1. Instill Confidence: When you comment on internal qualities you instill self-assuredness in your child. Use phrases such as, “You are really good at….” Or “You seem to really know…” Reward effort and completion, instead of outcome.
2. Encourage Movement: Find a physical activity that your child enjoys, and focus on how being active makes your child feel. Promote the health benefits of exercise, without emphasizing weight or the value of leanness.
3. Be Aware of Influences: Monitor the sources that are influencing your child. Check out what your kids are reading though the media and Facebook, and listen closely (without intruding) to the conversations they have with their peers. Encourage your child to discuss what is going on around them, and to have a healthy critical mind of what they have seen or heard.
4. Be a Good Role Model: Eliminate the word “diet” from your vocabulary, do not discuss how much weight you want to lose, or how what you have eaten will impact your appearance. Be brave enough to remove the scale from your home.
5. Develop Positive Self-Beliefs: Help your kids to set realistic standards in evaluating themselves. Praise achievements. Identify areas where they can grow, and give them positive, accurate feedback on their performance.
6. Find Balance in your Kitchen: Offer a variety of nutritious and “junk” foods in your home for your children. Establish healthy eating habits. Help them to choose foods based on what their bodies need to give them energy. Do not limit portions or ban foods, and allow them treats as appropriate.
7. Be Kind to Others: Avoid speaking negatively about other people’s appearances and weight. First, it’s just not nice. Second, your child will wonder if you critique them, and may become fearful of being judged too.
8. Give Your Child Too Much Love: Consistently show your children how much you care about them. Give them physical affection, leave notes in their lunchboxes, offer praise frequently. But, be honest. Your kids will know if it is genuine!
9. Remember the Joys of Puberty: Weight and shape may fluctuate with growth and maturity. Normalize changes, and make sure your child understands that these fluctuations are a natural progression of growing up, and not necessarily indicative of the future. Everyone has an awkward stage!
10. Ask for Help: If you notice any concerning behaviors, seek the help of a professional as soon as possible. The quicker you can catch any blossoming disordered behaviors, the sooner you can help to resolve them!
Guest blog by Lyndsay Elliott. Lyndsay Elliott, PsyD is a Clinical Psychologist and maintains a boutique practice in Newport Beach, California. Dr. Lyndsay specializes in food and body image issues, and has been an expert in the field since 1996.