media. Photos are often edited to make models thinner or to enhance their features. So, chasing the “perfect” body can end only in disappointment. This leads to poor self-esteem, which can impact all other aspects of life. Poor body image is most often associated with girls, but boys suffer from it, too. They can feel as though they don’t have enough muscles or six-pack abs, or that they aren’t tall enough. One research study found that underweight boys are more likely to suffer from depression than overweight girls.
Girls are, however, the most likely to suffer a negative outcome that involves eating disorders. Some of the most common eating disorders are:
- anorexia (severely limiting food)
- bulimia (eating a large quantity of food, known as “binging,” and then throwing up the food, called “purging,” or by exercising or fasting to make up for overeating)
- binge eating disorder (binging but not purging)
Path to improved health
Don’t wait until your child is older to begin guiding their opinions on body image. children form opinions on what a body should look like at a much earlier age than we previously thought. In fact, it has been reported that children as young as 3 years old worry about being “fat.”
Young children can easily develop body image problems, in today’s day and age. Parents can definitely help kids avoid anxiety about their appearance and body. A healthy and positive body image means liking your body, appreciating it, and feeling grateful for its qualities and capabilities. Body image issues don’t just affect adults and teenagers.
Book in with us at Alegna Solutions Psychology Practice and have a talk about any concerns regarding your child’s body and appearance. You might find a few quick tips will provide some surprising results. Don’t delay as their self-esteem is a constant.